Why Is My 5Ghz WiFi Slower Than 2.4Ghz? (EXPLAINED)

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Buffering 5Ghz internet connection

According to Intel, the maximum theoretical speed attainable on WiFi is 2.4Gbps, which is achieved using the newest protocol, 802.11ax, in combination with a router that has multi user MIMO capabilities. 

Why then, even with these blistering top end speeds available, might you still be experiencing a noticeably slower connection on 5GHz vs the ‘crowded with consumer tech’ 2.4GHz bandwidth?

Well, the answer lies in how radio waves of different frequencies are impacted by range, attenuation and interference from other devices.  

Although 5GHz WiFi was developed to bring faster network speeds to the home and office, when compared to the 2.4GHz band it is subject to greater attenuation (loss of signal strength) when passing through solid objects and has a shorter effective range. So in many scenarios, depending on your router location and surroundings you might find you’re actually better off switching across to the 2.4GHz band for a faster and more stable connection.

If you have a relatively slow 5GHz connection then this information will understandably come as frustrating news, especially if you have little sway over how the network is arranged (in a large multi-storey office for example).

However, if you do have a say over how your WiFi network is assembled we’ll share what steps you can take to improve network speeds and gain an optimal connection.

5Ghz WiFi is subject to greater attenuation than 2.4Ghz

As we concluded when exploring whether 5GHz can pass through walls, its shorter wavelength is more susceptible to losing signal strength than 2.4GHz when passing through walls made from dense materials. By dense materials we mean mediums such as concrete and bricks.

Less dense materials such as drywall and timber have an insignificant effect upon the both WiFi frequencies. 

5GHz has a shorter range than 2.4GHz

As WiFi is generated using radio waves their signal strength degrades the further they travel from source. 

And as 5GHz (5 billion cycles per second) uses energy over twice as quick as 2.4GHz (2.4 billion cycles per second) so it will dissipate faster.

How much shorter is the 5GHz range I hear you ask?

Well, in a very general example, according to LifeWire home networks on the 2.4Ghz band can create a range of up to 300ft where no obstructions of any kind are involved (i.e. outdoors, over a flat field and in good weather), whilst 5Ghz with its higher frequency and shorter wavelengths extends for less than half this distance.

In the real world however these ranges are near impossible to achieve with a regular indoor router.

Typically for a strong signal you will be doing well to achieve a range of 60ft on 2.4GHz and 30ft on 5GHz

2.4GHz vs 5GHz WiFi ranges

How can I speed up my 5GHz WiFi?

If your current speeds are lower than expected, you can make a few changes to improve your 5GHz WiFi network. These steps include:

  1. Reboot your router
  2. Keep router firmware up to date
  3. Make sure that you haven’t accidentally connected to 2.4Ghz
  4. Check the channel your network is on isn’t congested
  5. Extend the WiFi network
  6. Reposition the router
  7. Reduce the number of connections on the network

1. Reboot your router

Rebooting your router, as in simply turning it on and off, will clear the cache (short-term memory) and allow it to re-establish a connection with your device upon the least congested channel available. This will prevent your available bandwidth from being portioned out across multiple devices.

 

2. Keep your router firmware up to date

A check for new software releases as regularly as once a month would also be advisable if your device does not automatically update. This will allow you to eliminate the impact of many bugs that might be causing your connection to lag or drop. 

 

3. Make sure you haven’t accidentally connected to 2.4GHz

5Ghz with its greater bandwidth solves the problem of congestion when tapping into a network used by multiple devices.

If you have a dual band router, double-check your devices to ensure that you are actually connected to the 5GHz network and not the 2.4GHz network. Most 5GHz-enabled devices support connections to both bands, and if the 5GHz connection is dropped, the device may automatically reconnect to 2.4GHz.

Find out what band and WiFi protocol is forming your connection by selecting your network from the task bar and checking ‘Properties’.

4. Check your network isn’t congested 

To map out WiFi coverage in your home or office, and determine whether you have weak spots or zones to obtain an optimal signal you can use a free WiFi analyser such as NetSpot

From a static point you’ll be able to learn the signal strength (dBm) of each network available as well as the frequency band and channel. 

Upgrade to the lowest tier paid version and you’ll be able to survey your area to create a heatmap of signal strength using any device. This will enable you to identify weak spots in your network in real time and optimise your by finding the busiest and least congested channels.

WiFi strength heatmap in different parts of the house

YouTuber Daniel from the Daniel About Tech channel shows us how to use NetSpot in plain language.

5. Extend your WiFi network to improve 5GHz coverage

As mentioned, a WiFi signal booster may help improve connectivity from across the house. These devices connect to your existing WiFi network and then transmit the signal to nearby devices with very little loss of network speed. 

Boosters typically feature more powerful antennas compared to the typical wireless device and this allows you to extend your WiFi range even when only a weak signal is available. 

 

6. Reposition your WiFi router and antennas

Make sure that your WiFi router is in a central spot of your home to maximize coverage. You should also try to avoid placing the router in the path of walls and other barriers.

The connection between your router and your WiFi device is taken as a straight line and if the line passes through walls, floors, and solid objects, you are likely to experience slower speeds. Minimize the number of objects that the connection needs to pass through to reach your device.

 

7. Reduce the number of WiFi connections on your 5GHz network

Along with reducing the number of devices connected to your network connections, you can assign them each a specific WiFi channel. With 5GHz WiFi offering 45 channels you should have no problem with congestion when gaming, video streaming, and other tasks that require high bandwidth usage.

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