Why is 2.4 GHz so slow?

The 2.4 GHz frequency band is often slower and more prone to interference than 5 GHz networks due to a few key factors:

Why is 2.4 GHz so slow?

High Network Congestion

The 2.4 GHz spectrum is extremely crowded with many devices trying to use the same frequencies at once, including:

  • Wi-Fi routers
  • Bluetooth devices
  • Microwaves
  • Baby monitors
  • Cordless phones

This results in a lot of interference and signaling issues that slow down connectivity speeds.

Limited Bandwidth

The 2.4 GHz band has a total bandwidth of 83.5 MHz. In comparison, the less crowded 5 GHz band has a bandwidth between 500-1000+ MHz depending on the country.

More bandwidth means a network can transmit more data at once. The limited capacity of 2.4 GHz networks leads to congestion and slower speeds compared to 5 GHz.

Distance and Penetration Challenges

2.4 GHz signals can travel farther distances through walls and obstacles. But this also means the signals are more prone to interference and data loss over long ranges.

In contrast, 5 GHz networks handle cluttered areas much better like inside homes with walls, allowing for faster close-range speeds.

Older Wi-Fi Standards

Many older devices only worked on the 2.4 GHz band, meaning this spectrum is stuck with legacy 802.11b/g/n standards that max out at 72.2 Mbps (802.11n) bandwidth vs. higher speeds on 5 GHz working with modern 802.11ac and 802.11ax standards.

Newer routers may be capable of faster speeds, but get dragged down by older 2.4 GHz clients.

Meta Description:

The 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi frequency band is slower than 5 GHz networks due to high congestion, limited bandwidth, distance/penetration issues, and legacy standards maxing at 72 Mbps. Newer 5 GHz networks have more bandwidth and can better handle cluttered spaces.

Key Reasons for Slow 2.4 GHz Speeds

  • High network congestion from many devices sharing limited frequencies
  • Narrow 83.5 MHz channel bandwidth limits data capacity
  • Signals travel farther but are prone to interference over distance
  • Stuck with older Wi-Fi standards like 802.11b/g/n vs. 5 GHz’s 802.11ac/axe

Tips to Improve 2.4 GHz Network Speeds

Here are 5 tips to optimise and speed up performance on crowded 2.4 GHz home networks:

1. Reduce Wireless Congestion

  • Switch devices like printers and smart home tech to wired connections
  • Turn off Wi-Fi on less essential devices like mobile phones
  • Avoid placing the router near appliances like microwaves that cause interference

2. Change the Channel Width

  • Use 20 MHz instead of 40 MHz channels for less overlap with neighbours
  • Set channel width to 20 MHz for older 802.11b/g/n clients that can’t utilise 40 MHz

3. Pick the Least Congested Channel

  • Use a Wi-Fi analyzer app to view competing networks and choose the clearest channel
  • 1, 6, or 11 are the standard non-overlapping channels to stick with

4. Update to a Dual Band Router

  • Upgrade to a modern router broadcasting both 2.4 & 5 GHz signals
  • Steer compatible 5 GHz devices to the less crowded network

5. Limit Connected Devices

  • Set a maximum number of allowed 2.4 GHz clients to avoid overloading
  • 20-30 devices is a common recommendation to maintain performance

When to Use 2.4 vs. 5 GHz Networks

2.4 GHz networks shine for IoT devices, compatibility with old client devices, and covering larger home footprints. The key is minimising congestion as much as possible.

5 GHz networks feature faster peak speeds, less interference, and extra capacity. Use for high-bandwidth tasks like gaming, video streaming, and transferring large files between modern devices.

Dual band routers intelligently load balance clients between the different networks. Critical devices should connect via 5 GHz whenever possible, while less essential tech operates acceptably on the slower 2.4 GHz signal.

Key Takeaways

  • 2.4 GHz networks experience high congestion, limited bandwidth, distance limitations, and legacy Wi-Fi standards – resulting in much slower speeds compared to less crowded 5 GHz networks
  • Reduce wireless interference, pick less crowded channels, limit clients, and upgrade to dual band routers to optimise 2.4 GHz performance
  • Prioritise high-bandwidth tasks on the 5 GHz network when possible while using 2.4 GHz for compatibility with older tech and IoT devices

FAQs

  1. What is the problem with 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi?
    2.4 GHz is prone to slow speeds and interference issues because the band is extremely crowded with wireless devices all fighting for bandwidth on a network with limited capacity and older standards.
  2. Is a 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz network better?
    5 GHz networks are generally faster and less congested. But 2.4 GHz signals travel farther and maintain compatibility with more devices. Use 5 GHz for high-bandwidth tasks where possible, and reserve 2.4 GHz for wider home coverage and IoT/older tech compatibility.
  3. How can I make my 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi faster?
    Reduce wireless interference by cabling stationary devices, optimise channel selection, limit connected clients, upgrade to dual band router that adds a 5 GHz network, and configure router settings to load balance devices appropriately.
  4. What is a good 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi speed?
    Usually 25-50 Mbps under normal home conditions is considered decent depending on network demands. Congested networks may only reach up to 10 Mbps on 2.4 GHz. With optimization, 100 Mbps is possible but harder to reliably sustain.
  5. Should I turn off 2.4 GHz on my router?
    Disabling 2.4 GHz prevents older devices in your home from getting Wi-Fi access so only turn it off if everything supports 5 GHz. Maintain it for wider coverage and IoT/legacy device support instead.
  6. What devices use 2.4 GHz?
    Most smart home devices like lights, switches, sensors, cameras, and appliances primarily use 2.4 GHz along with older laptops, phones, game consoles and more. Bluetooth devices also operate on the 2.4 GHz frequency.
  7. Why did my Wi-Fi speed drop suddenly?
    Sudden Wi-Fi slowdowns normally come from interference caused by a newly introduced device/appliance, additional users overloading bandwidth, hardware failures, or possibly a nearing renewal with capped ISP speeds.
  8. How many Wi-Fi networks cause interference?
    Over 10+ detectable neighboring Wi-Fi networks in range can contribute to interference on an already crowded 2.4 GHz band. This causes slow speeds, high latency connections, and sometimes connectivity drops.
  9. Does microwave interference affect 5GHz?
    Microwave devices primarily put out electromagnetic interference concentrated on the 2.4 GHz band and have much less effect on 5 GHz or Ethernet. Keep routers and microwave ovens far apart.
  10. How do dual band routers work?
    Dual band routers have two radios broadcasting at both 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies allowing devices to connect on either band. They intelligently load balance and shift devices between networks to mitigate congestion and interference.
  11. Can devices move between 2.4 and 5GHz bands?
    Dual band client devices can smoothly transition between frequency bands to maintain optimal speeds necessary for an application or adjust for changing network conditions. The router manages hand-offs through band steering algorithms.
  12. Is 5GHz dangerous?
    No, 5GHz WiFi along with lower frequencies are forms of non-ionizing radiation that do not damage DNA or cells and have shown no definitive harm through decades of wireless technology use cases. Higher frequency EM waves carry less energy.
  13. Why two Wi-Fi bands on one router?
    Offering two networks maximises compatibility with client devices only able to operate on older 2.4 GHz bands while providing a higher performance 5 GHz network for bandwidth-intensive tasks on modern devices.
  14. Can I split 2.4GHz and 5GHz into two networks?
    Yes, some routers have settings to broadcast separate network names (SSIDs) and passwords for each band allowing you to manually connect devices rather than relying on band steering.
  15. Is there less interference on 5GHz?
    Yes, the 5GHz band has much more open bandwidth available resulting in less issues with competing signals leading to faster speeds. 5GHz struggles more with distance/penetration though.
  16. Can I convert a 2.4GHz signal to 5GHz?
    No, they are separate non-interchangeable frequencies requiring compatible hardware. You cannot “convert” or alter a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi signal into a 5GHz signal in software or otherwise. Only upgrading router and client hardware adds 5GHz support.
  17. Why are there only 3 non-overlapping channels?
    The 2.4GHz band only has 11 total channels available, but frequencies overlap enough to cause interference when using adjacent channels. Only channels 1, 6 and 11 can operate simultaneously with full bandwidth.
  18. Should I disable 5GHz if 2.4GHz is working?
    No, allow both networks to run simultaneously to provide the fastest speeds for 5GHz capable devices and wider compatibility for 2.4GHz dependent devices. The router will properly load balance and shift devices between bands.
  19. Can I boost my 2.4GHz Wi-Fi signal?
    Yes, solutions like Wi-Fi range extenders, mesh networks and upgrading to enterprise-grade router hardware with strong amplifiers, external antennas and beamforming technology can all help expand 2.4GHz coverage.

Conclusion

In summary, the source behind slower 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi speeds compared to less crowded 5 GHz networks boils down to severe congestion issues on a restricted frequency band. All modern routers should offer both signals simultaneously to provide the best overall experience.
Prioritizing high-bandwidth activities like video, voice and gaming on 5 GHz when available ensures peak performance and capacious bandwidth for those uses, while reserving 2.4 GHz for smart home and IoT devices that still require it.
With techniques to reduce interference through better device placement, band steering, client limits and selecting optimized channel widths, acceptable speeds are still achievable from the aging but indispensable 2.4 GHz spectrum.

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