If you're struggling to connect a smart home device to a 5GHz network or are planning on upgrading your home Wi-Fi, then you're in the right place.
A lot of smart home devices only support 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi and cannot connect to 5GHz. The reason for this is a lot of these smart home devices (such as sensors and switches) don't need a lot of bandwidth for transferring data. They also need the best range possible as they are usually spread around a home.
So even though these 2.4 GHz devices cannot connect to a 5GHz network, they're typically able to connect to modern routers as most are dual-band or tri-band. Meaning, that these routers broadcast on multiple frequencies including 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
Can 2.4 GHz Devices Connect to a 5 GHz Network?
Devices manufactured to work on a 2.4 GHz frequency cannot shift to operate on a 5 GHz frequency.
The antennas in these devices are frequency-specific. They are tuned only to pick up signals in the frequency for which they were designed.
A 2.4 GHz antenna will only detect and connect with a 2.4 GHz signal.
This is where dual-band, tri-band, and quad-band routers come into play.
Understanding Dual-Band, Tri-Band, and Quad-Band Routers
Multi-band routers have a number of radio antennas to allow connections on various frequencies.
Dual-band routers have two radios that broadcast Wi-Fi signals on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies.
Tri-Band and Quad-Band routers are designed for mesh Wi-Fi, offering dedicated back channels between Wi-Fi nodes, to reduce interference. The latest of these also supports 6GHz with WiFi 6E.
Depending on the router's features, multi-band Wi-Fi routers can automatically decide which frequency band is best for each device (a process known as band-steering) or allow you to choose which network is best for each device (known as manual band selection).
If band-steering is enabled, you'll typically only have one network SSID name. Whereas for manual band selection, you'll have multiple network SSIDs for each frequency.
Provided your dual-band router has simultaneous broadcasting, most of your smart devices will only connect to the band it’s compatible with.
This makes it very simple for your router to figure out each device’s compatibility and assign them to the supported frequency band automatically.
While a lot of smart home devices only support the 2.4GHz band, there are also certain “dual-band” devices that are capable of connecting to either frequency band; not both.
These include high-performance devices such as laptops, gaming consoles, and video streaming devices like smart security cameras and video doorbells.
Handling Dual-Band Capable Devices Manually
With these devices, connecting them to the higher-bandwidth 5GHz network is usually the best option if the signal range is good. Many multi-band Wi-Fi routers automatically prefer this route (via the band-steering feature).
However, depending on the range, bandwidth requirements, and your own priorities, the high-frequency band might not always be the best option.
Therefore, making these changes manually is preferred, and you can ensure this by:
- Logging into the specific Wi-Fi band from your smart device
- Configuring Wi-Fi band preferences in the settings of your smart device
- Creating distinct passwords and names (SSID) for either band
- Disabling a specific Wi-Fi band on your router or
- Plugging in compatible devices via ethernet
Differences Between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi Bands
In situations where you need to decide between a dual-band router, variations of a smart device, or which frequency is best for your dual-capable smart devices, understanding the differences between these two frequency bands is crucial.
In terms of comparison, there are two factors you must consider: range and speed.
Range & Inteference
Simply put, the 2.4 GHz frequency has longer radio waves compared to the shorter 5 GHz waves. This means that the 2.4 GHz waves can travel longer distances and can travel through solid objects like walls.
Ideally, 2.4GHz Wi-Fi has a maximum range of 150 ft indoors and 300ft outdoors (with no obstructions). Meanwhile, 5GHz is about one-third of that, implying its maximum reach for a distance of about 50 ft indoors and 100ft outdoors.
Because of its shorter wavelength and higher frequency, the 5GHz frequency band can carry more data per second – at the cost of signal range.
So in terms of pure numbers, 2.4GHz can reach a maximum of 450Mbps, whereas 5GHz has a theoretical maximum of 1300Mbps.
Additionally, the 5GHz signal band is less prone to congestion because it’s a newer technology and consumes more power.
Therefore, it’s very rare to find regular smart home devices, such as smart sensors, switches, and bulbs that run on the 5GHz network.
This helps minimize traffic in a 5GHz network and keep its lanes open for your more data-intensive smart devices such as smart home hubs, PCs, gaming consoles, and video streaming devices.
Upgrading Your Home Network
Considering the pros and cons of each frequency band, it’s pretty obvious that upgrading to a dual-band (or tri-band) router is the future-proof option.
A 5GHz network, on top of the existing 2.4GHz band, promises faster internet speed, smoother streaming, and less interference.
So even if your 2.4GHz devices won’t be able to run on the 5GHz frequency band, a dual-band router will allow your mature devices to remain on the 2.4 GHz network while the newer, more capable ones can take full advantage of the speedier 5 GHz band.
This way, your older devices aren't left in a digital lurch and you can still enjoy a speed boost with your new network.
Do All Smart Home Devices Support Both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Frequencies?
No, not all smart home devices support both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies.
Many devices operate exclusively on the 2.4 GHz band because it’s a low-power high-range frequency band.
Also, for smart home devices, such as sensors, switches, and lights the high-speed data transfer capabilities of the 5GHz network is overkill; hence, it's very unlikely that even modern iterations of these smaller devices will support the 5GHz Wi-Fi band.
However, some more data-intensive devices, such as smart home hubs and security cameras offer dual-band capabilities for more efficient data transfer and versatility.
Whatever the case, check any device's specifications before purchasing and make sure your it fits right in with your existing home network.
How do I switch frequency bands if I only have one network?
If you find yourself with only one network, there's a good chance it's a dual-band router.
Dual-band routers can broadcast both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz signals under one network name (SSID) in what is known as “band steering” or “smart connect.”
When devices attempt to connect to this single SSID, the router determines which band is best for the device (based on signal strength, congestion, and other factors) and connects the device to that band.
If you want to switch bands for a specific device, you'll need to dive into the router settings to see if there are any granual controls over the band steering feature.
If not, you'll need to disable band steering by creating two separate Wi-Fi networks for each band and then connect to the one you want.
Keep in mind, the 2.4 GHz band is best for devices further away from your router or behind walls, while the 5 GHz band offers faster speeds for devices close to the router.
Is 5G and 5 GHz the same thing?
No, 5G and 5 GHz aren't the same thing. They may sound similar but serve distinct roles in the world of wireless tech.
5G stands for fifth-generation cellular network technology that delivers fast internet speeds over mobile networks.
It's used primarily for smartphones and provides a stronger connection, which equates to faster downloads and uploads.
On the other hand, 5 GHz represents a frequency band used for WiFi networks.
It offers faster data rates at a shorter distance compared to its counterpart, 2.4 GHz.
When I talk about 5 GHz WiFi, I are discussing a home internet connection, independent of your cell phone service.
Do Smart Speakers or Voice Assistants Perform Better on a Specific Frequency?
When it comes to the debate of 2.4GHz versus 5GHz Wi-Fi bands, smart speakers or voice assistants do not inherently perform better on a specific frequency.
It's not the frequency that majorly influences their performance but the network conditions, specifically the amount of available bandwidth at that time.
Overall, the 2.4 GHz band is better for devices that need a longer range, but it may suffer from overcrowding as many types of devices, including microwaves and garage door openers, also use this band and can disrupt it very easily.
On the other hand, 5 GHz offers faster data rates but over shorter distances.
So, if your speaker or assistant is close to your router and within a clear line of sight, the 5 GHz band may deliver better performance.
But, it will always be a trade-off between speed, range, and reliability.
Can Smart Devices Communicate with Each Other if They’re On Different Frequency Bands on the Same Network?
The short answer is no.
If a gadget uses a 2.4 GHz band, it won't be able to connect locally with a device on a 5 GHz network, and vice versa.
The device and the network must match in frequency for successful communication or they must communicate via the internet.
While 2.4GHz has better range and obstacle penetration, 5GHz excels in speed and reduced interference, making it the optimal choice for future smart home tech.
Sadly, not all devices can connect to the high-frequency band, as 2.4 GHz devices lack the proper hardware.
However, if you want to upgrade to 5GHz, there is a fast and easy solution: a dual-band Wi-Fi router.
These modern Wi-Fi routers can broadcast in both frequency bands; allowing you to upgrade compatible devices to 5GHz, while still maintaining the rest in the 2.4GHz band.