So, you're a city dweller, and when you're at home, you want to surf the net and stream data to your laptop, tablet, ipad and TV, all over your WiFi router. Problem is, so do your neighbours. And they want to do so over the same WiFi channel. Or worse, over a different channel, thereby crowding you out.
This problem can be solved, or at least made manageable. But first some WiFi ground rules, some of which may seem counter intuitive...
The 2.4GHz band (the radio band most commonly used by WiFi) is divided into 11 (usable) channels. The most spaced out within the 2.4GHz band are the channels 1, 6 and 11. These channels hardly show any overlap. Always stick to one of these three channels, even if they are crowded!
If your WiFi Access Point (router) is configured to use channel 1 and your neighbour's channel 2, most of the signal of both access points ends up as 'noise', because most access points find it difficult to deal with channel interference. In this scenario, each access point always has the outer reach of its own channel available as clear signal. But when you and your neighbour are exchanging data at the same time, the overlapping part of the channels is lost to both of you. The symptom: sometimes your connectivity is great, other times it seems completely gone.
While WiFi access points have great difficulty handling signals coming in over different channels, they can deal with signals coming in over the same channel, via a mechanism called CSMA/CA. So, let's say that you and your neighbour are both on channel 1. Now each access point waits its turn to handle the signal coming in over channel 1. Although the bandwidth for both you and your neighbour is compromised, both of you will have a reliable speed -- all the time. And remember that the bottleneck in your connection with the internet is probably not your WiFi Access point, but the connection of your WiFi access point with your provider. Simply put: if your connection with the internet is on average 50 Mbps, and your WiFi offers 150 Mbps to your laptop, half of which is crowded out by your neighbour because you share the same channel, you have still plenty of bandwith left to handle all traffic coming from the internet. In other words, in this set up you won't even notice your neighbour exists.
Help is on the way
So, picking the 'right' channel can, in light of these criteria, be a bit of a challenge. Of course, there's no need to figure all this out yourself. Let our WiFi Channel Picker do it for you! It's free, and it's easy to use. Just download and run it. It will tell you which channel to use!
You want more information? Here are some excellent articles on the subject: