When you are setting up your router, you will want to make sure that you are using the best channel bandwidth possible. Yet, with so many options of channel bandwidths, it can be confusing to understand which channel you should be using. Here is what you need to know.
Which Bandwidth is best?
Between the channel bandwidths 20, 40, and 80, the easiest answer is that the higher the channel bandwidth, the higher the possible data transfer rate. Yet, since the higher bandwidths are not as common or as supported as the lower 20 or 40, you run the risk of congestion within your channel, slowing down that high transfer speed you were looking for.
Even with the amount of video streaming that most Wi-Fi customers participate in, the majority of users still operate within the 20MHz bandwidth on a 2.4GHz frequency. Since 20MHz has a large amount of non-overlapping channels, you will not run into congestion within the channel, allowing you uninterrupted internet speed. You should only use the 2.4GHz frequency with 20MHz, not 5GHz.
If you still require a higher data transfer speed than you can get with a 20MHz channel bandwidth, you can use the 40MHz. There are not as many channels to prevent overlap, but unless you are in a densely populated area, that many not be a concern. 40MHz still offers 12 non-overlapping channels if you are using a 5GHz router, but you at use either 2.4GHz or 5GHz with the 40MHz bandwidth.
80MHz is a much wider bandwidth, of course, which means that it can offer an even higher data transfer rate. The issue is that the higher up you do for your channel bandwidth, the more likely you are to run into congestion and traffic. In a more populated area, it is unlikely that there are enough non-overlapping channels at 80MHz, which is why you will run into co-channel interference. If you are not likely to suffer from co-channel interference, then the 80MHz may be possible for you.
Help Clearing the Channel
You can also help clear up the channel by using low-bandwidth devices when a higher speed is not needed. These devices include printers, scanners, or anything else that you can wirelessly connect to your network. If you set up these devices on the 2.4GHz channel frequency and place your computers, tablets, and smartphones at the 5GHz frequency, you will be able to remove any excess drain or congestion that is happening throughout your channel bandwidth.
Looking at 2.4GHz vs 5GHz
Your wireless network determines which frequency network that you operate on. The two options are the 2.4GHs and 5GHz frequencies. The most-used of the two is the 2.4GHz option, which can cause overcrowding throughout the network, whereas the 5GHz offers some relief from the concern.
Channel Bandwidth for 2.4GHz
Since you are more likely to be on a 2.4GHz wireless frequency, let’s look at the channel bandwidths there. Between the channel bandwidths 20 40 80, generally the 20MHz is the ideal set-up. 20MHz utilizes mostly non-overlapping channels, limiting the possibilities for colliding or congestion within your channel.
With the 40MHz, you will see more congestions within the Wi-Fi in your area, because 40MHz does not provide the non-overlapping channel options that you can get with the 20MHz. Depending on how many neighbors you have at close range, this may not be a big deal at all.
Channel Bandwidth for 5GHz
The 5GHz frequency can support the wider channel bandwidths, which means not just the 40MHz, but also the 80MHz and even the 160MHz channel bandwidth. Not all routers are capable of the 160MHz or support it, but it can be an option in some cases.
What is the deal with 160MHz?
Of course the 160MHz channel bandwidth sounds like it would be the fastest yet, but that is unlikely to be the case, especially if you have neighbors. The 160MHz, if you were able to use it, would cause major congestion within your wireless network, slowing everyone down as well as yourself. The 160MHz bandwidth is possible with a 802.11ac Wi-Fi router, where it either has the 160MHz built-in or allows it by using two 80MHz channels. 80MHz is already prone to congestion, however, though it is less than 160MHz alone would be. It is still not an ideal option in a populated area and you are likely to drag down the speeds of the channel.