my question might be a little too "newbie" style, but..

How can MCS index rates be set/restricted? For example, is it possible to set the MCS index to 5 at 20 Mhz bandwidth with 64-QAM Modulation and 2/3 Coding Rate, or is the maximum mcs index automatically "selected" by the router when a specific bandwidth is set?

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It depends on the configuration possibilities of the Access Point.

A residential access point is not likely to have this possibility, but if you have direct access to a chipset, through shell for example, it might be possible if there is a command allowing it.

When there is no possibility of doing it, the selection is up to the implementation.

It is worth noting though, that most of the time the APIs provided by chipsetters are more complete & up-to-date that command-line utilities. That means that some functionalities are not available to modification though these utilities.

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