Friday, December 7, 2018

Understanding 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Network

WiFi is like oxygen nowadays. One cannot live without an internet connection. Today we all use wifi at our homes and offices and few of us are familiar with 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. These are nothing but frequency bands of the router in which the signal is propagated.  Most of the devices that we purchase today which have the wifi capability and the frequency band are mentioned on it on which it can be operated. Lot many people don't know the difference between these two and that led to a lot of confusion.
Stay tuned with this article and I will try to explain the difference between these two and will also try to find if it is any better.

How do WiFi works? 

Before understanding the 5GHz network, first, we have to understand how wifi works. A wifi network uses radio waves to transfer data across the network. The range that radio waves cover is around 3KHz to 300 GHz. The frequency used for wifi is 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. When the first wifi released for public use, an organization named IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) set up a committee called the "IEEE802" which release a set of standards CALLED THE "802.11" FOR implementing the wireless LAN (Local Area Network) (WLAN) computer communication in the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands.

This is the reason WLAN certification on our devices is written like 802.11 followed by letters a,b, g, n, ac. These letters signify the next standard in wireless technology. The 802.11 was the first standard followed by 802.11a and then 802.11b and so on. These letters so suggest on which frequency band your device will operate in. The 802.11 b/g/n devices can receive signals that are transmitted using the 2.4 GHz band while the 802.11 a/n/ac uses 5 GHz band.

The 5 GHz Network

Now we have seen what is a wifi network, let's understand the 5GHz signal. The 5 GHz wifi network uses radio waves between the frequency of 5.180 GHz and 5.825 GHz. For a device to be able to receive these signals, it should be certified by the WLAN 802.11 a/n/ac standard. The 5 GHz signal is further divided into 24 channel and each channel is 20 MHz wide. Channel is very important as a device can use only one channel at a time.

Is 5 GHz better than 2.4 GHz?

Talking about which is better 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz network. Well, this can depend upon the circumstances. Both have their pros and cons. In some cases, 2.4 GHz is better than 5 GHz and in some 5 GHz is better. Talking generally 5 GHz will provide a faster network speed. However, there is no such reason to think higher the number yield faster network. People who don’t know about the network protocols might think so. But this can be a sort of the truth.
Problems with 2.4 GHz network
Channels and Bandwidth, these are the main reasons for 2.4 GHz networks to be slow. The 802.11RF modulation requires about 20 MHz in channel width to operate. The 2.4 GHz band has only 13 channels which are only 5 Mhz apart. There are many chances of signal overlap and interference between the channels. Also, the 2.4 GHz band is already overcrowded as it is not only used by wifi but also used by Bluetooth, Microwave, and even security cameras.
Due to the two main reasons mentioned above, 2.4 GHz band suffers a lot of interference and can cause low network speed and sometimes complete signal loss.
The radio frequency channels are a shared medium and all the devices using the same channel will be using the same bandwidth. Since the 2.4GHz network is used by various devices, that bandwidth is low. This is the reason the channels overlap with each other and there is a drop in network speed or signal loss.

Advantages of 5 GHz Network

The 5 GHz network is not used by many devices as compared to the 2.4 GHz network. This means that 5 GHz network has a lot of free bandwidth which is not being exploited. As we know that channel width is 20 MHz hence, none of the channels overlap with each other. These are the reasons that 5 GHz network does not face the problems of 2 GHz network.

Problems with 5 GHz Network

Although the 5 GHz network has advantages over a 2.4 GHz network, it suffers from its own kind of problems. The biggest problem with 5 GHz network is that its wavelength is short and it cannot travel far. It is easily obstructed by walls, doors and other physical hurdles around it. To get the best possible speed, you should direct in the line-of-sight of your router. So if you are using a single router in your home, and you are not using any repeater, the signal that you receive in your room will be weaker as compared to the signal you receive in a 2.4 GHz network.

Which is better? 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz network?

The 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz network, both evolved at the same time. It is just that 2.4 GHz was cost-effective and was easier to be deployed, it became more popular than the 5 GHz network. Now that 2.4 GHz frequency is overcrowded and is causing lots of connection issues, people are switching to 5 GHz network which is sitting empty.

I hope that I was able to explain the difference between these two networks. I tried to keep this article simple so that non-technical people can also understand these two networks easily. Do not hesitate to post your comments, I would love to learn and improve in the coming future.

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