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Using the 5Ghz Wireless LAN (WiFi) Band

The 5Ghz band provides more channels and is far less widely used, though that has increased with 802.11ac and will continue with 802.11ac but 2.4Ghz is still far more common. As most 5Ghz routers and access points are dual-band, you can make use of both bands. access points to interfere with yours.  That aside, 5Ghz is necessary for the latest and highest speeds and protocols.To make use of the 5Ghz band, you must have both a wireless router or access point and wireless clients (laptops, smartphones, tablets) which support that band.

The 5Ghz 'Band Plan'

5Ghz Wireless has three 'bands' (A-C in Europe) with numbered channels as follows (assuming a 20Mhz bandwidth - see later):

Band

Frequency Range

Channel Nos.

DFS/TPC Required

Max Power

Application

A-Lower

5150-5250Mhz

(5.150Ghz - 5.250Ghz)

36
40
44
48

TPC Only

200mW / 23dbM EIRP

Indoor

A-Upper

5250-5350Mhz

52
56
60
64

TPC/DFS

200mW / 23dbM EIRP

Indoor

B

5470-5725Mhz

100
104
108
112
116
120
124
128
132
136
140

TPC/DFS

(120-128 has extended
CoT times - see below)

1W / 30dbM EIRP

Indoor/Outdoor

C

5735-5850Mhz

149
153
157
161
165

TPC Only

200mW / 23dbM EIRP

Indoor

Note that the channel numbers increase by 4 each time; this is because each channel is 5Mhz wide, but to avoid overlapping, each usable channel is spaced 20Mhz apart (4x5 = 20!) If you use a 40Mhz wide channel (or two bonded adjacent 20Mhz channels) you reduce you number of distinct channels further. Band C is permitted for point-to-point applications (fixed wireless access), not general AP-Client usage. Until 2017, Band C required a licence from Ofcom in the UK and was used for fixed wireless links. It has now been made available for general use.  In 2020 the requirement for DFS in band C was also removed.

DFS (Dynamic Frequency Selection)

Some of the 5Ghz radio space is shared with other services, notably military and other radar services. In order to reduce the chance of interference with these services, DFS is mandated in the shared bands. DFS selects a channel within the requested band and must scan for any activity before it can enable transmission (Channel Availability Check, CAC). If it detects other band activity, it must select a different channel, having checked that too. DFS must then be repeated every 24 hours of operation, during which time operation of the wireless LAN device is suspended for 60 seconds (Channel Observation Time, COT). For channel 120-128, that goes up to 10 minutes.  The use of DFS is mandatory in bands A-Upper and B bands so in order for your access point or router to use these bands, you must support DFS. The router specification will list if DFS is supported, if it's not then bands A-Upper, B and C would not be available for selection in the configuration.

TPC (Transmission Power Control).

This is a secondary method to avoid interference with other nearby equipment. With TPC, the transmission power of a device is reduced to the minimum required for an adequate connection. The use of TPC is mandatory in all 5Ghz bands.

Channel Bonding

One of the ways that 802.11ac achieves higher data rates than 802.11n is by using channel bonding.  Each channel, as standard is 20Mhz wide - i.e. it occupies frequencies 10Mhz either side of its centre frequency. If you use two channels, you get double the bandwidth (40Mhz), four channels (80Mhz) and even 8 channels (160Mhz), so theoretically 8 times the data capacity.

The problem is that as you bond channels, there are less distinct channels available, which means you are sharing your bandwidth with any other devices or neighbours using the same band.  Using a 160Mhz channel width means that you only have 2 distinct channels to use (in Europe) and that assumes the DFS/TCP channel is available.  So, if you want to have (say) 3 access points, they cannot have a distinct channels - they'd overlap and performance may end up being worse than if you'd stuck to 80Mhz channels, or 40Mhz and so on.  In most environments, you will have other wireless networks nearby, so there will be clashes.

Therefore, don't enabled 80Mhz or higher channel widths and just assume it will give the best peformance, and bear in mind the limitation to channel allocation using wider channels will provide.  Wide channels work well on gree-field sites or point-to-point links where shared airspace is unlikely.  We like this 3rd party article, which goes into much more detail.

Local Regulation

This page is provided as a guide only and is not intended to provide specific guidance on the permitted band usage in all geographic areas; licensing requirements vary around the world. It is the users' responsibility that they comply with all local regulation and this document should not be used as the basis for confirming compliance - please check your own local and up-to-date regulations for permitted band-plans, equipment certification, permitted power output and licensing.