What’s the difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi?

These numbers refer to two different radio wavelengths (often called "bands" or "frequencies") currently used by most routers to transmit wireless internet connections. The two big differences between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies are speed and range.

A wireless transmission at 2.4 GHz provides internet to a larger area but sacrifices speed, while 5 GHz provides faster speeds to a smaller area. Every router is designed to deliver a certain set of frequencies, and you will want to consider which WiFi band and channel will best suit your needs and give you optimum performance.

Listed below are the different WiFi standards, frequencies, and theoretical distances and speeds. Remember, the speeds you get from your router will vary based on the internet service speed you are paying for.

Range comparison – 2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz

Standard Frequency Theoretical Distance
Real World Distance
802.11a 5Ghz 390 ft 195 ft
802.11b 2.4Ghz 460 ft 230 ft
802.11g 2.4Ghz
125 ft 62 ft
802.11n 2.4Ghz
820 ft
410 ft
802.11n 5Ghz 460 ft 230 ft
802.11ac 5Ghz up to 820 ft (amplified)
up to 410 ft (amplified)

Speed comparison – 2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz

Standard Frequency Theoretical Speed
Real-World Speed
802.11a 5Ghz 6-54 Mbps 3 - 32 Mbps
802.11b 2.4Ghz 11 Mbps 2-3 Mbps
802.11g 2.4Ghz 54 Mbps 10 -29 Mbps
802.11n 2.4Ghz 300 Mpbs 150 Mbps
802.11n 5Ghz 900 Mbps 450Mbps
802.11ac 5Ghz 433 Mbps - 1.7 Gbps
210 Mbps - 1 G

Which frequency should you choose – 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz?

There are a variety of factors that will dictate which band your devices should utilize. A lot of devices in today’s world use the 2.4 GHz wavelength, including microwaves, baby monitors, and garage door openers. While you may not have many of these devices in your home, if you live an apartment surrounded by other people, that 2.4 GHz band is likely congested with a number of devices.

If  you have a device that doesn’t move around and will be located near your router (but you can’t connect it with an Ethernet cable), we recommend setting it to 5 GHz frequency to reduce congestion and take advantage of the higher speeds that the 5 GHz band can provide. 

On the other hand, if you have a device that moves around your home a lot (like your smartphone) and it is usually farther away from your router, we recommend you set this device to the 2.4 GHz frequency. This wavelength has a larger range and can penetrate solid objects more easily than the 5 GHz band, making it ideal for devices that are taken from room to room or are located farther away from the router.  

2.4 GHz summary

  • Cons: Lower data rate; more prone to interference; usually more devices using this frequency
  • Pros: Larger coverage area; better at penetrating solid objects
  • Max connection speed: ~150 Mbps
  • Max signal range (from router): ~410 ft
5 GHz summary

  • Pros: Higher data rate; less prone to interference; usually fewer devices using this frequency
  • Cons: Smaller coverage area; less successful at penetrating solid objects
  • Max connection speed: ~1 Gbps
  • Max signal range (from router): ~410 ft amplified
Whether you choose 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz, you need to make sure your modem/router and device are set to use the same frequency. Check your specific model of router for  compatibility and frequency specifications.
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