Wireless networks have come a long way in the past decade. And yet, sustained Wi-Fi speeds are still a problem in a lot of situations.
Wi-Fi speeds could be affected by:
- The Quality of the Router
- The way your router is set up
- Whether there’s nearby interference,
- How far apart your devices are from the router
- Which channels are being used
Fortunately, there’s always a way to fix slow transfer speeds.
Most routers have the channel set to Auto, but some channels are indeed much faster than others
Channels 1, 6, and 11
As of the start of 2015, almost all WiFi installations still use the 2.4GHz band.
All of the versions of WiFi up to and including 802.11n (a, b, g, n) operate between the frequencies of 2400 and 2500MHz. These paltry 100MHz are separated into 14 channels of 20MHz each. As you’ve probably worked out, 14 lots of 20MHz is a lot more than 100MHz — and as a result, every 2.4GHz channel overlaps with at least two (but usually four) other channels (see diagram above). As you can probably imagine, using overlapping channels is bad — in fact, it’s the primary reason for awful throughput on your wireless network.
Fortunately, channels 1, 6, and 11 are spaced far enough apart that they don’t overlap
What channel should you use?
If you want maximum throughput and minimal interference, channels 1, 6, and 11 are your best choice — but depending on other wireless networks in your vicinity, one of those channels might be a much better choice than the others.
For example, if you’re using channel 1, but someone next door is annoyingly using channel 2, then your throughput will plummet. In that situation, you would have to change to channel 11 to completely avoid the interference (though 6 would be pretty good as well). It might be tempting to use a channel other than 1, 6, or 11 — but remember that you will then be the cause of interference (and everyone on 1, 6, and 11 will stomp on your throughput, anyway).
In an ideal world, you would talk to your neighbors and get every router to use channels 1, 6, or 11. Bear in mind that interior walls do a pretty good job of attenuating (weakening) a signal. If there’s a brick wall between you and a neighbor, you could probably both use channel 1 without interfering with each other. But if it’s a thin wall (or there’re lots of windows), you should use different channels.
There are tools that can help you find the clearest channel, such as Vistumbler, but it’s probably easier to just switch between channels 1, 6, and 11 until you find one that works well. (If you have two laptops, you can copy a file between them to test the throughput of each channel.)
It’s also worth pointing out that, starting with 802.11n, wireless technology in general is a lot more advanced than the olden days of 802.11b and g. If you own a modern 802.11n router (i.e. if you bought a router in the last couple of years), it likely has some fancy hardware inside that chooses the right channel and modifies the output power to maximize throughput and minimize interference.
Few of the recommended Wi-Fi extenders are:
- TP-LINK N300 Universal WiFi Range Extender (TL-WA850RE)
- TP-LINK AC750 Dual-Band WiFi Range Extender (RE200)
- Linksys N300 Wireless Wi-Fi Range Extender (RE3000W-CA)
- D-Link Wireless Range Extender (DAP-1320)
There are more expensive and powerful Wi-Fi extenders or Wireless Access Point available in the marketplace.
Wi-Fi extenders look very similar to a Wireless Access Point (WAP) and pick up your Wi-Fi signal and rebroadcast it with renewed strength. The repeater connects to your wireless router as a client Wirelessly and rebroadcasts amplified signal.
For Mac users:
Extending a wireless network – Using multiple Wi-Fi base stations wirelessly to extend the range of an AirPort network over a wider physical area, when the range of a single base station is insufficient.
For details on how to extend your wireless network, Wi-Fi base stations: Extending the range of your wireless network by adding additional Wi-Fi base stations
Sebastian Anthony wrote the original version of this article. It has been modified to suit this site.