Which Wi-Fi Frequency Should You Use?

Learn the difference between 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz, and figure out which one helps you make the most of your internet.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2024
Image depicting a router with short, medium, and long-range Wi-Fi signals
Selecting the right Wi-Fi frequency can be the difference between a spotty and a speedy connection.
  • Your Wi-Fi frequency determines the speed at which data is sent between your devices and router.
  • Most Wi-Fi routers offer 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands, and some modern Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7 routers also include the 6 GHz frequency band.
  • The Wi-Fi frequency you should use depends on a number of factors, including your location, what activities you’re doing, and what frequencies are available.

One of the most important features of a router is its Wi-Fi frequency bands. There are normally two options: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. But what does that actually mean? If you want the fastest speeds and lowest latencies for your internet, you’ll want to understand how frequencies work. We can start with what numbers like 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz represent. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to decide which Wi-Fi frequency works best for your devices and get the most out of your internet connection.

What Is Wi-Fi Frequency?

Graphic with a radio depicting different Wi-Fi channels and frequencies
Much like a radio, you can pick the frequency that best suits you using your device’s Wi-Fi settings.

Your router emits radio signals across your household once it’s set up and configured. The rate at which those radio signals travel to your devices is known as the Wi-Fi frequency. A router works pretty similarly to a stereo radio — both devices emit waves that can travel and reach different spaces across your household.

But there’s a catch: With a radio, the sound might not reach all of the rooms, and some people might not hear it as well as others. That same logic applies to your router. Depending on its frequency setting, the signals may not reach every device in your house. Also, some devices may get a stronger signal than other devices.

2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz: What Do They Mean?

Most modern routers offer two signal options (also known as “frequency bands”): 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. These types of routers are known as dual-band routers. The default frequency for most routers is the 2.4 GHz frequency, which is the oldest router frequency band standard. The 2.4 GHz frequency band can cover large spaces and penetrate solid objects, but it transfers data at a slower rate than the newer 5 GHz frequency. Moreover, the 2.4 GHz band is prone to interference from other electronic devices and appliances using similar frequencies. This quality makes it less reliable for intensive internet tasks.

On the other hand, 5 GHz is a stronger frequency band that transfers data faster than the 2.4 GHz frequency thanks to its high data rate. Because of this, devices using 5 GHz are less likely to experience interference and tend to provide a more consistent internet experience. Unfortunately, it can’t travel as far and struggles more with traveling through walls and other obstacles. So, you’ll have to be within range of the router to experience fast connection speeds.

Newer routers on the market (specifically Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 routers) are tri-band and support a 6 GHz frequency in addition to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. The 6 GHz frequency is much stronger and transfers data at an extremely fast speed. But it has an even shorter range than 5 GHz frequencies, making it ineffective at penetrating walls or objects. It’s also the most expensive of the three, so it might be more suited for users who require a lot more bandwidth than traditional households.

For a quick pros-and-cons overview of each Wi-Fi frequency, check out this table we put together to make picking which Wi-Fi frequency you need a breeze:

Frequency 2.4 GHz 5 GHz 6 GHz
  • Wide coverage area
  • Can travel through solid objects
  • Sufficient for basic internet tasks
  • Faster data transfer speeds
  • Less prone to interference
  • Optimal for most internet tasks
  • Fastest data transfer speeds
  • Unlikely to experience interference
  • Slower data transfer speeds
  • Prone to interference
  • Small coverage area
  • Less likely to travel through solid objects
  • Smallest coverage area
  • Routers that support 6 GHz can be expensive

When Should I Use 2.4 GHz? When Should I Use 5 GHz?

 Image depicting a Wi-Fi network with multiple access points in a modern home
Which Wi-Fi frequency you should choose depends on your distance from the router and what activity you’re engaging in at the time.

While it may be easier to stick with one frequency for your entire household, it is more efficient to make the most of every frequency band your router offers. Some devices don’t need the fastest internet and can work well on a 2.4 GHz frequency, while other devices require the quick speeds that a 5 GHz and 6 GHz frequencies can offer. When choosing which Wi-Fi frequency you need, you should consider your device, what activities you’re doing, and how far you are from your router or Wi-Fi extender.

Use 2.4 GHz for Light Internet Tasks, Appliances, and Mobile Devices

If you’re like me and enjoy scrolling through your phone often, you might do fine using the 2.4 GHz frequency. Its large coverage area will keep you connected even if you switch rooms or move somewhere else in your household. Since I’m almost always on the go, a 2.4 GHz is enough for me. I’m able to send emails, surf the web, and watch shows in standard or high definition (SD or HD, respectively) on my phone or laptop. Moreover, if you have Wi-Fi appliances, these devices work effectively on little bandwidth, making the 2.4 GHz frequency ideal for them.

Use 5 GHz for Bandwidth-Heavy Tasks, TVs, and Computers

On the other hand, the 5 GHz frequency is better for tasks that require more bandwidth, like streaming in 4K and uploading large video files. My household likes to stream all the time, so they prefer using 5 GHz. With the 5 GHz frequency, they can watch their favorite shows without long buffer times. You won’t have as much mobility as you would with the 2.4 GHz frequency, meaning you may need to stay closer to the router in order to really get the benefit of the fast data speeds.

What About 6 GHz?

Photo of the TP-Link AXE75 Wi-Fi 6E router with cords plugged in
Newer routers with Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 capabilities, such as the TP-Link AXE75 above, offer the faster 6 GHz frequency band. (Photo: Andrew Cole)

The 6 GHz frequency is more suited for households with multiple smart devices, 4K streaming televisions, or huge tech fans with an assortment of newer Wi-Fi electronics. While it has the smallest coverage area, it provides dedicated Wi-Fi channels to prevent interference. If you desire the fastest Wi-Fi connectivity on a 6 GHz connection, we recommend investing in a mesh Wi-Fi router system that has Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7 with the 6 GHz frequency band. Otherwise, you may find yourself connecting to 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz once you exit the range of your router.

How Do I Change My Wi-Fi Frequency?

Screenshot of internet Wi-Fi settings on Android for selecting a 5 GHz network
Changing frequencies is as easy as picking the right Wi-Fi name on your device.

While many routers these days will automatically switch between which frequency is best for your device at the time depending on signal strength, sometimes you may have to pick a Wi-Fi frequency manually. Typically, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi connections will have separate Wi-Fi network names with either “2.4” or “5G” added to the end of the Wi-Fi name.

In the above example, you can see how the Spectrum Wi-Fi network has “5G” on the end of the name, indicating it is a dedicated 5 GHz network. If you want just the 5 GHz frequency band, you would connect to this network. But, if you want the 2.4 GHz frequency, you may choose the default name or look for the one with the “2.4” label in your Wi-Fi connection menu. Once again, which one you choose at the end of the day will depend on your device, what you’re doing on the internet, and how far you are from your router at the time.