We recognize today that the 2.4-GHz spectrum is reaching its limits for WiFi networking, and as such many organizations are beginning to move toward the 5-GHz band. But oddly some IT administrators still believe that switching to a more 5 GHz-centric design is difficult and complicated and, as a result, are still designing their WiFi networks with a 50/50 mix of 2.4 and 5 GHz.
But not only is 5 GHz easier to deploy, it also offers eight times more capacity than 2.4 GHz. And while administrators hesitate, devices are moving way ahead: 90% of today's phones, laptops, and tablets are 5 GHz-capable.
2.4 GHZ vs. 5 GHz
A quick recap: The 2.4-GHz band, the original standard from 1997, provides just three channels in the microwave spectrum. Its support extends beyond laptops, phones, and tablets used for work to more consumer-oriented devices like cordless phones, baby monitors, Bluetooth headsets, and microwave ovens.
As more devices enter the wireless spectrum, the 2.4-GHz band has become congested, with more interference and dropped connections. This will continue to worsen; by the year 2020, we can expect 20.8 billion connected things on the planet, according to Gartner.
The 5-GHz band, introduced in 1999, found its first use within the military, as it was more expensive and used more power than 2.4 GHz. Its business use took off in 2009 with the introduction of 802.11n wireless LANs, the iPad, and the iPhone 5. Now, the 5-GHz spectrum supports far more data than does the 2.4-GHz spectrum, on a total of up to 24 channels, and is less congested. The latest chipsets are designed to support both bands and are less expensive than earlier chipsets. And, 5 GHz is also the only band that can leverage the 802.11ac standard.
Misunderstanding user ratios
Given these benefits, adding a 5-GHz radio into every consumer device has been a no-brainer for vendors. But not for network admins, apparently. What other industry is still dependent on nearly 20-year-old technology? Back when 2.4 GHz came into use, I think I was still listening to a cassette player.
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