Dual-band wireless routers work in two different frequency ranges, 2.4 Gigahertz (GHz) and 5 GHz, as opposed to single-band wireless routers that typically only communicate in the 2.4 GHz range.
Why do you need a dual-band router?
Or, more importantly, a simultaneous dual-band wireless router: one that is capable of communicating on both bands at once – sort of like having two wireless routers.
The 2.4 GHz range has become very “crowded,” meaning a lot of electronic devices use this range to communicate wirelessly. When you have too many signals in the same range, the signals confuse each the devices and they have to filter out the noise. This can show up as static (in the case of a cordless phone that transmits in the 2.4 GHz range) or it can turn into slow network performance (in the case of a wireless router).
The 5.8 GHz range is less crowded, meaning you’ll probably have fewer signal collisions, and you’ll stand a better chance of actually achieving the speed shown on the side of your wireless router’s packaging.
Having two bands lets you connect to whichever set of signals has the least interference. This would come in handy in an apartment complex where lots of people have wireless routers. Or, if you have a ton of wireless devices you can split them between the two bands to minimize interference between the devices: connect your smart phone and tablet to the 5.8 GHz channels and your PC to the 2.4 GHz channels.
Other random tidbits
- If your wireless device (smartphone, tablet, etc.) isn’t capable of communicating in the 5.8 GHz band, then there’s no point in buying a dual-band wireless router. Lucky for you – most newer wireless devices are capable of communicating on the 5.8 GHz band.
- Lower frequency signals have an easier time travelling through solid objects. You know when that kid drives by your house with the bass cranked up? You can hear the low-frequency bass from a mile away through every wall in your house, but you don’t hear the crisp high-hats until he’s right in front of your house. WiFi is the same way. So 5.8 GHz (no matter what they tell you on the box) natively has a harder time penetrating solid objects than 2.4 GHz signals, assuming both are transmitted with the same signal strength
- In cellular data terms, the “G” in “3G” and “4G” means “generation,” i.e. 3G = 3rd Generation cellular data, meaning it’s the third standard the cell phone industry used for cell phone data communication. 4G followed, and someday we’ll have 5G – the fifth generation of cell phone data communication standards. In wireless router terms, however, the term 5G means 5 GHz, not the 5th generation of wireless router standards.