Most Wi-Fi today uses either the 2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz frequency band. The two bands differ in many ways, such as the distance and range they cover and their supported devices. But most important of all is their speed—which one should you use if you want the fastest connection?
2.4 GHz is slower than 5.0 GHz. 5GHz uses shorter radio waves, which allows it to transmit more data in less time. However, because of this reason, 5GHz has a smaller coverage area and cannot go through as many obstacles.
This article will explore the factors that make the 2.4 GHz wireless band slower than the 5.0GHz band. You will also find out the advantages and disadvantages of either band and what you should consider when choosing one for yourself.
How Do 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz Differ?
GHz is short for gigahertz and is a unit of frequency equal to one billion hertz. 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz differ in terms of data speed and coverage. A 2.4 GHz connection provides coverage of a maximum of 150 Mbps over a larger surface area. In comparison, a 5.0 GHz connection offers a maximum range of up to 450 Mbps over a smaller surface area.
Mbps stands for megabits per second and is a unit of data transfer rate. Wi-Fi bandwidth is the amount of data transmitted over a wireless internet connection in a given amount of time. Bandwidth determines how much data can be downloaded or uploaded from your device.
Here is a breakdown of all the differences between 5GHz and 2.4GHz.
What makes 5.0 GHz faster than 2.4 GHz is that it has a higher frequency. Picture it as shorter waves, with their peaks much closer to each other. This high frequency allows more data to be transferred over the same period of time.
There’s also the fact that 2.4GHz bands are much more crowded because they’re older and more common than 5.0 GHz bands. The more devices are connected to a network, the slower it becomes.
Faster internet speeds allow you to download and upload files faster. All kinds of users value this, from software developers to gamers, sound producers, and businesses.
The 2.4 GHz frequency band can transmit through surfaces like walls and doors. It typically extends to up to 150 feet (46 meters) indoors and 301 feet (92 meters) outdoors. This means that you can still enjoy a steady internet connection at a distance, and you are not limited to using it in one room.
However, this is not the case for the 5.0 GHz band. It covers up to half the distance that the 2.4 GHz band, and it cannot penetrate through surfaces like walls, limiting the user to only use it when they’re nearby. This system works well for office workers that sit at their desks but won’t be as useful for covering a two-story house with several rooms.
Because of its higher speed, the price of a 5.0 GHz network band can cost up to almost three times the price of the 2.4 GHz band. This will be a one-time investment if you are a big company or business. But for home internet, it can be a bit expensive.
2.4 GHz has been around for a while now, which means there are more and cheaper options for it than for 5.0 GHz.
The average person uses the internet to power things such as mobile phones, tablets, and computers. Other smaller smart devices may be connected to your networks, such as microwaves, baby monitors, and security cameras.
When you take all that into account, at times, a 2.4 GHz band ends up being much more practical than a 5.0 GHz one.
2.4 GHz has a much higher degree of compatibility. Most devices are capable of connecting to 2.4 GHz, but older or simpler devices probably aren’t compatible with 5.0 GHz. This is another reason why the 2.4 GHz band is so common.
Besides, it’s not like a smart fridge would be able to take advantage of the faster speeds of a 5.0 GHz band. 5.0 GHz simply doesn’t make much sense for devices that don’t need fast connections in the first place.
The 5.0 GHz band is limited to devices like recent smartphones, PCs, videogame consoles, and smart TVs.
Number of Channels
According to the book CWNA Certified Wireless Network Administrator Study Guide on Amazon, in the United States, a 2.4 GHz has eleven channels with only three non-overlapping ones. If a 2.4 GHz band gets crowded, it can easily cause interruptions and slow down. A 5.0 GHz band, on the other hand, has up to 25 non-overlapping channels, making the signal almost uninterruptible.
This is another factor that heavy internet users should keep in mind, especially if they share the network with other users.
Which Frequency Band Is Better: 2.4Ghz or 5.0 GHz?
The better choice between 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz will depend on your internet needs. 2.4 GHz is suitable for large areas such as significant office buildings or homes. 5.0 GHz is ideal for high bandwidth activities in places that don’t need extensive coverage.
Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of both connections, the question of which is better comes down to your personal situation.
Luckily, you don’t have to choose. You can buy a router that supports both bands. We also discuss in our article “Should a Wi-Fi Router Be Placed Low or High?” the use of Dual-Band Routers.
Single Band vs. Dual-Band vs. Multi-Band Mesh Routers
Newer, more expensive Dual-Band Routers have the option of transmitting data over both bands. Your device will automatically switch to whichever band provides the faster connection depending on how far you are from the router and how many people are using each band.
However, if you know exactly what you want out of your router, getting a dual-band device might not be worth it.
Here are the key differences between the two:
Usually, single-band routers create a 2.4 GHz wireless network, while dual-band routers give you the option to connect to either 2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz. A single-band router is limited to one frequency band, the 2.4 GHz band,
Dual-band routers outperform single-band ones in almost every sense, except in one: price. Dual-band routers can cost two or even three times more than their single-band counterparts.
If you only use your internet connection for web browsing and light streaming, having a dual-band router won’t make much difference. A single-band router will provide you with what you need and save you a few bucks.
It may also be the case that you use an Ethernet connection for your heavy-duty internet activities and only need a wireless connection to power smaller devices. In this situation, a single-band router will do just fine.
If a device has Wi-Fi connectivity, then it can connect to a 2.4GHz band. The same cannot be said about 5.0 GHz. Even if it’s not as fast, you know a single-band router will be compatible with most of your devices.
Dual-band routers let the user have both frequencies simultaneously coming from the same router. It’s the option heavy internet users choose.
Dual-band routers can drastically improve speed, not just because of their 5.0 GHz band. Having two bands drastically increases the number of available channels, so if there are still devices connected to the network, it should remain fast and stable.
The main limiting factor, as stated above, is price. If you don’t have many 5.0 GHz-compatible devices, you won’t get much use from a dual-band router. Same thing if you only use your internet for light browsing and streaming.
However, if you have a lot of devices connected to your Wi-Fi or use your internet for data-heavy stuff, such as 4K streaming or gaming, then a dual-band router will improve your overall experience.
Multi-band Mesh Routers
Mesh routers combine multiple bands and channels to cover larger or multi-level buildings or areas. Mesh routers can include 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz bands with the new WIFI 6E standard. The 6 GHz band provides the least amount of coverage but has the fastest speeds for data transmission.
Mesh routers can have as little as two components or several, depending on how many nodes are necessary. Nodes connect to the main router and other nodes in different coverage area locations. These mesh routers are excellent for multi-level houses or buildings up to 6000 square feet, for instance, with children who are gaming and parents who are working from home or just surfing the internet.
Multi-band Mesh Routers use multiple bands and channels to give a stable connection no matter where your location is in a building. Mesh routers can help eliminate dead zones and work well because they broadcast Wi-Fi signals from diverse access points.
The only drawback to mesh router systems is cost. A standard quality two-piece mesh-router system will start at $180 or more, with additional nodes costing $100 to $600 each. For a large home, you can easily spend $1,200 to $2,000.
It has been determined that 2.4 GHz is slower than 5 GHz at a close distance and without obstacles. However, 2.4 GHz remains the most common type of wireless connection because of its more extensive compatibility and longer range.
Dual-band and mesh routers will continue to decrease in price and increase technical ability and performance. This improvement will expand the abilities of multiple channels. In addition, additional radio bands will continue to be released by the governing body, which controls them in whatever country you are in and give even more available bandwidths.
- ACT FiberNet: 2.4Ghz Vs. 5Ghz Wi-Fi: What’s the Difference and How to Use it.
- NetGear: What is the difference between 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz Wireless frequencies?
- LifeWire Tech for Humans: Why Changing the Wi-Fi Channel Number Avoids Interference.
- Discover Wi-Fi | Wi-Fi Alliance
- IEEE 802.11 – Wikipedia