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2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz Wifi: What Is The Difference?

The bottom line: The 2.4GHz band has a longer transmission range, but offers slower speeds. The 5GHz band covers a shorter distance, but also provides the fastest speeds.

You’ve probably seen wifi networks split into two selections before: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz — but what’s the difference?

In some cases, the difference is negligible; in others, it makes all the difference. First, let’s briefly talk about the wifi routers that offer these bands, and then we'll explore what makes them different in-depth.

What is a Dual Band Router?

Put simply, a dual-band router is a router that broadcasts two separate signals. This technology is typically found in most 802.11ac routers. If you have a newer router, it will likely run the dual-band technology and offer two different bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.

Cell phones and other mobile devices may be best for the 2.4 GHz network, while dedicated PC's and TV's may be ideal for 5 GHz, depending upon their location in your home.

2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz - What’s The Difference?

Many people are unaware that there are even two bands until they happen to see it pop up on their computer. When connecting a new device to your wifi network, you may actually see two to three different options.

For example, let’s say that your wifi name is AdamsFamily. When looking to connect, you might be provided with AdamsFamily, AdamsFamily2.4G, and AdamsFamily5G, or something similar to this.

The main differences that the wireless frequencies provide become apparent when looking at the range and speed of the two. The 2.4 GHz band is great for connecting over longer distances but offers slower speeds due to more traffic on the network. On the other hand, the 5 GHz band offers coverage for shorter distances but provides the users with faster speeds.

Another important difference is that the 2.4 GHz band just can’t support as many devices and can quickly become bogged down.

While the 5 GHz band is newer and offers more channels than the 2.4 GHz band, it can’t reach as far. With this in mind, here a few things to consider when trying to decide on the perfect router for you.

Things to Consider When Selecting the Right Band

The Size of Your Home

The size of your home plays a big role in determining what band you should use. For users with larger homes, the 2.4 GHz band may be a better choice to provide the entire home with coverage.

For smaller living spaces such as a condo or apartment, 5GHz is great to provide you with speedy internet. Along with this, it will also prevent interference from the many networks around you.

However, if you would like to take advantage of the 5 GHz band in a larger home, it may be beneficial to consider investing in a network extender. This will allow you to have greater coverage while reaping all the benefits of the 5 GHz band.

If your router separates the two bands, make sure you’re connecting your devices to the best band for them, taking into account their location with the router.

Possible Wifi Interference

If interference from other technological or household devices is a recurring problem for you, it may be best to switch to the 5 GHz band. Unfortunately for the 2.4 GHz, it’s more prone to interference as devices such as microwaves or garage door openers operate on this band.

If you happen to have several devices already utilizing the 2.4 GHz band, the speed of your internet connection can slow down to an insufferable pace.

If you find yourself dealing with this issue, the 5 GHz band may be a better option as long as the devices are close by the router. As stated earlier, the 5 GHz band offers more channels, which means there are lower chances of running into interference.

What Type of Devices Will You Be Using?

It’s also important for users to take into account what type of devices they will be using on their band, and what they will be using them for. Keep in mind that the 2.4 GHz band uses longer waves that allow it to transmit through walls and floors. This means that normal activities like surfing the web and checking the latest YouTube videos are perfect for the 2.4 GHz band.

However, if you are a serious gamer or you plan to stream the latest movies in HD, it may be better to choose a 5 GHz band, as it has higher bandwidth that is better suited for activities like these.

Certain devices in your household may only be able to connect to the 2.4 GHz band. Or in some cases, some devices may move out of 5 GHz range but still be in the range of the 2.4 GHz band. By using both bands simultaneously, you can use your network to its highest potential.

5G vs 5 GHz WiFi

While the terms 5G and 5 GHz may both be used to discuss wifi capabilities, the similarities end there. When using the term 5G, people often are referring to 5G wifi, which is very different from 5G cell service.

What is 5G?

5G cellular service is being referred to as “the next big thing”, and will soon replace the cell service we’ve known as 3G and 4G/LTE. The term 5G stands for fifth-generation, as its the fifth generation of mobile broadband.

When using 5G, you’ll be able to experience much faster download and upload speeds, and it will have lower latency than that of 4G LTE.

While these mobile networks are new and exciting, it should be made clear that they have nothing to do with wifi. These 5G networks are strictly for cellular service.

What are the Various Wifi Standards?

The phrase “wifi standards” refers to a set of protocols and standards that determine how your wifi network will act. Here is a brief rundown of some common wifi standards that have been used throughout history.

802.11b - 11Mbps (2.4GHz)

Originally released in 1999, this standard uses the 2.4GHz band and can reach a maximum speed of 11Mpbs.

802.11a - 54 Mbps (5 GHz)

Also created in 1999, this version allows operation on the 5GHz band and provides data rates up to 54 Mbps.

802.11g - 54 Mbps (2.4GHz)

The 802.11g replaced the ever-popular 802.11b and was able to match the rates of 54 Mbps in the 2.4Ghz band.

802.11n - 600 Mbps (2.4GHz and 5 GHz)

This standard was approved in October 2009 and was the first standard that allowed for both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz wifi frequency to be used. This was the first time the term “dual-band” was used. This standard also offered speeds up to 600 Mbps.

802.11ac - 1300+Mbps (5 GHz)

You’ll typically find this standard in most homes operating on the 5GHz band. This is a newer standard that uses wider channels, QAM, and spatial streams for higher throughput.

802.11ax

The future of wireless standards, 802.11ax, also known as wifi 6, plans to offer faster speeds with more capacity. Although this standard has been implemented in some products such as the iPhone 11, we can hope to see mass adoption during this year. This new standard also plans to utilize MU-MIMO technology.

MU-MIMO stands for multiple-user, multiple-input, and multiple output technology used for wireless communication. This type of technology works to support wireless devices that are subjected to multiple users trying to access the wireless network simultaneously.

When multiple users access a network all at the same time, this can cause congestion and slow the network down significantly. MU-MIMO works to allow these users to access the network without slowing the network down.

  • Author: Tyler Cooper
  • Last updated: 1/31/2020