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Home / Tips and Tricks / Why Wi-Fi channels 12, 13 and 14 are illegal in the United States

Why Wi-Fi channels 12, 13 and 14 are illegal in the United States

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Wireless routers have fourteen different channels that they can use for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, but three of them are limited limits, channels 12 and 13 are allowed in low energy mode, while channel 14 is prohibited and allowed only in Japan.

What are Wi-Fi channels? [19659004] Wi-Fi uses radio waves to communicate over short distances.Wi-Fi networks can work on multiple channels to reduce interference.Each channel is a frequency frequency When multiple Wi-Fi networks are within reach, they can operate on different channels so that they "do not talk" and interfere with each other.

2.4 GHz Wi-Fi networks can work with a small number of channels: only channels one to eleven in the US These channels also overlap. rs often recommend people to choose either one, six or eleven.

 wi-fi router setup page showing 2.4 GHz channels

While the United States limits 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi to eleven channels, channels 12 to 14 are available elsewhere in the world. You can even enable them by changing the router's settings, even if you shouldn't. Channel 14 is the most tempting for people, as it would have even less involvement but it is illegal to use your router on this channel in the United States.

The newer 5 GHz Wi-Fi standard uses a larger number of channels to further reduce interference, but 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi is still widely used. In fact, 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi offers a better signal over long distances and through solid objects, so it still has its place. The Wi-Fi industry was particularly focused on 5 GHz Wi-Fi for a while, but Wi-Fi 6 now offers many improvements to 2.4 GHz.

RELATED: Wi-Fi 6: What different and why it is about

Channels 1 to 11 are fine

  diagrams of US frequency allocations for radio spectrum
US Commerce Department

I The United States regulates the Federal Communications Commission's wireless spectrum. You can't just start broadcasting on any radio frequency you like. Different parts of the wireless spectrum are reserved for amateur radio, satellite, airplane, shipping, military, AM radio, FM radio and yes-Wi-Fi. Here is a chart presented by the US government in 2016, which shows how complicated and detailed this distribution is.

The FCC is pretty serious about this. For example, if you build a transmitter and start transmitting on FM radio frequencies, it will interfere with other people receiving FM radio. They can report a problem to the FCC, and the FCC can confiscate your broadcast equipment and bend.

In any case, channels are one to eleven standard 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi channels, approved for use on the US by the FCC. You can choose any of these and your router can automatically switch back and forth between them if it has a setting that tries to select an optimal channel with the greatest interference.

Channels 12 and 13 are low energy only

Channels 12 and 13 are not entirely illegal in the United States, although they are usually not offered as alternatives. (Channel 14 is illegal, however, so stick to it.)

Many people think channels 12 and 13 are banned in the US, but they are not. A Wi-Fi router can operate on channels 12 and 13, but only in "low power" mode. There are strict limits on power output to avoid interference with the adjacent band owned by Globalstar and used for satellite phones and other low-speed data communications.

Therefore, routers do not normally offer it as an alternative, and you will rarely see channels 12 and 13 in the United States. It is not illegal to use channels 12 and 13, but it is illegal to do so in full power mode.

Laws differ across the rest of the world. For example, Europe and Japan allow the use of channels 12 and 13.

Channel 14 is prohibited

Channel 14 is prohibited in the United States and worldwide but allowed in Japan.

It's a little sad for some enthusiasts, because channel 14 looks pretty comfortable. It is evenly distributed further from channel 13 than you expect. The channels 1 through 13 are spaced 5 MHz apart, while channel 14 is spaced 12 MHz from channel 13. It also overlaps only channels 12 and 13, which are not widely used in the United States. It looks good to avoid interference with other Wi-Fi channels!

  Diagram showing the distance between wi-fi frequencies in the 2.4 GHz range

However, that is the problem. Channel 14 is located at the upper end of the interval. As Chris Tilbury puts on Kärnan puts it:

The band, with a center frequency of 2.48 GHz, is known as Industrial Scientific and Medical, or ISM, band and can be downloaded worldwide. The most common unit operating on the frequency is the microwave oven, which probably works at 2.45 GHz.

It is not known whether the signal received from channel 14 affects microwaves or vice versa. We assume that the heavy restrictions on the use of the range are the result of military and communication satellites using them to transmit signals around the world.

You wouldn't want to use this channel anyway. Devices that would work on channel 14 generally run at old 802.11b speeds. Channel 14 has basically been phased out.

This Wikipedia article provides more technical information on Wi-Fi channels that you may be interested in reading.

You can unlock the forbidden channels, but you should not

Let us be clear: This is not advisable. We do not recommend that you do this. You shouldn't, and you don't need to.

Depending on your wireless router, you can access full-power channels 12 and 13, as well as the forbidden channel 14, by simply changing the country in your router settings. Some routers let you switch to Japan, giving you access to these channels. But even if you managed to activate such a channel in the United States, some client devices may refuse to connect and use on the channel.

On other routers, you may not be able to change countries. The software may prevent you from doing so, or a hardware limitation may prevent a router from operating on channels that are prohibited in the country in which it was sold.

The third-party router firmware can also unlock this setting and allow you to select channel 14. And a router sold in Japan can also allow access to it. But even if you did this, the devices would probably work at slow 802.11b speeds or not connect at all.

Again: Don't do this. We don't say this with a push and a wink. If you have a lot of traffic congestion, just switch to 5 GHz Wi-Fi. That's your solution. It has many more channels and you can avoid a lot of crowds.

Don't cause wireless interference when you commit a felony just to get some slow Wi-Fi.

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