What is the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz?

Melissa RossiWireless Networking

What is 2.4GHz and What is 5GHz? Here’s a simple breakdown of what those numbers on your device mean.

I recently made the changeover to NBN and in doing so I noticed something that I hadn’t seen with our previous wireless setup, I now have two wireless connection options show for one device. I can now connect my mobile phone to my Telstra modem using either 2.4GHz or 5GHz. My phone automatically suggested the 5G connection but I didn’t really understand the difference until I spoke to our technicians and once they explained it to me I am now armed with knowledge to help me make the best choice for the connection I need depending on my circumstances.

I consider myself moderately tech savvy so I wondered: “If I wasn’t clear on the differences in my wireless connection options, how many other people might not be aware of their options and the difference it will make to their connection?”. So today, using the expert knowledge I gained from our technicians I’m going to break it down into a simple explanation I hope everyone can understand.

What do the numbers mean?

Basically 2.4GHz and 5GHz (2.4G and 5G) are different frequencies that devices use to send data. 2.4GHz has a broader wavelength and has the advantage of covering a farther distance. 5GHz has a more compact wavelength which gives it the ability to provide faster data rates over a shorter distance.

Distance versus Speed

The range, or how far your data can travel, can be affected by different factors. Walls and other solid objects in the home affect data transmission but the wavelength you choose can make a difference. The compact wavelength of a higher frequency, such as 5GHz, means that the distance the signal travels through an object is actually longer. Confused, check out the diagram below.

2.4GHz and 5GHz Wavelength Differences

2.4GHz and 5GHz Wavelength Differences

Notice the difference in length between the two arrows over the same distance. The longer length on the 5GHz wave means that the signal is taking longer to penetrate through the object, whether it be a wall or floor etc. So, if you are trying to connect to your wireless network located on the first floor and you are in a room upstairs there is a good chance that you will find the 2.4Ghz option will actually work better for you.

Higher frequencies however do allow faster data transmission so if you are close to the point of transmission and have few or no solid obstacles in the way 5Ghz will provide a much faster connection. This can be particularly noticeable when streaming video.

Overcrowding and Interference

Many common household and business devices only use the 2.4GHz frequency. Devices such as microwaves, cordless phones and automatic door openers may all cause slower speeds and connection issues due to interference and overcrowding of the channel.

So, which should you choose, 2.4GHz or 5Ghz?

  • If faster speed is important to you, 5GHz is usually a better choice provided you are close to the modem or device emitting the signal.
  • If wireless range is more important, or there are a number of solid objects between you and the device transmitting the signal, then 4GHz is probably going to provide a better option.
  • If you have a lot of devices that use 2.4GHz and you are experiencing interference or intermittent connectivity issues, then 5GHz is probably a better option.
  • And finally, depending on the device you are using you may only have one option, some older devices only allow for connection using 2.4GHz

Still not sure which is the best connection for you? Contact our friendly support team today! If you are looking the setup a wireless network in your office, why not read our last article about best practices when using access points.