What Channel Bandwidth Should I Use?
The channel bandwidth you use for your Wi-Fi network can really affect the performance on your network.
There are a number of things you should consider when choosing which channel bandwidth is best for you, including how crowded the channels are and the kind of throughput you will need in your network.
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What Channel Bandwidths on 2.4GHz and 5GHz?
On The 2.4GHz Frequency Band
When using the 2.4GHz broadcasting radio you should generally use a channel bandwidth block 20MHz wide. This is because there are more non-overlapping channels available when using 20MHz (as opposed to 40MHz) which means there is less liklihood of congestion or clashing channels.
You can also use 40MHz on the 2.4GHz broadcasting radio. However it congests the Wi-FI in the area so if you live in a built up area it probably isn’t a great idea as it will interfere with other 2.4GHz users.
On The 5GHz Frequency Band
When using 5GHz, however, it is possible to use wider channel bandwidths for increased bandwidth. As such on the 5GHz channel you can use the 40MHz, 80MHz or even the 160MHz channel bandwidths (if your router or AP supports it) for increased bandwidth.
Should I Use 20MHz, 40MHz 80MHz?
Basically, higher channel bandwidths can support a higher data rate and more bandwidth. The downside is that as you increase the channels you will find that there are fewer channels available which can lead to problems (yup, that old problem with congestion again!).
20MHz is the most common Wi-Fi bandwidth as most users still opt to use 2.4GHz radios. The 2.4GHz band is fairly crowded which can cause problems connecting in certain environments.
In an environment with less congestion where a higher data throughput is required, using the 40MHz channel can be a good idea as it still offers 12 non-overlapping channels on 5GHz.
80MHz is available on many 802.11ac routers and offers an even wider channel and as such even higher bandwidth. However, this makes it even more susceptible to co-channel interference (yet again, congestion...wow this is getting repetitive!). 80MHz channels are therefore best off used on a best-effort basis but only when the entire channel range is clear.
One possibility is to connect low-bandwidth devices that don’t require high speeds such as printers to your 2.4GHz channel and your laptops and phones onto a 5GHz channel. This will free up bandwidth on the wider channels for your bandwidth-hungry products such as laptops and smartphones that take up more data.
What About 160MHz?
160MHz is a wide channel available in the 5GHz band. 802.11ac Wi-Fi offers two options for creating 160MHz channel. These are 160MHz operation which involves one 160MHz channel. This involves creating a 160MHz channel by combining transmissions on two 80MHz channels.
Using 160MHz of bandwidth offers higher speeds, but as there is only one huge channel being used, this congests the local area. 80MHz+80MHz operation allows you to take advantage of 160MHz worth of bandwidth.
Of course, due to the lack of channels available, it is not advisable to use 160MHz in a built up area as it will likely attribute to wireless congestion. You won't be popular with the neighbors, that's for sure!
If you have any questions about which Channel Bandwidth you should use on your network, please comment below.