Disable 2.4GHz WiFi and use the 5GHz band: Pros and cons

The way to connect to the Internet in our home is usually WiFi connectivity, for this reason it is so important to have a high-performance WiFi router or a WiFi Mesh system, to cover every last corner with wireless coverage. Currently all WiFi Mesh routers and systems are simultaneous dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and we even have some models that are simultaneous triple band (2.4GHz and two 5GHz radios), however, this 2.4GHz frequency band is much slower than 5GHz. Is it worth continuing to use it or is it better to disable it and always connect to the 5GHz band? Today in this article we are going to explain the strengths and weaknesses of this decision.

Disable 2.4GHz WiFi and use the 5GHz band

Pros and cons of the 2.4GHz band

We have used the WiFi network in the 2.4GHz band for many years with any kind of device, however, with the launch of the WiFi 5 standard that greatly improved the real performance in the 5GHz band, the 2.4GHz band is used really little, so little that it is possible to deactivate it without missing connecting to it. However, this frequency band has its strengths and weaknesses that we will see below.

The strengths of the 2.4GHz band are as follows:

  • Greater WiFi coverage compared to the 5GHz band. This frequency band behaves clearly better with signal bounces and also when crossing obstacles. If you are going to connect from a place far away from the WiFi router or AP, then this frequency band will give you better performance than the 5GHz band, although to ensure this you should check it with a speed test.
  • Greater compatibility with all devices . The 2.4GHz band has been used since the 802.11b standard, passing through the 802.11g standard and also the popular 802.11n, so today we have a large number of compatible devices. Any device that we buy such as an IP camera, low-end smartphone, smart plugs or Shelly-type WiFi switches support this frequency band, although it is possible that these devices also support the 5GHz band.

However, the weak points of this WiFi frequency band are the following:

  • Much slower actual speed compared to the 5GHz band. We must take into account that in the 5GHz band we have channel widths of 80MHz and even 160MHz, something that we do not have in the 2.4GHz band, since the maximum supported is 40MHz of channel width.
  • Fewer WiFi channels available . In the 2.4GHz band we have a total of 13 channels, however, if we have a single router or AP broadcasting with 40MHz of channel width, we will already be occupying the entire frequency band since the separation between channels is so only 5MHz. For this reason, we will have quite significant interference with the wireless networks of our neighbors.
  • Instability in case of interference . The 2.4GHz band is also used for cordless phones, Bluetooth, and other wireless devices. In general, there is a lot of WiFi interference in this frequency band, so you will have instability and even a fairly high jitter (variation in latency).

As you have seen, this frequency band has its strengths and weaknesses, therefore, we have to ask ourselves the question: is it worth deactivating it and always using 5GHz? We will see it below.

When is it worth disabling 2.4GHz

This frequency band is worth turning off whenever you don’t have to use it. In order to deactivate it, you first have to think about all the wireless devices that you are going to connect to this frequency band, as soon as you have a device that does not support the 5GHz band but does support the 2.4GHz band, then you will not be able to deactivate it. Therefore, you should assess several aspects such as the following:

  • Compatibility – Do all your devices support the 5GHz band? In the event that the answer is yes, then you could disable this frequency band and connect all devices to 5GHz which has higher bandwidth, lower jitter and less interference with neighboring networks. Today the vast majority of devices that we buy support the 5Ghz band, such as laptops, ultrabooks, tablets and smartphones, however, low-end equipment may only support 2.4GHz, so you must take it into account.
  • Distance with the router or AP : Are these devices that you are going to connect very far from the WiFi access point or WiFi router? If we are in remote places, you must remember that the 2.4GHz band will provide you with better coverage than the 5GHz band, since the latter behaves much worse with obstacles and signal bounces.
  • If you are not going to use it : if you know that you are not going to use this frequency band, deactivate it, because you will improve the performance of your neighbors’ WiFi networks, since your network will not interfere with theirs, so if you know that you will not use it, it is better to deactivate it for solidarity.

Preparar el Wi-Fi para estas navidades

In the event that you can put all your devices in the 5GHz band, and/or you have a short distance to the router, then you will be able to disable the 2.4GHz band without any problem, but as soon as one of these two conditions is not comply, then you will have to leave it activated in order for these devices to be able to connect to the Internet.

Don’t disable it if you can do this

The latest generation Wi-Fi routers and Wi-Fi mesh systems have a very interesting functionality called « Smart Connect «. This feature allows you to have the same SSID, authentication and password for the two frequency bands, 2.4GHz and 5GHz, so that the router will take care of placing us in one frequency band or another depending on several factors:

  • Coverage received by the client. If we are far away it will place us on 2.4GHz and if we are close it will place us on 5GHz.
  • Number of connected devices in the different frequency bands.
  • Maximum speed of the WiFi client that it is capable of obtaining.
  • Compatibility with 5GHz, if it is not compatible, then logically you will not be able to place it in that frequency band.

Some advanced routers such as ASUS allow us to configure the internal values to have an optimal band-steering (change of band), defining these parameters so that the user experience is perfect.

Basic WiFi Mesh routers and systems do not allow these frequency bands to be “separated”, we have to use this functionality. This is a problem because some WiFi clients that were better at 5GHz may turn out to be connecting on the 2.4GHz band due to the internal firmware algorithm. If your WiFi router or WiFi Mesh system allows you to separate frequency bands into different SSIDs, then it is not worth disabling 2.4GHz , because you will be able to configure WiFi clients to connect on one frequency band or another.

In our particular case, we use home automation devices that connect directly to the WiFi network, and unfortunately they only support the 2.4GHz band and not the 5GHz band, so in our case, it is mandatory to continue depending on the WiFi band. 2.4GHz, because otherwise you couldn’t connect it. Home Cloud IP cameras, smart plugs, motion sensors and other devices always make use of this band for two reasons: it is cheaper than incorporating a 5GHz chipset and we will not have to transfer a large amount of data, so that prioritizes the coverage received in this band with respect to the speed that we could achieve.