A quick guide to the 2.4GHz, 5GHz and WiGig bands for Wireless Networks

Most WiFi certified devices that are currently connected on your wireless networks use the 2.4GHz band. More recently, and due to the decrease in price of dual-band devices, we are seeing more use of the higher frequency 5GHz band.

WiFi is a designed in accordance with the version of the 802.11 standards, a family of specifications developed by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) for wireless LAN (WLAN) technology. 802.11 specifies an over-the-air interface between a wireless client and a base station or between two wireless clients. The version 802.11a supports 5GHz radio band. Conversely, 802.11b and 802.11g only support the 2.4GHz band. With the release of 802.11n saw support for both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz and hence the term ‘dual-band’.

So now all that is out of the way, what are the key difference between the 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 60GHz bands and how best to use them on your wireless networks?

Key differences

The 2.4GHz wireless band is a very congested band. It’s used by most wireless devices including the obvious such as laptops, phones, and tablets. In addition, this band is also used by things like cordless phones and baby monitors causing this to be a really crowded space. This results in dropped connections and slow data throughput. 2.4GHz it is better suited for transmitting data over longer ranges and through walls and other solid objects.

In reality, the 5GHz band is much more suited for laptops, phones, and tablets because of the higher amounts of data they transmit and because it is a less congested band. In total the 5GHz band has 23 channels, whereas the 2.4GHz band has only 3 non-overlapping channels. However, the main problem with 5GHz is it is less able to travel through walls and solid objects causing connections to drop. 5GHz is usually better suited for connections inside the home due to less congestion, higher data transmission rates, and a shorted range. 5GHz is the only band available if you want to take advantage of the newer and faster Wireless AC standard. The AC standard introduces higher channel bandwidths of 80MHz and 160MHz which enable higher speeds than N.

WiFi-AD (IEEE 802.11ad), more commonly known as WiGig is the 60GHz band. At this frequency, any compatible devices can achieve a data speed up to 7Gbps but over a short range of up to 60 metres. WiGig will be very effective for the streaming of uncompressed videos wirelessly to display monitors or HD TVs and can be used to enable a constant connection between two devices, such as wireless storage, at multi-gigabit speeds.

So what does all this mean for your wireless networks?

Put simply, if you live in a crowded apartment complex or work in an office block with lots of wireless routers or cordless phones and other 2.4GHz band devices, then you should really consider using the 5GHz band.

It’s also worth noting that if you have a device with an Ethernet port that isn’t mobile, i.e. it doesn’t need to be wireless, then you should consider going wired as it is one less thing on your wireless network.

If, however you live or work in a building that is larger and has lots of walls and solid objects between your devices and the wireless AP our router, then the 2.4GHz band could be the best choice.

Remember though, Dual Band Wireless Routers have the capability to transmit on the 5GHz and 2.4GHz wireless band providing a greater flexibility to optimise your network.  Dual band routers and APs also incorporate Multiple-In Multiple-Out (MIMO) radio configurations. The combination of multiple radios on one band together with dual-band support together provide much higher performance than what single band routers can offer.

Due to the complexity and layout of many of our hospitality WiFi customers and large venue that Airangel work with, we only recommend and deploy enterprise-class dual band APs to ensure the best performance throughout.


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