2G vs 5G WiFi: Understanding the Difference

2G vs 5G WiFi

If you want to get the most out of your home or office WiFi router, it takes a little more than just plug and play.

The first thing you need to understand is whether to connect to your WiFi at 2.4 GHz (2G) or 5 GHz (5G) frequency. Not sure which to pick or what they even represent? Don’t worry, we have a full rundown on the importance of WiFi frequency and the 2G vs 5G WiFi bandwidth debate. Read on to learn more.

What is WiFi Frequency?

Wireless routers transfer data through radio waves on distinct frequency bands. The available bands are either 2G or 5G and represent the range and bandwidth of the modem. The basic tradeoff between the two frequencies is that 5G is faster with less range and 2G is slower with greater range.

2G vs 5G WiFi

Keep in mind that the internet speed the router provides depends on the internet service speed you pay for. The bandwidth of the router specifies the maximum capacity at which the modem can transfer data after that data has already arrived at your location. In other words, the modem can’t make your internet faster, it can only distribute your internet slower or faster throughout your home or office.

2G Overview

  • Slower data rate over larger coverage area 
  • Stronger radio waves are more effective at penetrating walls and objects
  • Many devices use the frequency, which can lead to interference 
  • Max connection speed: 150 Mbps
  • Max signal range: 410 ft

5G Overview

  • Faster data rate over smaller coverage area
  • Less effective at penetrating walls and objects
  • Less interference since fewer devices use the frequency
  • Max connection speed: 1 Gbps
  • Max signal range: 410 ft (only when amplified)

2G vs 5G WiFi: Which Frequency Should You Use?

A 2G router gives you more network coverage but at a slower speed compared to 5G. In order to determine which of the two connections is ideal for you, you need to consider the distance of the router from your device.

  • 5G is ideal for devices that stay near the router at all times. For example, use 5G for desktop computers, smart TVs, and gaming consoles located in the same room as the router. You will get faster data transfer with less interference.
  • 2G is ideal if you move from room to room with your devices. For example, connect with 2G for laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The signal can penetrate walls and objects more easily, and allows for the freedom to roam far from the router.

Another factor you need to consider is congestion. How many devices do you have that typically use the 2G band? Microwave ovens, cordless phones, garage door openers, and any Bluetooth device use this frequency. The more of these devices you have operating on this band, the more likely you will experience WiFi signal interference. 

With older routers, consumers usually needed to choose between 2G or 5G when purchasing a router. Now, most routers are dual-band and can operate on both frequencies. Some systems even allow you to connect to both frequencies simultaneously.

  • Selectable dual-band routers will show two separate connection options, one for 2G and the other for 5G. You have to select which one to use with your devices based on speed requirements and distance from the router. 
  • Simultaneous dual-band routers give you the option of assigning the same SSID to both 2G and 5G at once, allowing the use of both frequencies simultaneously. The router automatically determines which frequency is ideal for the device and adjusts accordingly.

Comparing Speed

The maximum speed mentioned on the router can be misleading. There are various factors you need to consider when it comes to the actual upload and download speeds. 

The theoretical speed noted on the router combines both download and upload speeds. It can only be achieved if a single device is connected to the router with zero interference and an internet connection that provides such speed. In other words, this speed is an ideal, best-case scenario.

In real life, you need to account for the following factors that result in slower speeds:

  • Number of devices connected to the router
  • Interference from objects in the home or office 
  • Interference from other electronic devices using the same frequency band 
  • Interference from other routers in the area
  • Distance between the device and router

Don’t expect your router to operate at the maximum speed mentioned by the router’s manufacturer. This is just the maximum output the router can reach. Like the top speed of a car, you will never actually use it.

Fixing Coverage Problems

The distance frequency bands have to travel between your WiFi modem and a connected device plays a vital role in its performance. The further away it is, the weaker the network connection will be due to interference and physical barriers blocking the radio waves. 

To fix this problem, you can take the following steps:

  • Place your router on the highest point (e.g. a bookshelf) in the most centrally located room of your home or office
  • Router should be in a room with good air circulation and away from heat sources
  • Be sure to configure simultaneous dual-band option if available

If none of the above steps help, you may need to get a WiFi extender to strengthen the signal from the router. But before you do, here is a breakdown of the 2G vs 5G WiFi modem range.

2G Range

  • 802.11b frequency – 460 ft in an open space or about 230 ft in a home or office
  • 802.11g frequency – 125 ft in an open space or about 62 ft in a home or office
  • 802.11n frequency – 820 ft in an open space or about 410 ft in a home or office

5G Range

  • 801.11a frequency – 390 ft in an open space or about 195 ft in a home or office
  • 802.11n frequency – 460 ft in an open space or about 230 ft in a home or office

Our Final Word

That ends our 2G vs 5G WiFi comparison. With many modems now offering both frequencies, you no longer have to worry about picking between the two. But at least now you understand what is happening behind the scenes.

To ensure you get optimal internet connectivity, you need to determine which of the two bands is most suitable for your specific situation. Our guide should have helped you understand how to go about that. So, you can now enjoy better coverage and faster internet speed!

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