A wireless network is something most people take for granted. When it is working, no one notices. The moment it starts to act up, usually slower speeds, you notice and get upset. Thankfully, there are a few things you keep in mind when setting up, or updating, your wireless network to help provide the best experience possible.

There have been times where friends and family members have asked:

Which WiFi band should I use? 5Ghz or 2.4GHz? What difference does it make? How many devices can I connect to my WiFi?

Friends

What is a dual band router?

The easiest way to explain this is that most modern day wireless routers feature dual band wireless networks. One band operates at 2.4GHz and the other at 5GHz. During setup, the router will ask you to create a network name (SSID) and password for each band. Some WiFi routers will allow you set one name and password for both bands, but we do not recommend it. Having two names allows you to manage which devices connect to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

What's the Difference?

The 2.4GHz WiFi band has been a standard for a while, it offers up decent speeds but allows for a lot of coverage and range. The 5GHz WiFi band and allows for really fast WiFi speeds, but the coverage and range is weaker. Simply put 2.4GHz is for range and 5GHz is for speed. Since 2.4GHz WiFi band is so widely used, it's a heavily congested band. This will cause issues with all devices on your network, because that band is used by other wireless routers too, so they all compete in that space. 5GHz is way less congested making it ideal for speed and more stable connections.

Which WiFi Band Should I Use?

As we stated before, when setting up your WiFi network, name 2.4Ghz and 5GHz different names. For example, wireless-2.4 and wireless-5. Now to answer the question, which one should you use? The answer is both. Having the different names, this allows you to customize which WiFi band your devices use. Giving you more control over your WiFi network and how it is used.

Examples

Now lets take a look at some examples of devices you might connect to your WiFi network and which WiFi band you should use. This list is not comprehensive. It will give you a better idea on determining which WiFi band works for your devices. The one rule we are using is the bandwidth needs of the device in question. Some devices will not support 5GHz, at which point, you have no option.

Use 2.4GHz for low bandwidth devices, such as:

  • Smart Devices
    • Speakers
    • TVs
    • Thermostats
  • Fitness devices
  • Printers & Scanners
  • Scanners

User 5GHz for high bandwidth devices, such as:

Laptops, streaming devices, security cameras, and tablets are heavy bandwidth users. But, because of range issues, those devices may need to connect the 2.4GHz WiFi band to be usable. Check out how streams or video feeds or downloads perform with these devices on both 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands. This will help determine if range is an issue. Use the WiFi band that provides a more stable connection.

Why Not Just Use 5GHz?

When speed is a concern, then you should use the 5GHz WiFi band. Not many devices will benefit from the speed 5GHz offers.

A more technical explanation is that the more devices you connect to the 5GHz WiFi band, means the more devices that are attempting to hog more of your internet bandwidth. Say you have 10 devices connected to your 5GHz WiFi band. Now, say they are all actively transmitting and requesting data. In the end, your connections will most likely result in slower speeds for all your devices across all WiFi bands.

According to the Experts

Whenever a device connects to your Wi-Fi network, it has to fight with other devices for bandwidth (internet speed). A TV streaming Netflix, a laptop downloading, an Xbox Live gaming session — they all want the fastest connection. But there’s only so much bandwidth to go around. Your bandwidth is stretched thin, resulting in a slower connection.

Google 

However, since the router’s wireless channel is shared between all the wireless clients, adding clients will inevitably result in slower network access for all clients. This will be particularly noticeable if some of the clients are using a lot of wireless bandwidth, for example by watching a video or doing a torrent download. Therefore, the maximum number of wireless clients that will operate satisfactorily while connected to the same router will vary depending on what the devices are used for. It will also vary depending on how much wireless congestion or interference are present in the location where the router is installed.

Netgear

Final Thoughts

Not all WiFi routers are created equal. Most WiFi AC routers will have more bandwidth capabilities than WiFi N routers. You will still end up seeing slow down issues on AC devices, but the effects will be much less than that of WiFi N routers. If speed is a concern, then manage which devices use your 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands. If you still see some issues, look into updating your WiFi router to an AC1200 or better device.

wifiSignal1 scaled

Having a poor Wi-Fi signal can be a real bummer. Thankfully, most people have plenty of options that can fix Wi-Fi issues. One of the best options is mesh routers. Before you make that upgrade, take a moment to see where your current Wi-Fi is failing you. From there you can develop a better solution.

Running Some Tests

First things first, run some speed tests to see your download and upload speeds. Once you have those numbers, compare them to the plan you have with your Internet Service Provider. Ookla's Speedtest (AndroidiOS) or Netflix's Fast.com (AndroidiOS) can help you here. Both will provide you with results on your download and upload speeds. Both are also very simple to use. If your speeds are dramatically different than what your service states you have, give your service provider a call.

Load a speed test app to your phone and start checking speeds around your home. This is the most basic troubleshooting you can do. Run a speed check at least three times to get a more accurate average of speed for that area. This will help you find the trouble spots, including ones you may not know about.

Now that you know where the trouble spots are, you can use an analyzer app to see what is happening. We recommend Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android. With most analyzer apps you will be able to Wi-Fi strength and channel usages. Wireless channels being used by multiple devices can cause issues with speed.

Another area to check is signal strength. This is the other culprit of wireless speeds, next to channel congestion. Signal strength is measured in dBm or decibel-milliwatts. The key is that lower negatives numbers are better than larger negative numbers. For a perfect connection, you will want -30 dBm. As long as the signal is around -60 dBm you should be fine. Anything greater than -80 dBm is bad.

Possible Fixes

While analyzing channel congestion, you might find some channels that have less activity than others. Keep in mind that 2.4GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi options have a different set of channels. Log into your router and make some adjustments. Most routers are set to automatically pick a channel, but they tend to all use the same channel. Because of this, neighborhood routers can start over lapping and cause congestion for that channel. 5GHz offers more channels than 2.4GHz, which helps with congestion. But, 5GHz does not have the same range as 2.4GHz.

In addition to switching channels on your router, you can reposition your router to help with signal strength. Ideally, you will want your router out in the open, not in a closet, and centrally located in your home. After a reposition, be sure to go around with your Wi-Fi analyzer and check to see how things improve.

Hardware Options

Switching channels not enough? Or Cannot move your router to a better spot? Then it may be time to look into some additional hardware. Wi-Fi boosters or repeaters are still an option and are relatively cheap. Place these with in good range of your main router, and they will create an additional network for your devices to join. Your mileage with a booster or an extender will vary. These devices are not ideal for streaming services.

Another option are powerline adapters. These devices will take your network and send the signal through your house electrical system. This system tends to be more costly, but is a much better option. The reason for this is the extenders in this setup will have a hard line connection to your router.

One final option is a mesh networking system. This system uses multiple Wi-Fi routers setup across your home to juggle multiple devices on your network. These devices all act as one router, but because you have more than one the coverage in your home is better. Boosters and Extenders all acts as separate networks, with separate network names. Mesh networks eliminate that problem.

Earlier this year the Wi-Fi Alliance announced their latest certification for Wi-Fi systems: Wi-Fi Certified EasyMesh. This certification helps create a shared standard for extending Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home with the use multiple routers.

What does this mean for you?

As manufacturers of routers adopt this standard, you will be able to setup a EasyMesh network in your home easily. The network converge will be seamless to you and your devices. Currently, most routers feature a mesh network capabilities, but they only really work with other routers by that same manufacture. This creates a lock-in to that manufacture.

What is a Mesh Network?

Most people will notice that certain locations in their home will have spotty Wi-Fi from their home router. A mesh network will link multiple routers, that you place around your home, to help distribute your Wi-Fi connection. You do not need to run additional network cables with this setup. This is similar to a Wi-Fi extenders. The added benefit is that, unlike extenders, you do not have to deal with multiple Wi-Fi network names. The mesh will automatically connect your devices to the best signal, without you knowing.

What's great about EasyMesh?

EasyMesh will resolve the issue of locking your devices to one manufacture for your mesh system. The Wi-Fi Alliance has been working hard at creating standards for all of your network gear and help make sure they work how you expect them to. Instead of purchasing a certain brand, you can purchase any brand that is EasyMesh compatible and it will work. Do keep in mind, the routers all need to be EasyMesh certified. If one is not certified, then there is a good chance it will not work.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, EasyMesh will always monitor your network, load balancing data speed. It will even automatically link additional mesh routers to the network when you set them up. This is similar to how mesh networks work currently, but only for devices from the same company. EasyMesh will do this for all devices.

Additionally, EasyMesh devices will be future proof. Meaning that today's devices will be compatible with future devices. This is great for people who do not upgrade devices often. From what we found, routers need to support, at minimum, the 802.11n Wi-Fi protocol.

Will My Current Router Support EasyMesh?

This is the area most people will be concerned about. Now, some manufactures have added Mesh network capabilities through firmware updates, but it's not clear if EasyMesh support can be added the same way. The other question is whether or not EasyMesh devices will cost more due to the functionality. Honestly, we would not be surprised if manufacturers use this as a reason to increase their prices.

Regardless, EasyMesh will make creating a home mesh network super simple solution for most people to setup. Based on the the product finder from the Wi-Fi Alliance page, no devices are certified yet. Certifications do not come easy, which helps ensure quality for the EasyMesh brand. We would expect to start seeing devices that are EasyMesh certified by the end of the year. We should also know more on whether current devices will eventually support EasyMesh too.

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