2.4 GHz Vs. 5 GHz Wi-Fi Frequency Bands – What’s the difference?

Have you ever wondered why some routers have single frequency bands and some have dual frequency bands (with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), well this blog post intends to explain to you the difference between the two Wi-Fi frequency bands and which one to use where.

First of all, what is a Frequency Band?


2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wavelengths…

A frequency band is how wireless data is transmitted between devices. These bands are radio waves that carry data and are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz. Often times most routers on the market transmit in either one of these bands most especially in the 2.4 GHz band because it’s the most common frequency and these are called single band routers. However, a lot of newer Wi-Fi routers are capable of transmitting data in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands and these are called dual-band Wi-Fi routers.

The 2.4 GHz is the standard band but the problem with it is that it’s not just the standard band used in Wi-Fi routers, it’s also the standard band that is used in a lot of other devices such as cordless phones, microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices and wireless cameras, and all these use the 2.4 GHz frequency band. Now this became a problem, how? you may ask!, Well, because of the fact that so many other devices use the same 2.4 GHz frequency band, the signal became overcrowded and was causing a lot of interference with Wi-Fi signals and when this happens, it slows down the Wi-Fi network speeds and sometimes it may cause loss of connection to the Wi-Fi router and that is why the 5 GHz frequency band was introduced.

The 5 GHz frequency band is a newer band so it’s not as commonly used as the 2.4 GHz band which means it’s used by a fewer devices which also means it’s not as crowded as the 2.4 GHz hence minimal or no interference. Using the 5 GHz band would relieve the problem related to slow network speeds and connection drops that would be caused by interference from other devices.

The other reason why the 2.4 GHz frequency band is more vulnerable to interference is because of the difference in wireless channels. (A wireless channel is basically a way to fine tune and alter a frequency.) And sometimes you may need to change to a different channel if you are experiencing interference from different wireless devices and changing to a different channel will give you that ability. The 2.4 GHz band has a total of 11 channels to choose from but of these 11 channels, only 3 of them are non-overlapping which means that basically you have 3 solid channels to choose from. However, the 5 GHz has more channels (25 non-overlapping channels in total).

What about Speed and Range?

The other difference between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands is the speed and the range they both cover. The 2.4 GHz band transmits data at a slower speed as compared to the 5 GHz band but it does have a longer range as compared to the 5 GHz band.

The 5 GHz band transmits data at a faster speed than a 2.4 GHz band but it has a shorter range as compared to the 2.4 GHz band. The 5 GHz band has a shorter range because it has a higher frequency and high frequencies find a hard time penetrating solid walls such as floors and walls in a building.

For-Instance let’s assume we have a dual-band Wi-Fi router stationed at the ground floor of a two storied building, If we are using the 2.4 GHz band on the router, then the Wi-Fi signal produced will be covering the entire two floors because of its long range and the ability to penetrate through solid walls. However, if we choose the 5 GHz band on the router, the Wi-Fi signal will only be limited to the ground floor because of its shorter range and the inability to penetrate through walls due to its high frequency which limits it range within a multi-storied building.

So which band should I Use? You may ask!!!

Asus Wireless Dual-band Gigabit Router…

Well, this depends on your situation because as we’ve stated above, they both have their advantages and disadvantages. We’ve seen that the 2.4 GHz has a further range and it’s able to penetrate through solid objects/walls better but it’s more vulnerable to interferences because so many other devices use the same band and it’s also slower than the 5 GHz band. The 5 GHz band on the other hand has a higher transfer speed which means it allows you to upload and download files faster and it’s less vulnerable to interferences but at the same time it has a shorter range and finds a hard time penetrating through solid objects.

In a nutshell, we conclude by suggesting that if you are considering buying a Wi-Fi router, then go for a dual-band Wi-Fi Router to enable you choose from one band to the other.


 

Tum Kurtzman
Author: Tum Kurtzman

Computer Engineer, Ugandan Life Hacker, Tech Blogger, YouTuber, Founder & Lead Engineer at SONALABS.ORG... Tum completed his BSc. in Computer Engineering from Makerere University and you can reach him via e-mail at tum@sonalabs.org.

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