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Is 5 GHz Wi-Fi Network Hardware Better than 2.4 GHz?

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Question: Is 5 GHz Wi-Fi Network Hardware Better than 2.4 GHz?
Wireless computer network equipment typically uses radio signals in either a 2.4 GHz range or a 5 GHz range. These numbers are advertised prominently on product packaging, but their meaning is often misunderstood. Is 5 GHz network hardware better than 2.4 GHz hardware just because it carries a bigger number?
Answer: No. 5 GHz hardware offers a few advantages over 2.4 GHz hardware, but in practice, 2.4 GHz is usually the better choice for home and other wireless local networks.

GHz and Network Speed

The GHz range of a wireless radio only partially relates to the speed of a wireless network. For example, 802.11a Wi-Fi hardware runs at 5 GHz but supports the same maximum data rate of 54 Mbps as standard 802.11g network that run at 2.4 GHz.

A 5 GHz network can carry more data than a 2.4 GHz network assuming the electric power to the higher frequency radios is maintained at a higher level. However, some 802.11g network products match and even exceed this potential speed advantage of 5 GHz 802.11a by utilizing a pair of radios instead of one, increasing capacity up to 108 Mbps under the right conditions.

Advantage: Both

GHz and Network Range

The higher the frequency of a wireless signal, the shorter its range. Thus, 2.4 GHz networks cover a substantially larger range than 5 GHz wireless networks. In particular, the higher frequency wireless signals of 5 GHz networks do not penetrate solid objects nearly as well as do 2.4 GHz signals, limiting their reach inside homes.

Advantage: 2.4 GHz.

GHz and Network Interference

You may notice your cordless phone, automatic garage door opener, or other home appliance also advertises 2.4 GHz signals on its packaging. Because this frequency range is commonly used in consumer products, it's more likely a 2.4 GHz home network will pick up interference from appliances than will a 5 GHz home network.

Advantage: 5 GHz

GHz and Cost

Some people mistakenly believe 5 GHz network technology is newer or somehow more innovative than 2.4 GHz. In fact, both types of signaling have existed for many years and are both proven technologies.

802.11g Wi-Fi products that run at 2.4 GHz tend to cost less than 802.11a Wi-Fi products not because 802.11g is obsolete or less capable, but because 802.11g is much more popular and thus economical for manufacturers to support.

Advantage: 2.4 GHz

5 GHz vs 2.4 GHz - The Bottom Line

5 GHz and 2.4 GHz are different wireless signaling frequencies that each have advantages for computer networking. Higher frequency networks are not necessarily superior to lower frequency ones, however. So-called dual band hardware combines the best of both types of hardware by integrating both types of radios into the product.

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