How to Choose a Wireless Channel


In the United States and Canada, wireless networking devices operate in frequencies between 2.401 GHz and 2.473 GHz. Within this frequency range are 11 different selectable channels. These 11 channels help users select different channels and avoid overlapping signals with nearby wireless devices. To avoid such interference and signal overlapping, a survey of the wireless spectrum should be done using software. Once you discover all nearby signals, you can choose an optimum wireless channel that will provide the best perform with the least signal interference.

Install Wireless Network Mapping Software

  • Find software that will scan for nearby Wi-Fi networks and present this information in an easy-to-read format. For users running Windows, two of the best applications for this purpose are inSSIDer and Vistumbler. Both applications are available for free, and can be downloaded from their respective author's websites, which are listed in the references section. Either application will assist users in selecting a wireless channel.

  • Open a web browser.

  • Visit the website that hosts one of the software applications.

  • Click on the download link to download the software.

  • Install the software after the download has finished.

Use the Software

  • Disconnect from any wireless networks to which the computer is currently connected.

  • Open the software that was downloaded and installed.

  • Look at the wireless networks that appear in the list. These are all the nearby wireless networks within range of the computer, and have the potential to interfere with its signals.

  • Make a list of all the network names and the channels on which they are operating. This will be important later when selecting the optimum channel on which to set a new or existing private wireless network.

  • Close the wireless mapping software; if desired, you may save a log of the wireless survey.

Choose the Best Channel

  • Sort the list of wireless networks in order by channel, from lowest to highest. If multiple networks are using the same channel, it does not matter what order they are listed.

  • Look over the list to find the largest gap between occupied channels. Choosing a channel that has no networks on nearby channels will help prevent interference from degrading wireless signals. For example, a wireless network on channel 7 can receive interference from wireless networks that are operating nearby on channels 6 and 8.

  • Choose a channel five steps away from any other networks, if possible. Wireless networks can "bleed" into frequency ranges of up to four other channels. Choosing a channel that is five steps away from nearby wireless networks is the ideal strategy. If most channels are being used, choose a channel that is as far away as possible from channel that is currently being used. For example, if channel 1 is being used, avoid channels 2, 3, 4 or 5. For a different example, if channel 7 is being used, do not choose channels 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 or 11. It's important to note that for channels in the middle of the spectrum, both higher and lower channels can be affected by interference.

  • Change any wireless routers or other wireless networking equipment to operate using the new optimally chosen wireless channel.

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