Wireless routers use radio frequencies to send signals to connected devices. However, due to the increase in WiFi-enabled devices, the 2.4GHz frequency band has a lot of interference & network congestion, that’s why the 5GHz band came in picture.
2.4GHz and 5GHz are two different radio wavelengths used by the wireless routers to transmit data packets. The primary difference between both is in terms of their coverage and speed.
According to physics laws, higher the frequency, lower the wavelength. It basically means, higher the GHz, lower is the coverage area.
While 5GHz focuses on bandwidth and has reduced interference, the 2.4GHz frequency can travel longer and is highly suited for large spaces and is economical.
Therefore, even though the frequency of 5 GHz is higher than 2.4 GHz band, its coverage area is lower, it cannot penetrate walls like the 2.4 GHz frequency band can. That being said, if you want a faster wireless connection and are located near the router, you should connect to 5 GHz frequency. However, if you are away and have walls/objects in between, then consider using the 2.4 GHz frequency.
The difference between both frequency bands isn’t limited to just coverage and bandwidth. There’s a lot more about them than what meets the eye. In case you’re interested to learn in-depth difference between both, then read on!
Table of Contents
- What is a Frequency Band?
- 2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz Quick Comparison
- 2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz: Which Frequency Band Should You Use?
- 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Simultaneously
- Pros and Cons of Both Frequency Bands
- How to Find Out Which Frequency Band You are Connected To?
- The Verdict
What is a Frequency Band?
A frequency band is defined as a frequency interval that is delimited by a minimum and maximum frequency.
Basically, the term refers to radio frequency bands, but it can also refer to some other spectrum. The frequency band provides a satisfactory performance with minimum distortions only over a certain range known as the ‘frequency range.’
They can be further broken down into WiFi channels which are a medium through which wireless networks send and receive data. In the computer, local area networks, radio frequencies of the range 2.4 GHz, and 5 GHz are used.
2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz Quick Comparison
Here’s a table explaining all the differences between both the bands.
|SPECIFICATION||2.4 GHz FREQUENCY BAND||5 GHz FREQUENCY BAND|
|Applications||The 2.4 GHz frequency band is used for everyday tasks such as emailing, web surfing, watching videos, etc.||The 5 GHz frequency band provides you better throughput and is usually recommended for media streaming, pictures, business purposes, and gaming.|
|Uses||The 2.4 GHz frequency band is suitable for you if you have a huge home with lots of furniture and require your wifi to reach the maximum corners of the house.|
It has better penetration power and can travel a longer distance as compared to the 5 GHz frequency band.
|The 5 GHz frequency band is most suited for you if you’re looking for a wireless connection to satisfy your business and gaming requirements.|
It doesn’t penetrate the solid objects and has a lower range as compared to the 2.4 GHz one. But, it has better speed and less co-channel and adjacent channel interference.
|Bandwidth||It is the most widely accessed frequency band which is available in Wi-Fi standards 802.11b/g/n. It has a lower frequency limit of 2400 MHz and an upper-frequency limit of 2500 MHz.||It covers a bandwidth of 150 MHz from 5.725 MHz to 5.875 MHz. The range of the frequency band can be widened up to 750 MHz using an additional range of Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (UNII).|
|Distance, Range & Coverage||The 2.4 GHz frequency band has a lower frequency and can hence travel a larger distance due to its higher wavelength.|
Moreover, due to its higher wavelength, it has a better penetration power. It has a maximum range of up to 410 ft. from the router.
|The 5 GHz frequency band has a higher frequency and hence according to the basic laws of physics, it has a lower wavelength. |
Therefore, it cannot travel farther than 10-15 ft. from the router. Moreover, it cannot penetrate solid objects well and is hence, not recommended for large houses with lots of furniture.
|Speed||The 2.4 GHz frequency band has only three non-overlapping Wi-Fi channels.|
Moreover, as it is commonly used by several household devices, it encounters more co-channel and adjacent channel interference. Due to all these hindrances, it can only provide a practical maximum speed of 100 Mbps.
|The 5 GHz frequency band has a higher number of non-overlapping channels available. Moreover, as its a fairly new Wi-Fi addition, fewer devices are compatible with it leading to lesser co-channel and adjacent channel interference.|
Therefore, this provides you a faster Wi-Fi connection as compared to the 2.4 GHz frequency band.
|Device Compatibility||The 2.4 GHz frequency band is compatible with almost all your household devices be it microwave, ovens, refrigerators, laptops, computers, etc. It is also compatible with several outdated devices.||The 5 GHz frequency band came in later than the 2.4 GHz frequency band and hence it is compatible with only newer devices.|
You’ll have to check with the manufacturer of your personal devices to know whether they are compatible with the 5 GHz frequency band or not.
|Overlapping Channels||A Wi-Fi frequency band is sub-divided into numerous Wi-Fi channels. The 2.4 GHz frequency band is divided into 14 Wi-Fi channels.|
Out of these only three channels are non-overlapping. Non-overlapping channels are the ones where there is the least data traffic.
In the 2.0 GHz frequency band the Wi-Fi channels 1,6, and 11 are the non-overlapping and the rest are overlapping channels that experience co-channel and adjacent channel interference.
|As you know, a Wi-Fi frequency band is broken down into several Wi-Fi channels which are responsible for sending and receiving data packets from the Wi-Fi stations.|
In a 5 GHz frequency band, there are more number of non-overlapping channels. These non-overlapping channels are responsible for providing the 5 GHz frequency band with greater speed due to minimum co-channel and adjacent channel interference.
|Operating Frequency||The 2.4 GHz frequency band has 14 channels. These channels are of 20 MHz each and operate in the frequency range of 2,400 and 2,483.5 MHz.||In the 5 GHz frequency band, channels 20-26 are safe to be used by the public. Here each channel is 50 MHz wide and it operates in the frequency range of 4940 MHz to 4990 MHz.|
In fact, out of these channels, channel numbers 22 and 26 are most frequently used.
|WiFi Channel Widths||The 2.4 GHz frequency band is an outdated Wi-Fi version and that’s why it has 14 Wi-Fi channels which are only 20 MHz in size.|
You can club these channels together for a higher channel bandwidth.
|The 5 GHz frequency band is a newer Wi-Fi version and hence it provides you the option to choose from 20 MHz, 40 MHz, 80 MHz, and even 160 MHz wide channels.|
|UNII and ISM Bands||The ISM bands stand for industry, scientific, and medical frequency bands which are reserved for other purposes rather than communication.|
It has 14 ISM Wi-Fi channels out of which except the last channel, every channel is 5 MHz apart.
|It is divided as follows: |
UNII-1: Channels: 36, 40, 44, 48
UNII-2a: Channels: 52, 56, 60, 64
UNII-2c Extended: Channels: 100, 104, 108, 112, 116, 120, 124, 128, 132, 136, 140, 144
UNII-3: Channels: 149, 153, 157, 161, 165
|WiFi Channel Combination||It allows the combination of Wi-Fi channels up to 20 MHz only.||It allows multiple permutations and combinations of Wi-Fi channels up to a maximum of 160 MHz.|
|Ethernet Connection||It provides you a more stable ethernet connection as compared to the 5 GHz frequency band.||It may drop a few times while it’s connected to your PC through an ethernet cable. Therefore, the 2.4 GHz frequency band wins in terms of stability.|
2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz: Which Frequency Band Should You Use?
Both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands have different uses. Choosing the best one according to your needs is a must if you want a better overall user experience. Let’s have a look at the factors to be noted while choosing between both the bands:
If coverage is the factor that seals the deal for you, then you have to go for the 2.4 GHz frequency band. It covers a larger area and reaches every nook and cranny of your house. However, you might have to compromise on the speed of this. In the case of the 5 GHz frequency band, you’ll have to broaden the number of access points.
If speed is the determining factor for you, then you need to pick the 5 GHz, frequency band. It provides better throughput due to less co-channel and adjacent channel interference. Therefore, its best suited for business and gaming purposes.
If your priority is better Wi-Fi performance, then you’ve got to go for the 5 GHz frequency band. It provides excellent performance targeting business travelers with faster Wi-Fi connection and throughout.
If you’re experiencing several Wi-Fi dead zones then its because your data is being transmitted through several overlapping Wi-Fi channels. This is a common problem encountered while using the 2.4 GHz frequency band. This is because more household devices are compatible with the 2.4 GHz frequency band leading to more co-channel and adjacent channel interference.
The 2.4GHz band spreads farther and is compatible with most smart devices at home or office. While the device compatibility pertaining to the 5GHz band is way lesser as compared to the far band and therefore, chances of encountering an overcrowded spectrum are pretty low for a standard home setup.
The price of 2.4 GHz frequency access points is lower than the 5 GHz frequency access points. Therefore, if you’re in a pinch, its best to buy the 2.4 GHz, frequency band.
2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Simultaneously
As you’re already aware of, dual-band routers are the ones that use both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, frequency band. It can transmit data packets by using both the frequencies separately or using them simultaneously. It totally depends on your personal choice. Let’s have a look at them both, shall we?
Selectable Dual-Band Router
The selectable dual-band router allows you to pick between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. You can opt for either of them according to your requirements. Remember, if you opt for the 5 GHz frequency band, make sure that your devices and adaptor are compatible with it. If they’re not, then don’t change the frequency preference of your router.
Simultaneous Dual-Band Router
As the name suggests, the simultaneous dual-band router operates on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands simultaneously. This allows you better throughout as you have two dedicated frequency bands at your service. It allows you more flexibility while working and also greater bandwidth.
Pros and Cons of Both Frequency Bands
Pros and Cons of 2.4 GHz Band
- Covers a larger area
- Better at penetrating solid objects
- Maximum theoretical connection speed of 300 Mbps
- Maximum signal range from the router of 410 ft.
- Even outdated devices are compatible with this frequency
- Low data transmission rate
- More prone to co-channel and adjacent channel interference
- More devices compatible hence more interference experienced
- Only three non-overlapping channels
Pros and Cons of 5 GHz Band
- Provides a practical maximum speed of 1300 Mbps
- Experiences less co-channel and adjacent channel interference
- More non-overlapping Wi-Fi channels
- Includes more dynamic features such as beamforming, frequency selection, and transmitting power control
- Does not penetrate solid objects efficiently
- Travels shorter distances
How to Find Out Which Frequency Band You are Connected To?
In case you’re using a smartphone or a laptop or your PC, go to the settings section of your device and select the wireless network option. There you’ll have to notice whether only one wireless network is available or more. If only one wireless network is available, that means that your device is connected to the 2.4 GHz frequency band.
However, if more than one wireless network is visible in the settings section then try to notice if any number is visible besides the name of your network.
If you can see the number 2.4 or 24G then it means you’re connected to the 2.4 GHz frequency band. If you can see the number 5 or 5G then it means you’re connected to the 5 GHz frequency band.
In case you can’t see any numbers next to the name of your wireless network, then it means that your Internet Service Provider has changed the name of the frequency band. You’ll have to log in to your device and check for the Wi-Fi frequency band type.
We live in a technology-driven world and it’s important for us to be familiar with the basics about the wireless connection we are using.
A wireless connection supports our everyday tasks and provides us with a medium to entertain ourselves throughout the day. Be it just casual web surfing or business and gaming requirements, your wireless device must have the ability to help you fulfill your tasks with ease.
After reading this, not only would you have in-depth knowledge about both the frequency bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) but you’ll also know their pros, cons, suitability, which will help you decide the best band for your usage.
Chris loves technology, specifically smart home technology! With both hands-on and executive leadership experience in his corporate career, Chris stays abreast of emerging technology and solutions and immerses himself in BCCA when not in the office.