Having WiFi woes? There are a variety of reasons your wireless speeds might be suffering, but if you’ve exhausted the abilities of WiFi extenders or just how close you can sit to your router, there’s another option for improving network performance.
Bear with us – while it can sound a bit technical, it really just breaks down to there being two kinds of WiFi networks. Not so bad, right?
There are two main frequency ranges used in WiFi networks – 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. While 2.4Ghz is far more common, there are certain advantages (and disadvantages) to using the 5Ghz range. Here’s a simple breakdown of how they differ:
2.4Ghz – A WiFi network operating on a 2.4Ghz frequency can broadcast very far, and isn’t affected much by walls, floors, or other physical barriers in your home. What does affect it, though, is everything else operating on that frequency. Many household items, like garage openers, cordless phones, and Bluetooth devices, use this same frequency – not to mention every other WiFi network nearby.
Houses are usually far enough apart that this isn’t an issue, but if you’re in an apartment building, dozens of separate WiFi networks and devices that close together can lead to mutually assured slow speeds.
5Ghz – This frequency doesn’t have the congestion issues that plague 2.4Ghz, meaning that even in a crowded building, your WiFi will work great (even as your neighbors bemoan their dropped connections).
However, because the frequency is higher, your network’s range is going to be much smaller. Additionally, you may find that physical barriers like walls or doors can have a noticeable difference on your signal strength.
If it sounds like 5Ghz is a better fit for your home WiFi network, there are two main things you’ll need to make sure of before you make the switch; your router needs to be able to support 5Ghz, and your devices need to be able to receive it.
Most routers are either 2.4Ghz only, or they are dual-band (meaning they support both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz). Check for the term “dual-band” on your router’s packaging, or do a quick Google search for your specific router model number.
What can be more difficult to determine is whether or not your devices can receive it. For many consumer electronics, it’s hit or miss; for instance, the iPad and many laptops produced in the last two years are dual-band. However, the iPhone, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and older laptops are not.
If you don’t have a lot of devices and still want to try out a 5Ghz network, USB adapters are available for your laptop that look a lot like a thumbdrive. Of course, you’ll then have a long bit of plastic perpetually sticking out of the side of your device.
If your WiFi issues are severe enough, that may be a fair tradeoff.