I have a NetGear WGR614 wireless router. There is a 'region' setting in the wireless options. I'm wondering what technical purpose of this setting is?

The admin help states:

It may not be legal to operate the router in a region other than the region shown here.

Which makes me wonder if it could be adjusting it's max power output based on regional radio laws?


The primary reason for the setting is that various world regions have allocated different amounts of frequency space around 2.4GHz for wifi and so some of them have fewer (or more, if you like) channels available than others. The region setting ensures that your router will only let you use the wifi channels valid in your location.

The wifi regions and available channels are:

  • Most of Europe = 13 Channels
  • USA = 11 Channels
  • Japan = 14 Channels

If you are based in a different World region you'll need to check what channels are allowed/settable, but from experience, most wifi devices will stick to 11 channels only to be globally compatible, although this does mean that if you set your wireless Access Point to use a channel in the range 12-14, some devices will never 'see' it as they stop at 11.

As far as I am aware, the region settings do not determine the router's transmitter output power and where I have seen routers with region and power setting options, they have been a independently-settable values.

There are legal limits to maximim radiated power for wifi access points, and there are three factors that determine how much signal gets into the air:

  • The power output of the Access Point
  • The effective gain of the antenna.
  • Any losses due to the antenna cable

In the USA, the FCC limits the EIRP (equivalent isotropically radiated power) to 1 Watt, but many APs have an output of 100mW and with standard 3dB stick antennas this means an EIRP of 200mW because a 3dB power gain equates to a doubling of the power. Likewise, many routers sold in Europe are fixed at 100mW max although some third-party AP software (like DD-wrt) may allow higher values to be set - but this doesn't mean that the AP will be able to supply that much power and you need to be careful tht cranking up the value and using high gain antennas isn't going to create a system that causes local interference or an RF hazard.

Overall, you need to check on a device-by-device basis whether the rf power output is fixed or variable and the maximum possible setting.

  • Great answer thanks - also didn't know about DD-wrt. – UpTheCreek Sep 25 '11 at 9:28

As the previous post mentioned, it is due to different areas of the world having different unlicensed spectrum allocated to 802.11. I have tested a handfull of routers that had a region setting, and experienced no discernable difference in operation, except that most of my client devices could not connect when a non-US channel was selected for use by the AP. So basically it does no good to fiddle with it. Just leave it set to the correct region for your location and devices.

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