Understanding and Optimizing Channel Utilization in Meshtastic Devices

Channel utilization is the key to efficient communication. Whether you're engaged in long-range communication, participating in a Helium network, or using other compatible devices like LoRaWAN, monitoring and optimizing channel utilization is crucial for a healthy network.

Understanding and Optimizing Channel Utilization in Meshtastic Devices
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In the world of mesh networking, channel utilization plays a crucial role in ensuring efficient communication between devices. Whether you're using Meshtastic devices for long-range communication, participating in a Helium network, or engaging with other compatible devices like LoRaWAN, monitoring and optimizing channel utilization is key to maintaining a healthy network.

Measuring Channel Utilization:

To measure channel utilization, Meshtastic tracks both transmitted and received packets on the lower channel. This encompasses all data coming from and going to Meshtastic radios, as well as packets from other compatible devices such as LoRaWAN, Helium etc. To filter out external noise, we break down a minute into six windows, each spanning 10 seconds, and quantify the milliseconds of airtime used in each window. The sum of these milliseconds gives us the channel utilization percentage.

Understanding Channel Utilization Levels:

  • Below 25% (Green): Considered optimal, indicating very low utilization. This range ensures minimal packet collisions and a reliable network.
  • 25% to 50% (Orange): Acceptable, but caution is advised. Your network remains healthy, but a higher utilization suggests increased messaging or potential misbehavior in applications.
  • Above 50% (Red): Problematic for sustained periods. Continuous high utilization may indicate a network issue or misbehaving applications, warranting investigation and resolution.

How We Use Channel Utilization Metrics:

  1. Stored and Forward Plugin and Range Test Plugin:
    1. Meshtastic strategically delay sending until channel utilization drops below 25%. This precautionary measure prevents potential denial-of-service attacks and maintains a stable network.
  2. Position Updates:
    1. For more frequent GPS updates, we set a threshold at 40% channel utilization. This ensures that devices sending location information at higher frequencies don't adversely impact the network.

Optimizing Network Performance:

By leveraging channel utilization metrics, Meshtastic users can proactively address potential issues and optimize their network performance. Here are some considerations:

  • Network Health Monitoring:
    • Regularly check channel utilization levels to identify any anomalies or sustained high values, which could indicate network issues or misbehaving devices.
    • Additionally, consider adjusting your messaging frequency during periods of higher utilization to optimize network performance and minimize the risk of disruptions. This strategic approach ensures a proactive stance in maintaining a healthy mesh network.
We've observed that channel utilization tends to be higher during long-distance communication, and sending an excess number of messages in quick succession could potentially lead to network instability. It's advisable to wait for a reasonable interval before sending another message, especially when dealing with greater distances.
  • Prioritizing Packet Transmission:
    • Explore ways to use channel utilization to prioritize packet transmissions. This could involve adjusting transmission schedules or prioritizing critical data during periods of lower utilization.

How To Check Meshtastic Node full logs:

  1. Open Meshtastic App (IOS for this guide)
  2. Go to the Nodes page
  3. Select the node you want to check
  4. Select Device Metrics

You can see full logs with timestamps for the Battery, Volt, Channel Utilization, and Air Time


Understanding and actively managing channel utilization is a key aspect of maintaining a reliable and efficient mesh network. By incorporating these insights into your Meshtastic device deployment, you can ensure optimal performance and a seamless communication experience. If you have additional thoughts on utilizing channel utilization metrics, we encourage you to share them in the comments below.

Happy mesh networking!