Most Wi-Fi routers are dual band – meaning they transmit a Wi-Fi signal on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies. But what does this actually mean? Are they both part of the same Wi-Fi network? Why do you need two different Wi-Fi signals? Is one better than the other?
What Is 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi?
First thing’s first: 2.4 GHz and 5GHz are part of the same Wi-Fi network. Think of them as two different channels on your TV that broadcast the same program. In the case of a dual-band router, the source of the Internet is the same, but there are two different ways to dial into it: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
Since these two bands operate on different frequencies, they don’t interfere with one another. This is why many modern routers can broadcast both at the same time without negatively impacting the strength of the Wi-Fi signal. Additionally, many modern routers automatically broadcast on both channels straight out of the box with no setup necessary.
2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz: What’s the Difference?
The difference between the two bands boils down to two things: speed and range. Simply put, 5 GHz Wi-Fi is faster than 2.4 GHz but has a shorter access range. So depending on your position (relative to the router), you may want to switch between 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz to get connected. This also explains why modern routers offer both channels. Basically, dual band routers give users the ability to choose which channel is best suited for their needs.
When Should I Use the 5 GHz Band?
As we mentioned earlier, 5 GHz Wi-Fi is faster than its 2.4 GHz counterpart. This is due to a couple of factors. First of all, the 5 GHz frequency supports higher data rates. The ability to transmit larger amounts of data to a device translates into a speedier connection.
Secondly, the 5 GHz band is less congested than 2.4 GHz. This means that a 5 GHz connection is more stable and less prone to interference from other devices. On the other hand, the 2.4 GHz frequency is used by a number of devices in your home, like microwaves and baby monitors. Unfortunately, this causes unwanted competition between your devices resulting in poorer performance. Think of your wireless bands like a highway. The more devices that are trying to use that highway, the more traffic there is, which can slow everything down.
That being said, 5 GHz has a more limited range compared to 2.4 GHz. Therefore, because 5 GHz is speedier, we recommend that you use it for more data-hungry activities. This includes activities such as streaming HD video or playing video games. That being said, if you have large stationary devices, such as a desktop PC or a smart TV, and they are fairly close to the router, feel free to use the 5 GHz band on those as well.
When Should I Use the 2.4 GHz Band?
We’ve established that 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi is a bit slower than 5 GHz; however, it offers superior range. Furthermore, when talking about wireless transmissions, you have to remember that your home or office is littered with impedance. Walls, floors, ceilings, closed doors – all of these can block or slow down your wireless network. The 2.4 GHz frequency is better at being able to get through these obstructions than 5 GHz, thanks to its use of longer wavelengths.
Generally, you’ll want to stick with 2.4 GHz if you’re doing anything else other than streaming video or other data-intensive tasks. Browsing the Web, checking emails, online shopping – all of these will function just fine on 2.4 GHz. Since they generally don’t consume a ton of data, you probably won’t even see a difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
Additionally, the further a device is from your router, the more likely you’ll need to use the 2.4 GHz band. This is particularly true if you have a large house or office. So, if you have a device that is having trouble connecting to the 5 GHz frequency, give 2.4 GHz a try.
Having two Wi-Fi bands allows you to spread your devices across these channels. This helps to reduce congestion and usher in better network performance across your devices. Some of the newer routers even allow you to set the same Wi-Fi SSID for both 2.4 and 5 Ghz channels and automatically switch between both to give you the best speed and coverage. Since everyone’s requirements differ, we recommend experimenting with your devices and which Wi-Fi band they use to determine what works best for you.
Finally, if you’re having trouble with your Wi-Fi connection, don’t rush out and buy a new one; there are some easy router fixes to try first. Additionally, if you’ve recently upgraded to a dual band router, you can still put the old one to use. Do you use a dual band router? Are you a 5 GHz convert, or do you swear by 2.4 GHz? Let us know in the comments!