2.4GHz vs. 5GHz: Where to Connect?

By Keith McNeely, Senior Director of Technology Services

If you are looking at purchasing a new computer, a router, or just upgrading your internet service provider’s router, you will come across the term “dual band,” which refers to a router that uses both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi.

What is the Difference Between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz?

These numbers refer to two different frequency bands that your WiFi can use for its signal. The biggest difference between the two is speed. Under ideal conditions, 2.4 GHz WiFi will support up to 450 Mbps or 600 Mbps, depending on the class of the router while 5 GHz WiFi will support up to 1300 Mbps.

The 2.4 GHz band is a very crowded frequency, especially in a convention center environment where hundreds, if not thousands of people, are using the network. Older technology like wireless microphones, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, remote controls, baby monitors, etc. also use the frequency and interfere with the WiFi signal. The longer waves of the 2.4 GHz band are better suited for longer ranges and transmission through walls and solid objects. Arguably, it is better if you need better range for your devices or you have a lot of obstruction in the areas where you need coverage. However, because so many devices use the 2.4 GHz band, the resulting congestion can cause dropped connections and slower-than-expected speeds.

The 5 GHz band is less congested than the 2.4GHz, which means you will likely get more stable connections. You will also experience higher speeds. On the other hand, the shorter waves used by the 5 GHz band makes it less able to penetrate walls and solid objects. It also has a shorter effective range than the 2.4 GHz band.

Star at Night Panorama view

Which is better to use?

If you have a device that supports a wired Ethernet connection and it is not inconvenient nor awkward to connect a cable to it, using a wired connection over a wireless one is preferred. Wired connections offer lower latency, i.e., reduced delays in transmitting data, no dropped connections due to interference, and are faster than wireless connections.

If you currently use 2.4 GHz WiFi and are wondering whether you need to upgrade to 5 GHz, it is all about your internet requirements. If you’re experiencing dropped connections or if you require more speed for watching videos or playing games, then you will need to move to 5 GHz. If you live in a crowded apartment complex with dozens of wireless routers, baby monitors, and other 2.4 GHz band devices, then you should consider switching to the 5 GHz band.

If you are using a dual- or tri-band router and have both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands available and can’t decide on which one to connect to, here are a few things to consider: Does the device need the higher speed or are you mostly checking email and browsing the web? Is the device experiencing dropped connections on the 2.4 GHz network and do you need it to be more reliable? Are you okay with the device having the shorter effective range?

In the end, it is your needs that will dictate which band will work best for you.