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Wi-Fi Wars: 2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz

Your router is ancient – you’ve gotta admit it! And those shiny new routers, with their bright “5 GHz long-range” stickers look very appealing, don’t they? Not to mention that all of them have dual band support, promising smooth-as-butter operation in both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

So, is it worth it to invest your money into a router that “speaks” the 5 GHz band? Read on to discover the entire truth.

 

5 GHz Band Pros

Let’s begin by stating that the 5 GHz band is not susceptible to interference with the vast array of wireless devices that can be found in a typical home. I’m talking about cordless phones here (especially older models), microwave ovens, wireless speakers, baby monitors, and so on.

Yes, many of these devices emit Wi-Fi signal using the freely available 2.4 GHz band, and they can cause serious interference problems with your Wi-Fi network.

On the other hand, if your local network runs using the 5 GHz band, it won’t have to suffer even if the 2.4 GHz devices are really close to the router.

But before you throw out the microwave oven, it is good to know that most interference problems are caused by the other Wi-Fi networks that are close to yours. It’s true; often times, your neighbor’s 2.4 GHz network interferes with your Wi-Fi network, limiting its performance and range.

The 5 GHz network has a much greater number of channels, because it operates using a large bandwidth, which ranges – according to data-alliance.net – from 5.1 GHz to 5.8 GHz. This way, your network can always have a freely available channel for itself, even if there are lots of Internet-connected devices in the area.

Finally, most – if not all – routers can operate using both bands. This means that it makes sense to invest into a router which supports both frequencies, and then set up two different Wi-Fi networks. Then, you can make the newer devices operate on the 5 GHz band, while the old ones can keep running on the 2.4 GHz band.

 

5 GHz Band Cons

I’ve got a feeling that you’ve started to like the higher frequency band after reading this article ;). But before making a router manufacturer a bit richer, let’s see what are the main 5 GHz band downsides.

The biggest disadvantage by far is the limited signal range. There are several ways to boost the 5GHz signal range, but don’t expect remarkable results. Sadly, even though the 5 GHz band is a more modern invention, its range is quite limited in comparison with the older Wi-Fi band. If you’ve got devices that need to connect to the Wi-Fi network and are away from the router, the 2.4 GHz band continues to be your best bet.

Another problem arises from the fact that most devices work fine on the older Wi-Fi band, but are unable to connect to the newer 5 GHz wireless network. Of course, it’s not complicated to upgrade your laptop’s Wi-Fi card by using a modern Wi-Fi USB adapter, but other devices – your old iPhone, for example – will not be able to support this new Wi-Fi technology no matter how hard you will try. You’ll encounter the same problem if you’ve got an older gaming console.

Sure, you could fix all these problems by using a 5 GHz Ethernet bridge, but this method involves additional costs and complex setups.

So, who wins this war? I’d say that both bands have their advantages, so the best solution is to purchase a router that supports them all. By doing this, you will also get access to newer technologies and to the most recent router security patches.

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