Modern Wi-Fi routers or so-called dual-band routers provide users an option to select between two frequencies or bands: the 2.4 GHz band and the 5 GHz band. Note that both frequencies fall within the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum. But what is the difference between the two? Which one to use? When to use either of the two?
Difference Between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi: Which One to Use? Which One is Better? When to Use Either of the Two?
1. Scope and Limitation of Range
Within the electromagnetic spectrum, forms and subtypes of electromagnetic radiation with the highest frequencies have the shortest wavelengths. Those with the lowest frequencies have the longest wavelengths. Hence, the 2.4 GHz band essentially has a longer wavelength and as such, it travels farther and can go through most solid objects than the 5 GHz band.
The 5 GHz Wi-Fi fundamentally has a shorter range. It cannot pass through solid objects made of concrete. Users and devices that are farther away from the router would benefit from the 2.4 GHz band. The same band is also suitable if there are physical obstructions such as concrete walls and floors between the router and the devices.
2. Wireless Connectivity Speed
Higher frequencies and shorter wavelengths translate to better data transmission speeds. More specifically, a high frequency is associated with a faster movement of signal-bearing electromagnetic waves. Remember that electromagnetic radiation such as radio waves and microwaves transmit data through digital signals that are decoded by receivers.
Nevertheless, the 5 GHz frequency theoretically provides faster connectivity than the 2.4 GHz frequency. Higher data transmission speed is ideal in all situations. Thus, the band with a higher frequency is more suitable. However, when choosing between the two Wi-Fi frequency bands. it is also important to consider range or the distance and area that a particular frequency can cover.
3. Selection of Channels
Another difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi is that the latter more channels. Hence, it has better performance when it comes to overcoming network clutter or overcrowding, as well as interferences. It has lesser competition among other devices because it is newer in the market. Note that other devices such as microwave ovens, cordless phones, baby monitors, and Bluetooth technology use the 2.4 GHz frequency standard.
Specifically, the 2.4 GHz band only has 11 channels with only 3 non-overlapping channels compared to the 23 non-overlapping channels of the 5 GHz band. The limited channels coupled with more devices using the same frequency can create interferences and affect the quality of the Wi-Fi connection. The 5 GHz band essentially has less overcrowding. Hence, if a user is experiencing a lot of interferences, it is better for them to switch to the higher frequency band.
In a Nutshell: A Summary of the Pros and Cons, and Differences Between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi Frequency Bands
The 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band provides wireless connection to a larger area but at the cost of connectivity or data transfer speed. On the other hand, the 5 GHz Wi-Fi band provides faster speeds but at a smaller or limited area. The difference between the two boils down to the electromagnetic radiation frequency they use.
As mentioned, the higher the frequency and the shorter the wavelength, the better the bandwidth and data transmission speed but at the cost of coverage and range. Note that this fact is also illustrated by the difference between Sub-6 GHz 5G and mmWave 5G.
Below is a rundown of the difference, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each:
• 2.4 GHz Band: It has a farther range than the 5 GHz band. Furthermore, it can penetrate to most solid objects, thus making it more ideal for long-range Wi-Fi connectivity. However, it has a lower speed and is more vulnerable to interferences.
• 5 GHz Band: It has a faster speed than the 2.4 GHz band. It is also less vulnerable to interferences because it has more channels. The drawback is that it has a shorter range and it cannot penetrate through solid objects.
Choosing between the two depends on the requirements of the user. Obviously, for users who will be using their devices far from the router, the 2.4 GHz is a better choice. Those who are nearer the router would be better off using the 5 GHz band.
Of course, it is also worth mentioning that there are still Wi-Fi routers in the market that only use either one of the bands. It is better to check with the Internet service provider, the manufacturer, or the device specifications before choosing the most ideal router.
The newer Wi-Fi 6E standard adopted in 2019 allows the utilization of the 6 GHz frequency band. Hence, enabled routers and compatible devices are capable of operating using this band. The obvious advantages include faster speed than 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, more channels, and lesser susceptibility to interferences. Drawbacks revolve around having a shorter range, limitation due to physical obstructions, and high power requirements.