This is a very specific question that is asked by those considering getting a router, and deserves answering. Dual band routers are reasonably well known about now, and older routers are single band 2.4 GHz ones, but can you get routers now that have only the 5 GHz Wi-Fi band on them?
Here is a quick summary answer:
Routers with only 5 GHz Wi-Fi are not available. It is possible to purchase a router with 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi only (single band) or 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi (dual band), but not with only 5 GHz Wi-Fi on it’s own.
As an alternative, it is possible, but not often recommended, to disable 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi on a dual band router and run only 5 GHz Wi-Fi on it’s own. More often, it’s the opposite, with users not needing the 5 GHz band, and disabling it and running just the 2.4 GHz band on it’s own on smaller networks with only a few devices and lower bandwidth demands.
However, which bands are active is totally up to the user and we’ll detail how to access your router settings to effectively turn a dual band router into a single band one, with only the 5 GHz active, if you like. So even if you can’t buy a router with just 5 GHz, you can make your current router only have 5 GHz if you want, as long as it was dual band to begin with.
Let’s look at the entire issue of routers and Wi-Fi bands in more detail.
It Is Not Usually Recommended To Use 5 GHz Wi-Fi On It’s Own
The 5 GHz band is ideally meant to complement or supplement the 2.4 GHz band, and not really be used in it’s place, because each band of Wi-Fi has it’s own strengths and weaknesses.
One main reason for this is that 5 GHz Wi-Fi doesn’t travel as well through walls or over distance as the 2.4 GHz band, so it might not work so well when you are further from the router. 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi is better over distance.
The 5 GHz band is great for connecting higher bandwidth usage devices over a shorter distance (eg. tablets streaming HD movies), but not so great for other things like gaming or delivering a strong signal over distance.
This is probably why routers aren’t available which only have 5 GHz on them. Instead, routers are sold as dual band routers, where they broadcast two SSIDs (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), and you connect to whichever one you want using the credentials on the back.
But to my knowledge, you can’t get a router that has only one SSID on the back, and that’s 5 GHz. If there’s only one band (single band router), then it’ll be 2.4 GHz only.
That’s a brief overview of why 5 GHz Wi-Fi won’t always work well on it’s own, but let’s look at when it’s better to use each band in more detail so readers understand how each frequency complements the other.
When Is It Better To Use The 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi Band?
2.4 GHz Wi-Fi has been around for years and is plenty enough for the needs of many internet users. You’ll generally find it passes through walls better and therefore works well over distance, but only supports low to moderate speeds, and it can become quickly overloaded if a lot of devices are trying to connect, causing slower speeds, lag, buffering and so on.
However, here are some scenarios when just using 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi should be fine:
- There aren’t many users connecting to your router, perhaps only you or you and a few others, so you can manage fine on just the 2.4 GHz band.
- Your current internet package isn’t capable of super high speeds anyway (less than 100 Mbps), and everything can be handled with just the 2.4 GHz band.
- Bandwidth demands in your home are generally low anyway.
- You aren’t really experiencing any congestion issues from nearby devices also using RF waves, or nearby Wi-Fi networks. Your Wi-Fi seems to work fine as it is.
- You are actually using Wi-Fi a long way from your router, because the 2.4 GHz band actually performs better over distance than the 5 GHz band. So no point to switch to 5 GHz if the signal might be even worse at distance using this.
- Some people do also have safety concerns about 5 GHz Wi-Fi technology. If so, stay away from dual band routers and stick to single band, which uses only the 2.4 GHz frequency, or else disable the 5 GHz band and just use 2.4 GHz or wired connections only.
- Gaming – I believe dual band gaming routers and 5 GHz Wi-Fi are massively oversold for gamers, because the signal fades out more quickly over distance on 5 GHz anyway, plus the fact that latency is far more important than speeds for gamers to keep ping low. Therefore, 2.4 GHz would usually be preferable for gaming, except for crowded home networks, where some devices can go onto the 5 GHz band to minimize congestion on the 2.4 GHz band. Always try to use wired connections anyway for gaming though instead of any form of Wi-Fi.
Bottom line – over distance, for lower to moderate bandwidth demands and for gaming if you can’t use ethernet, 2.4 GHz is usually going to be better.
When Is It Better To Use The 5 GHz Wi-Fi Band?
Now let’s cover some possible scenarios where it might make sense to use the 5 GHz band instead. Remember, it doesn’t generally work as well over distance compared to 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, but can deliver potentially higher speeds at shorter distances. Here are some examples of where using it can make sense:
- If you have a lot of users connecting to the router, and you want to spread traffic out over two bands instead of one to reduce congestion. The 2.4 GHz band can become quickly bogged down and slow if too many devices are trying to connect. Try switching some closer devices over to the 5 GHz band.
- Bandwidth demands are generally high in your house (links to above point – more users = more bandwidth needed). Switch high bandwidth consuming devices over to 5 GHz, provided they are close enough to still get a good signal.
- Your internet plan is a super high speed one and you want to exploit these extra speeds. Especially for gigabit Fiber to the Home (FTTH) connections, you will need to use a wired connection or the 5 GHz band to exploit the higher speeds if you are going to stay on Wi-Fi. The 2.4 Ghz band won’t get even close to 1 Gbps speeds; you need 5 GHz for that.
- For high speed internet plans that aren’t quite gigabit (eg. 300 Mbps), then again a dual band router with a 5 GHz band might again be needed to exploit the higher speeds on Wi-Fi
- You are suffering from interference issues using the 2.4 GHz band. Lots of other devices also use the 2.4 GHz band (like Bluetooth, cordless phones, microwaves etc), so moving devices on the 5 GHz band may reduce interference issues.
- You live in a crowded space like an apartment block, with lots of different Wi-Fi networks in close range. Again there can be interference issues here using 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, which moving onto the 5 GHz band might help you alleviate. The shorter distances and fewer walls in apartments can also make 5 GHz more effective than in larger houses.
- If you watch a lot of HD movies online, then it might also be better to use the 5 GHz band, but remember the caveat about distance, since 5 GHz degrades more over distance, so only if you are still reasonably close to the router.
Bottom line – smaller portable devices like tablets and phones which are using a lot of bandwidth on busy home networks (eg. Netflix or other HD streaming) can benefit from 5 GHz Wi-Fi as long as they are still reasonably close to the router so that the signal doesn’t drop out too much.
Over shorter distances like in apartments, 5 GHz can also be of benefit. However, if you live in a large house, it can be tricky, because 2.4 GHz works better over distance, so you might be better sticking with that. However, if you’ve also a lot of users AND a large house, you can benefit from having two bands to spread devices across. So weigh up distance versus number of users to decide here.
Disabling 2.4 GHz on a Dual Band Router
Whilst it is not usually recommended on most home networks, and it is usually the 5 GHz band that is disabled instead, you can still turn off the 2.4 GHz band if you want to on most dual band routers and use just the 5 GHz band on it ‘s own.
You just need to log into the router settings, and if both bands are active, there will be an option to deactivate either or both of them.
- Connect your device to the router’s Wi-Fi or plug in to the router to with a LAN cable.
- Log into your router (type 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 into any browser of your device)
- Enter the router username/password. The login IP/username/password are on the back of the router on a sticker.
- See here if you have any problems accessing your router settings page.
- Find Wireless/Wi-Fi Settings
- Find the settings for Wi-Fi bands
- Select and disable the 2.4 GHz band
See our article on disabling 5 GHz on a router, which has all the information you need to access your router’s dual band settings – but just disable the 2.4 GHz band instead.