What’s the Difference Between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi?

It might help to think of Wi-Fi frequencies like radio waves. Why? Because that’s what they are.

A frequency simply is a channel that data or information travels over. But unlike the radio in your car (which has tons of channels), you can either use 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz W-Fi. There’s actually a difference between both types. We’ll spill the tea and share what you need to know about Wi-Fi frequencies.

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What’s the difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi?

The difference between the two is pretty simple: it all comes down to range and speed. 2.4 GHz has a longer range, meaning it reaches a lot further than 5 GHz Wi-Fi.1 However, even though you can connect to 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi from your basement, it will have a slower speed.1

5 GHz Wi-Fi is faster. But faster also means it won’t reach as far. Techie lingo aside, you trade one benefit for the other when it comes to your internet connection. Keep in mind that not all routers support both versions of Wi-Fi—many older routers only have 2.4 GHz, while newer routers usually have both.1

The same goes for devices. If you have a really old PC, it might not have an option for changing Wi-Fi frequencies. But your new smartphone very likely does. In order to experience the full benefits of 5 GHz Wi-Fi, you should use a device and router that supports it.

Is it better to connect to 2.4 GHz or 5 Ghz Wi-Fi?

It really depends on your situation. 2.4 GHz can travel further, which means the signal can go through walls and solid objects more easily. This means your device will have an easier time connecting. It’s also the signal that’s been around for the longest time, so many devices can connect to it.

However, sometimes the 2.4 GHz bandwave is overused. There’s a bunch of devices that use this frequency, such as microwaves, any bluetooth devices, and even wireless landline phones.

Having lots of devices connected to the same wave of Wi-Fi can cause more disruptions. (If you are experiencing trouble with your Wi-Fi and you have a newer device, try switching to 5 GHz and see what happens.)

The great thing about 5 GHz is that there’s typically fewer devices using it. If you can connect your device to this frequency (just go to Wi-Fi settings) then chances are you’ll have fewer glitches. However, keep in mind that the signal from your router won’t reach as far as it would at 2.4 GHz.

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Can you use both Wi-Fi frequencies at the same time?

This really depends on what you mean by the “same time.”

If you have a dual-band router, it can provide both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi at the same time.3 But your device itself will only connect to one Wi-Fi frequency at a time. Although it’s a sweet idea, your device can’t use both simultaneously. You’ll have to switch between both.

How do I know which Wi-Fi I’m connected to?

To check which frequency you’re connected to, simply find your Wi-Fi network settings on your device and look for the SSID (service set identifier), also known as the name of your network. You should be able to find it listed right there. Usually you’ll see a “2.4G” or “5G” next to the network.

Are there any frequencies besides 2.4 GHz or 5 Ghz Wi-Fi?

Yes, other Wi-Fi frequencies do exist, but it’s up to each country to decide which ones to use.4

Each frequency even has its own number of channels, but that gets more complicated. There’s 3.6 GHz, 4.9 GHz, 5.9 GHz, and so on. Within all of the frequencies available, countries decide which options are available and what channels are allowed.

Now that you know more about Wi-Fi frequencies, check these out next.

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Sources

  1. David Nield, Gizmodo, “Why Your Router Has Two Wi-Fi Bands and How They Work,” August 29, 2018. Accessed December 2, 2020.
  2. Fastmetrics, “2.4 vs. 5 GHz Wi-Fi Frequencies.” Accessed December 2, 2020.
  3. CenturyLink, “What’s the Difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi?” Accessed November 27, 2020.
  4. Wikipedia, “List of WLAN Channels.” Accessed December 2, 2020.