Most of the time, we just connect the router to the LAN port, do some simple configuration and start using the WiFi network. In some instances, the WiFi connection is fast, but for the rest of the time, it is slow like turtle. While there are many ways to increase WiFi connection speed, one of the easiest way is to switch the default WiFi channel to one that is less congested.
For those who are not sure what WiFi channels are, they are basically a spectrum of frequency space that the WiFi signal can transmit to. Different frequency bands (2.4GHz, 3.6 GHz, 4.9 GHz, 5 GHz, and 5.9 GHz) come with its own range of channels. Most routers are using the 2.4GHz band and there is a total of 14 channels for this band, though only 13 (or less) are mostly used throughout the world.
The main issue with channel is that most routers are configured to use the same channel. In a place where there are many routers, this specific channel will become congested and other WiFi networks will interfere with your WiFi signal, causing it to go slow.
Here are the ways to find the best WiFi channels to use.
Scanning WiFi Channels in Windows
For Windows, you can use the software Wi-Fi Inspector by Xirrus to scan the various WiFi channels. Download, install and launch the WiFi Inspector. It will scan all the WiFi networks in the vicinity and shows all the information on the screen.
There is a lot of information in the dashboard. To get it to display what you want, simply click the “Networks” button and sort the results by “Channel”. You can then find all the channels used by various networks and which channel is the least used.
Another free software that you can use is WifiInfoView by Nirsoft. It is a lightweight WiFi channel scanner that doesn’t require any installation. Just fire it up and it will show you the information about the WiFi networks in the vicinity.
Detecting WiFi Channels in Linux
There are several tools in Linux that you can use to scan the neighboring WiFi network, but the easiest I have come across is Wifi Radar. It has a simple interface that scan all the WiFi networks and display their information, including the WiFi channels they are on, on the screen.
From there, you can see which channel is not being used and switch the channel settings in your router.
WiFi Radar is available in most distro’s package manager. In Ubuntu, you can install directly from the Ubuntu Software Center. Alternatively, use the commands:
sudo apt-get install wifi-radar
to install from the terminal.
Alternatively, for those command-line geeks, here is an easier way to find out which channels are congested. In the terminal, type:
sudo iwlist wlan0 scan | grep Frequency | sort | uniq -c | sort -n
This will show you how many networks are on each channel.
You can also use the following command to find out which channels your WiFi adaptor supports.
iwlist wlan0 channel
Detecting WiFi Channels in Mac
Mac OS X comes with a useful tool that allows you to find out which channel is least congested and most optimum for your router. However, the tool is hidden and not easily accessible.
1. Press the “Alt” button and click the “Wifi” icon at the system tray. In the dropdown, you should see an option “Open Wireless Diagnostic”.
2. In the “Wireless Diagnostic” window, move your cursor to the menu bar and select “Windows -> Utilities”. Go to the “Wifi Scan” tab and click “Scan Now”.
3. Once it has finished scanning, you will be able to see which are the best WiFi channels for your router and WiFi network.
Changing the Wifi Channel in your router
As there are thousands of routers around, it is impossible for us to cover the instruction for all of them. However, most of them follow the same method to modify the channel settings.
1. Connect to your WiFi network and check its IP address. Most of the time, it will be of the form “192.168.x.x”.
2. Open a browser and type the IP address into the URL bar, but change the last string of digits (after the last dot) to 1 (or 0 if 1 doesn’t work). For example, for an IP address of 192.168.1.22, you will use 192.168.1.1. Press Enter. This should bring up the router admin page.
3. Login to the router admin page and go to the Wireless section. From there, you will be able to configure your Wifi settings, as well as change the channel for your WiFi network.
Image credit: Wifi Clouds by BigStockPhoto