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Channels are similar to radio or TV stations. The WiFi bands are like AM, FM, UHF and VHF. Within each band, the channels provide finer tuning of the WiFi frequency. As previously mentioned, the frequency matters when it comes to interference and home architecture. 2.4 GHz can penetrate walls better than 5 GHz, but is subject to more interference from microwaves and wireless devices. 5 GHz, with its higher frequency, can provide faster WiFi speeds, unless walls, furniture or other physical barriers are blocking the signal.
You can use channels to fine tune the best frequencies and overcome physical barriers. For example, channel 11 on the 2.4 GHz band is good at penetrating walls and is also a little faster than channel 1, because it runs at a higher frequency. Channel 36 is the lowest channel on the 5 GHz band. It’s your best shot at penetrating walls on the 5 GHz band. I set my router to channel 33 on the 5 GHz band, as it is fast and still able to penetrate one interior wall between my router an Apple TV. If your router and Apple TV are separated by many walls or are on different floors, 2.4 GHz may be the best option.
Selecting different channels is a complicated and time-consuming endeavor. There are no silver bullets, but some guidelines may help. The most important aspect of channels is interference. If you live in close proximity to neighbors who are using channel 36 on their 5 GHz network, this may interfere with your WiFi network with identical settings. You want to find a channel that isn’t used by anyone in your proximity. The automatic channel settings on AirPort Extreme and most routers don’t do a great job of this.
Some WiFi connection utilities provide information on the bands and channels used by nearby WiFi hotspots. There are some WiFi network inspection tools that can also provide this information. If you own a Mac and use its built-in WiFi, it comes with a tool that can display the bands and channels used by nearby WiFi devices. This may seem like the best approach, however, WiFi bands and channels change constantly. This is because most people use the automatic channels on their router. There really is no scientific approach to this. It’s trial and error. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to change WiFi channels.
First, launch the AirPort utility and tap on the AirPort Extreme router icon. Tap on Enter Password, enter your password and tap OK. Tap Edit on the top right of the screen. Tap on Advanced and then Wi-Fi Settings. Tap on Radio Channel. You will see the Radio Channel detail screen. Switch off Automatic Channel on both bands. Now tap on 5 GHz Channel or 2.4 GHz channel to display the channel selector. Tap on a channel from the list. After you have selected a new channel, tap on the back button on the top left. Now tap Done on the top right four times until you see the Update Settings dialog box. Tap Update and wait for your router to update its settings. You’ll see a green dot next to the AirPort Extreme’s label when it is ready. (continue…)