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What is the difference between 2.5 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi

There has been a lot of confusions regarding the frequency bands available in the Wi-Fi routers that come with 'dual band' feature.

First thing first, if your Wi-Fi router is of old or low-end model, then, most of them has only one band i.e, 2.4 GHz. But, if you are planning to upgrade the Wi-Fi router or already have one which supports dual bands, you will come across the terms like 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Before choosing one randomly or choosing the latter one being tempted because of the higher value, you must understand their significance and the conditions to use them.

What are 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz on Wi-Fi routers?

These are simply the frequency bands a Wi-Fi router can transmit. Now, if we go back to our school days and remember what frequency means, it's just a number obtained when we divide the velocity of the wave by its wavelength.

Thus, it impacts the two factors of the wave; velocity and wavelength. In simple words, frequency makes a major impact on a wave's speed and range. In this aspect, greater the frequency; higher the speed and lesser the range whereas lesser the frequency; lesser is the speed and higher is the range.

You must be getting some idea about this till now.

What is the difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz on Wi-Fi routers?

Moving on, if we refer the above meanings, we can derive two major differences between these values of frequency available in Wi-Fi routers; SPEED and RANGE.

Here's how they differ on these aspects:

When it comes to the speed of the Wi-Fi signal, the value of the frequency directly affects. The higher the frequency, the higher is the speed and vice versa.

Thus, it's clear that when we use 5 GHz frequency band in our Wi-Fi router, the uploading and downloading speeds of the internet will be higher compared to that of 2.4 GHz frequency band. You can stream videos, make a video call or download larger files easily with 5 GHz frequency band unlike with 2.4 GHz band which might allow you only to browse and do very light things on internet.

Another factor that these two frequency bands differ from is obviously 'Range' or the 'Coverage' of Wi-Fi signal.

Don't get captivated by the fact about 'Speed' as there will be something you will have to miss out for higher speed and that is the 'coverage'. Here, the high speed will cost you the range. If your frequency band is high, then the range of Wi-Fi signal will be low. The reason is that the higher frequency signals cannot penetrate the walls and obstructions on its way. Thus, the 5 GHz frequency band will provide you lesser coverage than 2.4 GHz.

Another thing that we have to keep in mind while drilling out the differences is interference of the signals.

The interference depends upon the number of channels which a frequency band can hold. In case of 2.4 GHz frequency band, there are only 11 channels available and since most of the devices we use support this frequency band, they tend to use the same channels and create overcrowding. That's how the signals interfere with each other causing high latency in the internet speeds. However, in case of 5 GHz frequency band, there are 23 channels available and because only fewer electronic devices use this band, there is less traffic crowd and lesser interference resulting in high internet speeds.

Which frequency band should you use?

Both of the frequency bands, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz have their own pros and cons. So, you must be confused which one should you use while setting up your Wi-Fi router, right? Well, then ask yourself the following questions and the answers mentioned here shall be helpful for you.

Is it the speed or the coverage that matters you the most?
If you need high internet speed accepting the low coverage, then, 5 GHz should be the answer you want. But, if you want the Wi-Fi signal coverage to be wider even if the internet speed drops by some amount, then you should go with 2.4 GHz frequency band.

Is your Wi-Fi network being shared with others or not?
Well, if your wireless network is to be shared with others in different floors of a building or even with neighbors, then, you should choose 2.4 GHz right away because of its capability to cover wider range and penetrate walls and floors. However, if it's only you or only your flat mates to use the Wi-Fi network, then, with no doubt, you should go with 5 GHz frequency bands.

Lastly, if you have many other electronic devices that use 2.4 GHz and you are expecting high level of interference, then, 5 GHz frequency band should be the right choice.

How to find out if your router supports 5 GHz frequency band?

Having said the things that you need to consider before choosing the best frequency band, you need to know if your router supports 5 GHz band itself or not. Most of the home Wi-Fi routers (usually old models and cheaper ones) support only one frequency band; 2.4 GHz. You have got no choice.

But, if your router is of newer models and supports dual bands, then, you will notice two Radios. Each of the radios are supposed to operate on frequency bands 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz separately.

Or, you can just check the technical specifications of the Wi-Fi router model you are using or which you want to upgrade to. If the specifications list includes the wireless standards like 802.11a or 802.11ac, it definitely supports 5 GHz, while if the standards are 802.11b/g/n, then, it will not. However, the standard 802.11n might have optional feature to support 5 GHz as well.

How to find out if your device supports 5 GHz frequency band?

Being tempted by the merits of 5 GHz frequency band and before jumping to take a decision to enable 5 GHz frequency band in your Wi-Fi router, you must make sure that the devices you use support the same frequency.

Let's check how to find out if your device supports 5 GHz frequency or not.

The primary thing would be to check the technical specifications of your mobile or laptop model. It should be clearly mentioned there if it is 5 GHz compatible or not.

In your laptop, you can check by executing a command. Press 'Windows + R' and type 'cmd'. In the command prompt, type 'netsh wlan show drivers'. In the 'Radio Types Supported' section, check the wireless standards supported by your laptop. Same thing again, if it's 802.11a or ac, it is compatible. Else, it is not.

Also, another easy method would be to check the 'Network Adapters' part in 'Device Manager'. There the standards and the frequency band supported should be clearly mentioned.

Lastly, you can simple test by trying to connect to a Wi-Fi network which is operating in 5 GHz frequency band. If it connects, then your device is compatible. Else, it is not.

But, most of the latest mobile phones, laptops, tablets or iPads must support both frequency bands. The thing you must be more concerned about is your router.

If you have come this far, then, you must have had the brief knowledge about frequency bands in Wi-Fi router, and when should you use 5 GHz band. Now, the choice is yours.