Boost your UniFi WiFi speed using channel width

Published onAugust 23, 2023

In today’s digital era, dependency on the internet has become as common as relying on electricity or running water. Imagine a scenario where the water runs slow or the electricity flickers… The same can be said about our relationship with WiFi — not just any WiFi, we demand fast WiFi.

This guide will show you how to increase your UniFi WiFi speed using channel width.

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Understanding Channel Width

Channel width refers to the wireless spectrum bandwidth your access points use. It is like the lane on a highway dedicated to your device's WiFi signals. The wider the lane, or in other words, the larger the channel width, the more room there is for information to travel quickly and smoothly.

This lane width can vary, especially in the 5 GHz range, from 20 MHz to 160 MHz. A higher channel width provides more wireless bandwidth to your access points.

Most access points, including UniFi and other brands, set the channel width to 40 MHz by default. This width yields per-device wireless speeds typically between 250 and 400 megabits per second. However, adjusting this to 80 MHz allows you to achieve 800 to 900 megabits per second speeds.

How to Adjust Channel Width

With most standalone access points, you can manually set the channel width. To do this with a UniFi network, navigate to “Settings > Wi-Fi.” Here you can adjust channel width globally for all access points, or you can select individual access points by visiting “Devices” and adjusting the setting for each one.

Why Not 160 MHz?

It might seem logical to set the channel width to the maximum of 160 MHz, but there are practical considerations to this. Most access points have a one-gigabit network card. Therefore, any wireless bandwidth beyond the capacity of the network card (about 900 megabits per second at 80 MHz channel width) is wasted.

If your access point has a 2.5-gigabit network card connected to a 2.5 or 10-gigabit switch port, utilizing 160 MHz might make sense.

Another consideration is wireless interference. A larger channel width consumes more wireless bandwidth, potentially causing interference with neighboring networks. Increasing your channel width might be fine if you're in a less populated area.

Testing Your Channel Width

To test your channel width, use a local speed testing tool like Open Speedtest. This lightweight application runs in Docker or on a server or virtual machine running NGINX. With Open Speedtest installed, use the internal GUI to test your wireless network speed without your internet connection acting as a bottleneck.

Final Thoughts

You are adjusting your channel width can increase your UniFi WiFi speed. While the default setting is 40 MHz, adjusting to 80 MHz might do the trick. Don’t overdo it by maxing out the limits here, and use tools like Open Speedtest to check the results.

Why do we care? We’ve been in the WiFi game for quite some time, specifically UniFi. This is also why we build Unihosted, the easiest cloud host solution for your UniFi controller.

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