Pros and Cons to using 5GHz wireless routers

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If you've been shopping for a new 802.11n Wi-Fi router recently, you've probably noticed that many models boast Dual Band support - that is, the capability to operate not only on the 2.4GHz frequency typical of most routers, but on 5GHz as well.

Wireless routers that support 802.11n at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz, like the TP-LINK TL-WDR4900 Simultaneous Dual-Band N900 Wireless-N Broadband Router, which is very reasonably priced and offers real benefits to your Wireless network. Before going ahead and buying one though, you'll want to be aware of the pros and cons of 5GHz technology, and ensure you're properly equipped to take advantage of what it has to offer for your home network. Below are some Pros and Cons you need to know about 5GHz Wireless to determine whether a Dual-Band router might make a difference to your wireless network.

PRO: No Interference From Other Devices

The biggest advantage of 5GHz 802.11n over 2.4GHz is that 5GHz is not susceptible to interference from the large number of wireless devices you might encounter at home. Cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, baby monitors, alarm systems, wireless speakers, or any other device that emits RF signals at 2.4GHz can be obstructive with a Wi-Fi network running on the that frequency. By contrast, a network operating at 5GHz sits peacefully above the fray where interference from other wireless devices is virtually non-existent.

PRO: Less Crowding From Other Networks

As it turns out, one of the most common sources of interference for Wireless networks is other Wireless networks, which gives 5GHz an advantage over 2.4GHz.

While 2.4GHz Wireless routers can be set to run on one of 11 wireless channels, the signal spreads out through several channels on either side of the one you select. This means there are only three channels - 1, 6, and 11 - that can be used simultaneously without any overlap (and use of 802.11n's optional higher-performance double-wide channel mode effectively reduces the number of non-overlapping channels to just 1). The upshot is that there's little to no room in 2.4GHz band for multiple wireless networks to peacefully coexist in close proximity.

A 5GHz network avoids this overcrowding problem by offering anywhere from eight to 23 non-overlapping channels (depending on implementation and whether or not double-wide channels are being used). This lets many more nearby networks live together without stepping on each other.

CON: Limited Range

Generally, the lower the frequency the farther a wireless signal can travel. Therefore, devices on a 5GHz network will tend to have a shorter range than those using 2.4GHz. This can be mitigated somewhat with sophisticated antenna technology, but if a given device is relatively far from the Dual Band Wireless Router, you may have better luck connecting via 2.4GHz.

CON: Limited Support By Devices

In an ideal world, every 802.11n device would give you the choice to connect to either a 2.4GHz or a 5GHz network. But in the real world, it's not quite that simple because 5GHz support is far from universal - sometimes it's an extra cost option, and often it's not available at all (at least not built-in). There is a solution to upgrade to Dual Band though with the help of the TP-LINK TL-WDN3200 Dual-Band Wireless-N USB Adapter. The TL-WDN3200 gives users the ability to access crystal clear 5GHz connections or legacy 2.4GHz connections at 300Mbps.

5GHz support can be similarly hit or miss when it comes to wireless consumer electronics devices. For example while the iPad 2 supports 5GHz, the iPod touch and iPhone only do 2.4GHz. Some of Roku's previous generation streaming media players included 5GHz support, but it's not available in any version of the new Roku 2. Moreover, neither the Xbox 360 nor PlayStation 3 do 5GHz.

PRO: Two Networks Are Always Better Than One

Due to the aforementioned limitations, rarely will you be able to kick 2.4GHz to the curb and run a pure 5GHz network. But even if it's only feasible to get a handful of devices onto 5GHz, it's often worth the effort and expense. Since Wireless networks are a shared medium, the more devices that are connected to a given network, the less bandwidth is available to each device. Therefore, moving even a few devices into the 5GHz realm will leave more bandwidth available for the devices on 2.4GHz to share.

One last thing, if you decide to take the plunge on a dual-band router, be sure the one you choose supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n simultaneously, like the TP-LINK range of simultaneous Dual Band Wireless Routers. Some models can only do one at a time, which means that if you turn on 5GHz, your 2.4GHz network will be limited to 802.11g.

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