Current-generation Wi-Fi technology lives in the 5GHz band. Almost all of the major innovation in wireless standards takes place in the relatively untroubled frequencies around 5GHz (and well above), where there’s little radio competition and the living is easy.
But wireless LAN users can’t just stay comfortable in the 5GHz realm – the older 2.4GHz frequency bands are a necessary part of most wireless implementations, and they’re rarely a favorite of the people who have to build and operate Wi-Fi networks.
Living with 2.4GHz WLANS
There are several reasons for that, according to author and WLAN expert Keith Parsons. For one thing, older Wi-Fi devices are forced to share a much more limited number of channels in and around the 2.4GHz bands.
Part of the reason that 2.4GHz Wi-Fi spectrum is so crowded is that manufacturers continue to make endpoints that depend on it, instead of switching to 5GHz, Parsons tells Network World.
“Perhaps not in smartphones or tablets, but many Chromebooks are 2.4GHz only, even today,” he says.
Adrian McCaskill, a wireless architect for World Wide Technology, says that the effect of frequency overcrowding is to limit the amount of air time individual devices have to send and receive data.
“The 2.4GHz spectrum is really noisy compared to 5GHz in general,” he says. “So devices have to wait longer times to get access to the medium. And if you have to support even one legacy 2.4GHz (802.11b ) client it slows down the entire 2.4 environment for all devices. It's definitely a balancing act.”