Whenever you think about selecting a frequency for your Wi-Fi network, you will come across something called a frequency band.
Using radio waves, a frequency band handles the transmission of wireless data between devices. There are two of these frequency bands – 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
Picking out the best option between these two is not a difficult task but only if you have complete knowledge of their upsides and downsides.
In our guide below, we detail all aspects of these frequency bands.
Range and Bandwidth
This basic difference between the two frequencies can be defined in terms of coverage area and data rate that are also referred to as range and bandwidth respectively.
The 2.4 GHz frequency band extends your internet router’s range but has a lower bandwidth when compared with the 5 GHz frequency band.
The GHz range of these frequency bands is not the real determinant for the speed they can achieve, rather, it is the environment in which the device is placed.
For instance, the 2.4 GHz band usually supports speed in the range of 450-600 Mbps. However, since most of the devices use the 2.4 GHz band, the resulting congestion can cause this speed to lower down significantly.
On the other hand, the 5 GHz band can support up to 1300 Mbps of speed and since fewer routers use this band, there is less overcrowding, resulting in improved speed within the defined area.
Furthermore, the speed of both of these frequency bands also depends upon the type of wireless standard router – 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, or 802.11ac.
Although 5 GHz holds a clear advantage in terms of speed, the only problem with it is that its penetration power is lower. Hence, in a confined place, this speed is useful to only a certain extent.
Interference is the phenomenon that occurs when waves from two same or different bands of frequencies overlap with each other. It can either reduce or augment the range and speed of a Wi-Fi network.
For the 2.4 GHz band, the most common sources of wireless network interference are garage door openers, microwave ovens, cordless phones, and Bluetooth devices while for the 5 GHz band, they are cordless phones, radars, digital satellite, and perimeter sensors.
Generally, waves from the 2.4 GHz band undergo more interferences than the 5 GHz band. As a result, the 2.4 GHz band has a greater coverage but lesser bandwidth than the 5 GHz band.
The Wi-Fi networks with 2.4 GHz work well in places with a lot of walls and objects as the longer waves of 2.4 GHz can easily travel across these walls. The catch is that there are often dropped connections and lower-than-expected speed performance.
In contrast, the 5 GHz networks have shorter waves that travel to only a limited distance but are comparatively stable for their given range.
Congestion or Overcrowding results when multiple devices try to use the same radio space. As the 2.4 GHz is not only used for Wi-Fi but also other common devices like garage door openers and microwave ovens, the congestion in this band is very high.
On the contrary, for the 5 GHz, there are a greater number of free radio waves. It also has 23 channels compared to the 2.4 GHz band’s only 11. This results in smoother networking of wireless networks and other devices on the 5 GHz band.
The Wi-Fi access points that support the 5 GHz band are costly as compared to the ones that support the 2.4 GHz band.
This is because the 5 GHz is the newer band in the market with a faster internet speed. Also, the devices with support of this band usually have the support for 2.4 GHz band as well.
Dual and Tri-Band Routers
Image Source: Dlink
A dual-band router is the one that broadcasts both bands of frequencies – 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. There are two types of dual-band routers:
- Selectable dual-band – This router allows you to use only one of the frequency bands at a time.
- Simultaneous dual-band – This router offers you both the 2.4 GHz band and the 5 GHz band at the same time, in the form of two Wireless networks.
(There is a more costly version of these routers that let you assign the same SSID to the two bands so that devices only see a single Wi-Fi network even when both are functioning.)
A tri-band router, on the other hand, transmits two 5 GHz signals and one 2.4 GHz signal, thereby minimizing the effect of congestion.
2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz – Which Frequency is Best for You?
Now that you know what to expect from each of these two frequency bands, the question is which one of these is in your best interests.
If you have a tight budget and you own a small place with a lot of walls and objects, plus your main task is to surf the web and read emails, then you should go with the option of 2.4 GHz signals.
2.4 GHz frequency is supported in most routers.
In contrast, if there is some flexibility in your budget but you live in a building with a lot of other routers, then 5 GHz is your best bet.
The 5 GHz frequency is also paramount for you if you are into high-end multiplayer video gaming or streaming HD/4k videos on your Wi-Fi network.
The modern routers normally support the 5 GHz frequency. If you don’t know whether your router supports it or not, simply head to the admin panel of your router and look in the Wireless Tab.
To cope with the shorter range of 5 GHz, you should consider purchasing a Wi-Fi router with a greater range. Else, you can always turn to a Wi-Fi Extender.