What’s the Difference Between 2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz Wifi?

Confused about why there are seemingly two WiFi networks in your home? Learn more about dual-band connections here.

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If you’ve tried to log in to a WiFi network recently only to be presented with two options — one labeled 2.4 GHz and one labeled 5GHz — you might have found yourself faced with a few questions:

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  • Which one should you connect to?
  • Is one faster than the other?
  • Are both options even part of the same network?

The answer to the last question can help make the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks a little clearer. Yes, even though they have different names the two channels are still part of the same network. Both are still connecting to the internet at the same source and broadcasting out over WiFi as far as their range can carry it. The difference, though, is that they’re doing it on different channels, thanks to modern dual-band routers.

What Is a Dual-Band Router?

A dual-band router is any wireless internet router that sends out a wireless internet signal on 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. Think of 2.4GHz and 5GHz like different channels for the same radio station. You still connect to the same thing, just through a slightly different connection. Most dual-band routers automatically broadcast on both frequencies without any additional setup, which is why a lot of people don’t even realize they have two channel options.

Is One Channel Better Than the Other?

The main factors that distinguish 2.4GHz and 5GHz connections are the speed and range of their networks. A 2.4GHz connection provides internet at a much larger range, but a 5GHz connection is much faster. Plenty of other devices commonly found in homes— baby monitors, microwaves, and garage door openers— also operate on the 2.4GHz channel, which can easily congest the connection and slow it down.

Which Channel Should You Use?

Base the decision on the needs of the specific device you’re connecting to the network. Large, mostly stationary devices like computers, speakers and smart TVs should be connected to the 5GHz, especially if they’re close to the router itself. As long as you’re in the network’s slightly limited range, you’ll get a connection that is faster and more powerful. But for more portable devices like a cell phone or a tablet, or for things typically kept in rooms farther from your router, go with the 2.4GHz channel. The connection will be more consistent, even if it is a little slower.