We’ve updated our 5GHz WiFi article to assistance address some of the points our readers have brought up, as well as to clarify the theories at work.
Many have opined that using 5GHz rather than 2.4GHz is nil more than a manifestation of a “placebo effect”. While this could be the instance in certain situations, there are many reasons why (from a technical perspective) 5GHz WiFi may perform ameliorate than 2.4GHz WiFi; similarly, there are reasons why ii.4GHz WiFi may work better for yous than 5GHz WiFi. The differences are very much specific to the environment in which each network is being used.
Updated May 26, 2017
Fashion dorsum when Wi-Fi first came out, there were two versions that y’all could chose from: 802.11a and 802.11b. From a consumer perspective, in that location wasn’t much difference between the 2. Devices based on 802.11b were generally less expensive and more readily available than those based on 802.11a, so the b specification chop-chop became the consumer standard. 802.11b operates in the ii.4GHz spectrum. These days, it’south getting pretty crowded, and to help address the digital noise that comes with it, 5GHz WiFi is making a improvement.
802.11a (5GHz WiFi)
802.11a was a standard in 1999 which promised to bring network connections to devices delivered over the air instead of through copper cables. It was built around the 5GHz spectrum, but failed to gain much traction in the consumer marketplace.
Being the “beginning” Wi-Fi protocol, it faced a steep learning curve and deployment problems which delayed the deployment of 802.11a networks. Also, at the time, components that operated on 5GHz were generally more expensive and harder to come by than 2.4GHz components.
802.11b (two.4GHz WiFi)
When 802.11a was going through its initial “growing pains” the 802.11b specification was existence worked on. It offered basically the same features as 802.11a, just used less expensive and more than readily available components.
Due to these factors, 802.11b saw significant adoption amongst abode and minor-function users, whereas 802.11a only saw any level of “success” in enterprise network environments.
Popularity of Wi-Fi began to grow, and the standards that backed it connected to improve.
802.11g (2.4GHz WiFi)
By 2003, a new standard had been ratified, though many devices were using the 802.11g draft specification prior to the date that it was fabricated “official”. This version of the Wi-Fi standard brought some of 802.11a’s “stability” features and the cheap componentry of 802.11b, and the protocols were improved upon. All together the changes were able to increment speeds upwards to 54Mbps.
Thank you to backwards-compatibility with devices that used 802.11b, consumers were thrilled! When this article was orginally written, 802.11g was still one of the more popular versions of Wi-Fi available. Today it’due south nevertheless a feasible option, but is giving way to 802.11n and 802.11ac, which we’ll get to in a moment.
Unfortunately, 802.11g still uses the 2.4GHz spectrum, which, equally y’all might have suspected, is getting pretty crowded since all those Wi-Fi devices operate on the aforementioned frequency.
Bluetooth, Microwaves, & Wireless Peripherals (two.4GHz)
Almost anybody has a microwave in their house. Some of them emit some of the radiations used to warm up your pizza
of the unit. No, it’s non
to do that, only some practice, peculiarly equally they become older and components start to break down. In add-on to beingness harmful to your health, their “spurious emissions” crusade bursts of noise around the two.4GHz spectrum that can severely interfere with your wireless betoken. If you observe that you’re in this situation, you might desire to supercede your microwave oven!
Bluetooth used to be express to headsets and other special-use equipment, just as its feature-set increased, devices using Bluetooth increased likewise — and not only in number, but in the bandwidth they utilise and the amount of time they’re turned on. Bluetooth speakers and docks are a good example of this, though wearables are rapidly condign more than commonplace as well.
Wireless keyboards, mice, trackpads, and trackballs can use Bluetooth to connect. Fifty-fifty those that use their own proprietary wireless hardware are typically still using the 2.4GHz spectrum.
When 802.11n was introduced in 2009 it brought with information technology the power to communicate at speeds upwards to 600Mbps. What’southward more, 802.11n also included the ability to work in either the two.4GHz or 5Ghz spectra. Like the other standards earlier information technology, 802.11n was backwards compatible with its predecessors. Unfortunately, since most devices already on the market were already using 2.4GHz, nearly 802.11n wireless access points stuck to 2.4GHz equally the main operating frequency, and some devices didn’t even include the hardware to employ 5Ghz at all.
Some permit y’all pick between ii.4GHz and 5GHz operation (but usually non both), but since most people still had some two.4GHz devices they kept their networks on 2.4GHz rather than making the switch beyond the board.
802.11ac was ratified in Jan 2014, but devices based on the draft specification were available for months prior.
This standard brings the maximum data rates up to 1Gbps (almost double that of 802.11n). In well-nigh 802.11ac wireless access points,
2.4GHz and 5GHz hardware is included, though near segregate the traffic from each onto its ain network.
Advantages of 5GHz WiFi
users can take reward of the reduced racket available in the 5GHz spectrum. This generally provides faster data rates, fewer disconnects, and a more than enjoyable experience. (Information technology may even help you run faster and jump higher, just that study is all the same pending.)
Bluetooth and other wireless peripherals aren’t going to bother you in the 5GHz spectrum so there’s less interference. Microwaves don’t operate upwards at that place (non even newer ones), so that source of noise is eliminated, too.
There are many more than reasons why 802.11ac is better than others, but this article is well-nigh switching to the 5GHz spectrum, rather than about 802.11ac specifically. With a compatible router or WAP, your 802.11n or 802.11ac smartphone or tablet should work much better.
With a stronger the signal and faster the throughput, less ability is required to get your indicate to a higher place the noise floor, which should result in better battery life in addition to amend network performance.
5GHz WiFi Considerations
Not all of your devices are going to have 5GHz compatibility built-in, they will however work every fleck likewise as they did before on two.4GHz, but should piece of work even amend in one case you offload traffic from that network onto your 5GHz network.
There are some potential disadvantages to 5GHz though. If two signals are transmitted using the same power and equivalent antennas, the signal with the higher frequency will travel a shorter distance – in other words (all things existence equal), 5GHz won’t travel as far every bit 2.4GHz.
Since the data may not travel equally far over 5GHz, you may non have as much interference from neighbors every bit y’all would have on two.4GHz. Then over again, neither will your neighbors’ (which could very well be a major reward to both you and them).
Other ecology factors also play into whether 5GHz will exist better for your circumstances. A country home with relatively few devices and neighbors who alive 1/4 mile away may benefit from two.4GHz over 5GHz. A suburban dwelling house with neighbors within arm’south length of each other may benefit from 5GHz rather than 2.4GHz.
Just equally concrete obstacles can prevent you from passing from one room to another (walls, for case), obstacles can block, reduce, or reflect signals, too. The frequency of the betoken (in this case ii.4GHz versus 5GHz) comes into play, as does the composition of the walls. Brick, drywall, plaster, drinking glass, and steel all have different properties, and signals on ane frequency may travel through them amend than signals on another frequency. Information technology all depends on the environment in which your network is deployed.
All in all, I’d highly recommend that you upgrade your router or
to 802.11ac and prepare both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, then move as much of your wireless traffic to the 5GHz side as possible. You’ll accept less noise, less interference, better speeds, a more stable connection, and maybe even better battery life. What more could you want?