Difference between 2.4 and 5 GHz WiFi – Which one should you use?
While looking for a new router, chances are that you come across the term dual band. This refers to the two WiFi bands used by a router: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. In this article, we will take a closer look at these numbers and will help you to understand the difference between them.
What are the differences between 2.4 and 5 GHz?
Let’s start by saying that these two bands are numbers that your WiFi can use for its signal. The main difference between 2.4 Ghz and 5 GHz is the speed. In theory, 2.4 GHz WiFi supports up to 450 Mbps or 600 Mbps, but this depends on the type of router. 5 GHz WiFi supports up to 1300 Mbps. However, there are two things that you need to keep in mind. The maximum speed that can be reached, depends on the wireless standard supported by a router. This can be 802.11b, 802.11n, 802.11g or 802.11ac.
In addition, you need to consider the ideal conditions. The 2.4 GHz band can get too much traffic since it is used by many kinds of devices, including baby monitors, garage door openers and of course, wireless phones. Since this band uses longer waves, it works better for longer ranges and transmission through walls. It can be said that it is the best option if you require better range on your devices, or if you have many walls or other solid objects that could interfere with your WiFi signal. The thing is that since so many devices use the 2.4 GHz band, the congestion may cause the connection to drop and lead to slower speeds.
While the 5 GHz band is not as congested, which means that it provides a faster and more stable connection, the shorter waves that it uses, mean that it is not as effective when it comes to get through walls and solid objects. In addition, 5GHz’s effective range is shorter than what you get with the 2.4 GHz band. However, this can be solved using range extenders or mesh WiFi systems. The downside is that you will need to spend more money in this case.
What are the dual and tri-band routers?
The majority of routers available nowadays are dual or tr-band routers. The first category refers to routers that support 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, meaning that they provide two WiFi networks. You can find dual-band routers that offer both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi network, but it is only possible to use one at a time. You need to use a switch to select the band that should be used.
Then we have simultaneous dual-band, which is an option that allows you to broadcast separate 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi networks simultaneously, as the name suggests. This offers you two WiFi networks that can be selected when you set up a device. There are router brands that allow you to assign the same SSID to the two bands, meaning that devices only see one network, although both are working. Simultaneous dual-band routers tend to be slightly more expensive than selectable dual-routers. However, the investment is worth making since being able to use both bands at the same time offers many advantages.
There are also tri-band routers, which broadcast three networks at the same time: two 5 GHz signals and one 2.4 GHz one. This helps to reduce congestion so if you own multiple devices that require a 5 GHz connection, getting a tri-band router is worth considering.
Which band should you select?
The first thing to mention is that if your router supports a wired Ethernet connection and you can get a cable to the device, it is advisable to use a wired connection, instead of a wireless one. With a wired connection, you can reduce latency and avoid dropped connections caused by interference. Wired connections are also faster. However, when it comes to wireless connections, it should be said that the choice between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz depends on what you want to do. If you want to watch videos and play games and have been experiencing connection drops, you are probably better off using 5 GHz. After all, 2.4 GHz has limited speed and if you are using many wireless devices and other units that use 2.4 GHz, moving to 5 GHz is the best choice.
In case you are using a dual or tri-band router already and can use both the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz, you will need to choose which option you want to connect your devices to. You may feel tempted to simply use 5 GHz WiFi for any device that is supporting it and use 2.4 GHz for the rest. This may work in some cases, but it is not always the best choice. It is advisable that you consider the way in which you use each device. If a device can only use one band, you don’t have anything to to think about, but if the device can support both 2.4 GHz and 5GHz, you need to ask yourself if you need higher speed or if the tasks that you need to complete don’t require a lot of web browsing.
If the connection is dropping when you use 2.4 GHz network and you need a more reliable option, 5 GHz would be the answer, unless the shorter effective range that comes with it is a problem for you. In general, 2.4 GHz is the recommended option, but if you need to reduce congestion when carrying tasks that require a lot of bandwidth, 5 GHz would work better. Regardless of the option you select, make sure that you select the right channel on your router to get the best possible wireless signals.