What’s the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi?

Management 6 minute read 5th October 2020

2.4Ghz and 5Ghz Wi-Fi are the two standard wireless protocols used to connect devices to networks.

Comparing the differences between the two isn’t always that easy to grasp, with your choice very much depending on your use case and budget.

To help you find the perfect Wi-Fi frequency for your business, here’s all the information that you need to make a decision.

Comparing 2.4Ghz and 5GHz

While both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz Wi-Fi provide internet connectivity, there are a variety of differences beneath the surface to weigh up.

The main things to look out for when considering 2.4 vs 5GHz Wi-Fi are the following:

  • coverage;
  • speed (or bandwidth);
  • price;
  • external factors.

To make things clearer, we’ve broken down each of these in more detailed comparisons.

2.4 Ghz vs 5 Ghz Infographic

Coverage

2.4GHz Wi-Fi covers a longer range than 5GHz Wi-Fi, making it ideal if you need the signal to reach a larger area, such as large retail shops, bars with different floors and hotels with a pool area.

Without taking any external factors or major obstacles into consideration, a lot of standard Wi-Fi routers operating on the 2.4GHz frequency can reach up to 150 feet (46 m) indoors and 300 feet (92 m) outdoors.

In comparison, those using the 5GHz frequency usually reach around one-third of these distances.

It’s worth noting that this kind of coverage can be hampered depending on what specific 802.11 protocol it runs, the strength of your device transmitter and physical obstructions.

Speed/bandwidth

If you’re feeling the need for speed, 5GHz Wi-Fi is the clear winner here. In ideal conditions, the 2.4GHz to Mbps is around 450 to 600, while 5GHz to Mbps is a whopping 1300.

But, what does this mean?

Imagine that you’re baking and are rolling out dough. When you use the rolling pin to make the surface area of it bigger, the dough becomes thinner. While you might be covering a bigger area, you’re losing its density in the process – or in the case of the 2.5 vs 5GHz argument, you’re losing the bandwidth.

The higher the frequency, the faster the data is transmitted – commonly referred to as the bandwidth.

This means, while 5GHz Wi-Fi might not be able to get the same coverage as 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, it’s able to carry more data and transmit it at a faster speed over that shorter distance.

If you own a hotel with meeting rooms or a café that attracts a lot of professionals who need a first-class connection to stream, send emails and download files without any issues.

Related Article: How to Make Your Wi-Fi Compliant and Secure

Price

On a tight budget? The prices for 2.4GHz Wi-Fi are a lot cheaper than 5GHz Wi-Fi packages, as the latter is newer in the market and provides better overall speeds.

5GHz Wi-Fi also comes with the added benefit of supporting 2.4GHz radios, so you get the best of both worlds, albeit at a higher price.

The reality is, you get what you pay for with wireless equipment. For instance, you can spend less on a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi package, but if you have a small café which welcomes a lot of remote workers, you could arguably lose business due to your signal.

External factors

The final thing to think about in the Wi-Fi 2.4 vs 5GHz debate is the external factors.

For instance, the shorter waves used by the 5GHz band makes it harder for it to penetrate walls and solid objects.

Remember, 2.4GHz frequency is easily overcrowded and congested, with only around 11 channels available compared to 5GHz’s 23.

So, the strength and distance of the transmission could be affected if there are microwaves, cordless phones and any Bluetooth devices interfering.

What does the future hold for 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi as a whole is always evolving and will continue to improve our ability to connect with each other. The transformation from 1999 to now is truly mesmerizing, with the development of Wi-Fi 4 (802.11N) in 2009 and Wi-Fi 5 (802.11AC) in 2013.

As we move forward, Wi-Fi 6 is set to expand and introduce the 6GHz frequency to the market.

But don’t fear, the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi frequencies aren’t going to fall from the face of the earth. Ultimately, you should be picking your Wi-Fi hardware based on the particular needs of your venue.

Further Reading: Protecting Your Venue from DMCA Complaints

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