What is channel switching and how it improves your Wi-Fi


On the off chance that you live in a jam-packed spot, you may have seen times when your Wi-Fi unexpectedly drops off out of the blue. The Wi-Fi routers and neighbours' devices could be using the same radio channels that meddle with your internet connection. It's ideal to discover and utilize a Wi-Fi channel that offers less interference and a smoother connection to improve the Wi-Fi speeds and connectivity.

Choosing the optimal Wi-Fi channel can improve your Wi-Fi coverage and signal strength, giving you an overall boost in performance.

Most Wi-Fi routers nowadays are utilizing 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands, while some of the latest routers now equipped with  using the 6 GHz band. Each band is split into channels used by your devices to send and receive information over the network.

Much like cars on a road, information sent across the network via data channels slow down in areas with higher traffic and congestions. The time it takes for a device to send and receive information from the router is increased on the congested channel, and you might be left waiting for your turn to access the web.

Depending on the router you use, you may have some channels that don't overlap:

  • 4 GHz: 3 non-overlapping channels available
  • 5 GHz: 24 non-overlapping channels available
  • 6 GHz: 14 non-overlapping 80 MHz channels or 7 non-overlapping 160 MHz channels

WI-FI INTERFERENCE:

The reason why some channels aren't ideal for you to use might be caused by channel interference.
There are a couple of different types of channel interference:

 

Co-Channel interference occurs when many wireless devices are accessing the same channel, causing congestion on that channel.

Non-Wi-Fi interference occurs when other devices that work on non-Wi-Fi 802.11 radio frequencies compete for the same frequency band.

Adjacent-channel interference occurs when information sent is on an adjacent or partly overlapping channel. The channel bleeds over on an overlapping channel, which adds interference.

Luckily for the users, there are ways to mitigate network interference with several types of channel switching.

TYPES OF CHANNEL SWITCHING:

Channel switching and channel width selection enable users to optimize their Wi-Fi performance in 3 ways:

 

Manual Channel Switching:

With manual channel switching, the access point uses the default channel set by the manufacturer. The user is then able to manually change the selected channel based on:

  1. Signal strength
  2. Wireless networks in the neighbourhood and inside their home
  3. Level on interference caused by non-Wi-Fi devices over the radio channels

Today, consumers can find various third-party "wireless network analyzer" apps and software online, giving them an overview of  network performance, signal strength, and channel congestion. The user then is able to determine the optimal channel based on this analysis for maximum speed and stability.     

Auto-channel Switching:

Many routers feature auto-channel switching (ACS) feature by default,  and with this enabled, the router will  automatically select the least congested channel for you each time the system boots up. Since auto-channel switching relies on scanning the air once (when it powers on) the change in the wireless environment in the future could cause channel interference, and prompt sluggish Wi-Fi performance.

Dynamic Channel Switching (DCS):

Dynamic channel switching helps the user avoid highly congested channels and lets routers and access points (AP) automatically switch to the least crowded channel without any manual input from the user.

With DCS, the router continuously scans the air for the best available channel and switches to it automatically.

There are several available methods for dynamic channel switching:

  1. Scheduled DCS
    Scheduled DCS mode allows the user to set a desirable time of the day (e.g. every day at 01:00 AM) to scan the environment and perform automatic channel switching to avoid potential network interruptions.
  1. Start-up Mode
    Like regular Automatic Channel Switching, DCS’ Start-up mode works when an AP starts up for the first time and chooses a channel from the available non-congested, non-overlapping channels.
  1. Steady State Mode
    All modern DCS-enabled access points have Steady State Mode set by default. With Steady State Mode, the AP scans different channels at a set time interval (e.g every 15 minutes of every day) and chooses the channel with the least interference. The user is typically able to select the desired time interval for performing the network scan and channel switching themselves.

For more information about Mercku's Connectivity Suite, our hardware and how you can partner with Mercku, please reach out to the team at connect@mercku.com 

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