2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz WiFi – What’s The Difference?

2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz WiFi

Most brands advertise that their routers are dual bands, supporting both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz networks.

The main differences between the 2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz frequencies are range and speed.

The 2.4 GHz reaches longer distances but offers slower speeds, while the 5 GHz has a shorter range but offers faster speeds.

The 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz refer to the radio wavelengths often known as frequencies or bands used by most routers to transmit WiFi connections.

However, each router is designed to offer a certain set of frequencies, and you need to consider which channel and band will be suitable for your needs and give you optimum performance.  

WiFi bands play an essential role in the strength, range, and penetrative abilities of a wireless local area network.

This article will provide you with a better understanding of the main differences between 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each band.

What Are WiFi Frequency Bands?

WiFi Frequency Bands

WiFi routers employ radio frequencies to send data wirelessly to devices.

These frequencies are categorized into two bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Dual-band routers can transmit data across both bands, making them capable of operating on multiple frequencies simultaneously.

This flexibility allows for improved connectivity and performance, catering to a wider range of devices and network conditions.

The radio frequencies within the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands are segmented into channels, with your WiFi utilizing one of these channels to transmit the internet signal.

The 5 GHz WiFi band has 42 channels, whereas the 2.4 GHz band has only 14.

This larger number of channels in 5 GHz WiFi helps mitigate congestion issues, as there are more options available to avoid traffic jams and ensure smoother connectivity.

Comparison Table For 2.4 GHz vs 5GHz

The table below shows the key differences between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz:

2.4 GHz 5 GHz
Slower speed Faster speed
Longer Range Shorter range
More radio interference Less radio interference
Less number of devices More number of devices
Less affected by obstructions More affected by obstructions.

2.4 GHz Overview

The 2.4GHz frequencies are particularly advantageous when aiming to provide WiFi coverage over a broad area, like supplying a building with a single wireless router.

Despite its slower speeds and susceptibility to interference, 2.4GHz is well-suited for intermittent and part-time usage in large offices or public spaces. It offers convenience in such scenarios, despite its limitations.

Advantages

  • Manufacturing devices for this frequency is cost-effective, leading to its widespread adoption as the standard for WiFi-enabled devices.
  • Provides a broader coverage area.
  • Can penetrate walls and physical barriers more effectively.
  • Supports simultaneous connections from a greater number of devices.

Disadvantages

  • The 2.4 GHz network has a narrower bandwidth compared to the 5 GHz network.
  • Household devices like cordless phones and microwaves share the same 2.4 GHz radio waves as wireless routers. If such devices are present, they can interfere with the router’s radio waves, resulting in reduced network bandwidth.
  • The higher number of devices supporting this frequency leads to more congestion, potentially causing bandwidth problems.

5 GHz Overview

While 2.4 GHz frequencies are ideal for extended coverage, 5 GHz frequencies reign supreme in terms of reliability.

5 GHz is proficient in seamlessly streaming large media files, ensuring real-time transmission over secure internet connections, and downloading substantial documents and PDF files without overwhelming devices or causing crashes.

Although 5 GHz has a shorter range than 2.4 GHz, it transmits data at approximately 1 gigabyte per second, surpassing 2.4 GHz by over six times in speed.

Advantages

  • The 5 GHz network offers significantly greater bandwidth compared to the 2.4 GHz network.
  • Common wireless devices like cordless phones do not utilize this network, minimizing interference and preserving bandwidth.
  • It provides higher data rates with reduced chances of disconnection or interference.
  • With fewer devices using the 5 GHz network, there is enhanced privacy and protection.
  • The coverage of the 5 GHz network may be more limited in range but offers denser coverage in supported areas.

Disadvantages

  • Manufacturing devices for this frequency is costlier, resulting in the limited availability of wireless devices compatible with this network.
  • The 5 GHz wireless network has a significantly shorter range compared to the 2.4 GHz network. Being a higher frequency, it struggles to penetrate solid objects as effectively as the 2.4 GHz radio waves.
  • Due to its newer and more expensive implementation, there is limited support for this frequency among devices.

Considering Interference

When comparing 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, understanding their interference potential reveals some key distinctions.

In the case of 2.4 GHz, baby monitors, cell phones, and microwave ovens often pose significant interferences to the network.

On the other hand, 5GHz encounters fewer issues with microwaves and cell phones, but interference arises from radars, perimeter sensors, other routers, and wireless digital satellites.

Although both frequencies experience interference and react differently to various devices, both tend to slow down when multiple devices connect.

Consequently, an increased number of connected devices leads to a more inconsistent overall connection quality.

The Best GHz Option For Your Needs

Now that you understand the significant disparities between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, the optimal choice for your home is to have both bands available.

Most modern routers offer both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, allowing you to enjoy the advantages of both frequencies within your home.

Some routers offer separate networks for each band, while others combine them (with the option to adjust this in the admin panel).

To ensure optimal WiFi coverage in your home, it is advisable to select a dual-band router.

For even better performance, consider a tri-band router, which provides an additional 5 GHz channel. This is ideal for households with numerous smart devices (around 25 or more).

Channels

Both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands consist of multiple channels for router communication.

The 2.4 GHz band offers 14 channels, with only three that do not overlap. In contrast, the 5 GHz band provides 24 channels, all of which are non-overlapping.

These frequency intervals enable routers to optimize connections by minimizing interferences and enhancing overall performance.

When To Connect to 2.4 GHz And 5 GHz Channels

If your router provides separate WiFi networks for the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, consider the following factors:

For optimal speed in daily frequency and WiFi usage, 5 GHz is the superior choice. However, if you require long-distance coverage, such as working in your backyard without disruption, the reach of 2.4 GHz is more suitable.

If you already rely on 2.4 GHz for distance but experience slow connections when multiple devices are connected, consider switching to 5 GHz.

It is better to have a more effective internet connection than a sporadic one with a broader reach.

Remember, the key difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz lies in data transfer rates and distance. 5 GHz offers faster speeds over shorter distances, while 2.4 GHz excels in long-range coverage but typically operates at slower speeds.

What Is A GHz?

For those who may not possess extensive technological knowledge, GHz, also known as gigahertz, represents a frequency equivalent to one billion hertz.

This frequency serves as an electronic transmitting frequency that establishes the connection between your internet and WiFi device.

Several devices utilize GHz transmissions, including smartphones, laptops, computers, tablets, Bluetooth speakers, microwaves, and smart home devices.

Bandwidth (speed) and range (distance) stand as two critical factors that differentiate 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, significantly influencing the performance capabilities of WiFi networks operating on these frequencies.

  • Range

Range refers to the distance a wireless router signal can effectively reach and connect with other devices. In terms of range, 2.4 GHz generally surpasses 5 GHz as it can penetrate solid barriers.

5 GHz, with its higher frequency, struggles to penetrate obstacles such as walls, floors, ceilings, and large furniture.

On the other hand, 2.4 GHz transmissions easily overcome these barriers, making them more suitable for overcoming such obstacles.

  • Bandwidth

Bandwidth refers to the speed at which data can be downloaded or streamed using a GHz frequency.

Situations that require fast bandwidth include streaming TV shows, watching YouTube videos, downloading computer games or files, and streaming music.

Higher frequencies like 5 GHz facilitate faster data connections, allowing devices and appliances to transmit data more efficiently.

Operating on 5GHz enables smoother and more efficient data transmission, enhancing the overall performance of equipment and appliances.

Final Words

Hopefully, you now understand the key differences between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Most new routers are dual bands, meaning that they have both frequencies.

The 2.4 GHz band is slower, has a longer range, fewer obstructions, and can connect to fewer devices.

On the other hand, the 5 GHz band is faster, has a shorter range, has more obstructions, and can connect to more devices.

If you are not sure which band to get when choosing a new router, get a unit with dual bands, this way you get the best of both frequencies.

Daniele Besana

Daniele Besana

Daniele is a freelancer consultant with 15 years of experience in network security, customer support, Linux and Salsa. He worked for Juniper Networks in Netherlands, providing support and consultancy on security projects across Europe and Middle-East.

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