Why I Recommend Dual-Band Routers

As somebody who works in the wireless internet industry, particularly as a wireless technician, I have a pretty good vantage point as to the wireless environment, specifically in the frequencies we work with on a daily basis. While this article may come across as confusing tech-talk for some, hopefully the idea behind what I’m saying will be quite simple and easily understood, even by the non-techies amongst us.

US Router choices: 2.4Ghz, 5Ghz or Dual-band

In the United States, we presently have two frequency bands available to us for WiFi: 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. Up until recently, most residential routers sold were strictly in the 2.4Ghz band. This means that if you went to the store – Walmart, Staples, Best Buy, or ordered it online – and purchased a low-to-mid-priced wireless router, it probably was a 2.4Ghz. Which, this makes sense as 2.4Ghz is the default wireless adapter type in nearly all of our WiFi-capable devices. Phones, tablets, laptops, printers, gaming systems: just about everything uses 2.4Ghz, so we need 2.4Ghz-capable routers.

Even though the majority of today’s consumer electronics rely heavily on 2.4Ghz WiFi, we had the ‘dual-band’ router option way back in 2007. Dual-band routers, if you’re not familiar, are WiFi-capable routers that offer use of both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequency ranges. Even though not all WiFi-capable devices can use the 5Ghz band, it’s become increasingly common. Most newer mobile devices and even home appliances have the option to use the 5Ghz frequency range.

Why choose a dual-band router?

Quite simply: 2.4Ghz is too crowded. 2.4Ghz WiFi has been available since 1997. Since that time, we’ve been building more and more WiFi-capable devices, and buying more and more routers to allow us to use this wireless technology. What’s more, it’s not just wireless routers that operate in this frequency: cordless phones, microwave ovens, bluetooth, certain video devices and more all operate inside the 2.4Ghz band. Every frequency range has a finite amount of space within it, and because we use so much of it, it can cause slowness and disruptions for our own WiFi usage purposes.

My current router allows me to scan the number of local APs (routers or WiFi broadcast points). Here’s the number of 2.4Ghz APs I can see from my router:

Scan of the 2.4Ghz band with a Mikrotik router

Compare that to the number of 5Ghz devices I can see from my router:

List of 5Ghz APs in a Mikrotik Wireless Router

I live in a town of around 10,000 people, last I checked. Yet, there are 22 2.4Ghz access points showing up within the range of my router, compared to only 4 on the 5Ghz band. While this does not automatically guarantee that the 2.4Ghz is worse than the 5Ghz in terms of WiFi performance in this area, it certainly lends credibility to that assumption. The bigger point is that 2.4Ghz use is so overwhelmingly prevalent that it necessitates another option, and that option is a dual-band router.

Where to get a dual-band router

Dual-band routers are becoming more and more common. You can get them at your local electronics or department store, like Best Buy or Walmart, or you can order them online. I tend to buy from Amazon because I’m a Prime member and get free, 2-day shipping. I’ve also found it more reliable than buying from eBay.

As of this time, the starting price for a dual-band router is around $60, pretty much no matter where you get them. You could certainly spend over $100 on something like a Netgear Nighthawk or towards $250 on a Linksys WRT AC3200 tri-stream router, but if you only have a simple 2.4Ghz router right now, you could potentially see significant performance gains by simply upgrading to a lower-to-mid-ranged dual-band router.

Being able to spread the word about the need for dual-band routers today is one of the main reasons I started this site, so it’s a topic I will touch on much more in the coming weeks and months. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below.

Related Articles:

Posted on Published

4 Replies to “Why I Recommend Dual-Band Routers”

  1. I’m having issues streaming live tv..have great internet speed..put router next to tv..plugged in ethernet cord direct to tv… not much improvement at all…will a dual band router help?

  2. Not likely. Running a cord between your TV and router is the best option for video streaming, and the only reason I can see a problem is if the cable is faulty, one of your ports are faulty, the router itself is faulty or the TV is still using WiFi despite being plugged in directly due to the TV’s settings.

    Live TV streaming generally requires a constant flow of speed, and how much depends on the service you’re using. This is very different from Netflix and Youtube that use a bunch of speed for a bit, then use almost nothing for a bit (buffering). I’d start with finding out how much speed you need for the live TV streaming service, then run some speed tests to multiple different sites to get an idea of what your internet connection is capable of.

    Speed tests should be run from a device plugged into the router and run when nobody or nothing else is using the internet at the time. Turn off idle Windows 10 PCs, for instance, because they like to upload and download stuff in the background semi-regularly, people shouldn’t be streaming video, playing online games, etc while running a speed test if you want it to be remotely accurate. I’d probably run speed tests during the time when you’re having trouble streaming TV, there may be a difference in internet speed throughout the day.

    If others are normally using the internet while you’re streaming live TV, you may also want to run speed tests while others are using the internet, to see if that’s possibly affecting your ability to stream live TV.

  3. Hello, I came across your site and I appreciate what you have to offer. I’m hoping you can ehlp me with a dillemma I am having, my current setup is as follows. I have a Powerbeam m2-400 CPE device that is currently side-mounted at my home since I am using a service that offers WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider) since I live in rural area of California. They ran a cable with in turn connects to a box-like device called a Power over ethernet Injector (POE) which then offers a LAN connection so that I’m able to plug in my router. My provider asked me to change the 2.4GHZ wireless channel to 1, as my CPE is set to channel 7. When I plug in a 2.4 wireless such as a Linksys e1000 wireless router, it has less latency than when I plug in a Netgear Nighthawk r7000P Dual band router. I ahve the 5GHZ channel set to 153 at 20 MHZ instead of the 40. The 2.4 wireless is also set at 20 MHZ. What can cause my net to slowly crawl when using the R7000P vs. the Linksys e100? What routers that are dual band do you recommend for a setup like i have? any help/advice is appreciated.

    1. First: how close is your router to the radio at your house? If it’s physically close, that may cause complications due to router power levels. I’ve seen it twice recently where even WiFi itself was slowed or crippled due to the proximity of a router to a 2.4Ghz radio (CPE). On one, we had the option of turning down the router’s power levels, which worked, the other we had to physically move the router away from the radio outside.

      You can move the router by using a longer cat5 cable between your router and the PoE adapter. Even if you’re doing it as a trial. Just be sure to plug your router into the LAN side as it is now, not the PoE side, which is powered.

      I can’t say for sure without seeing things myself, but the Nighthawk should be substantially more powerful than the Linksys. You’re limited in terms of changing frequencies without overlapping your internet connection, but you could try putting the 2.4Ghz on channel 7 to match their equipment. This potentially could slow down your internet as well, but it’d require testing. I’d try other frequencies, too.

      For this particular model I saw a couple of forum posts citing performance issues with the QOS turned on. If that’s the case here, you can try disabling it and see if that makes a difference.

      If possible, use the 5Ghz frequency. That should provide the lowest latency / fastest speeds, at least around the router. That will degrade with obstacles and distance, but can work fine even at up to -80 in some locations. The lower 5Ghz band, which is around 5200Mhz (30s-40s channels, I believe), may connect to different devices if you have 5Ghz devices that cannot see 5700-5800Mhz, which is what you’re using now.

      As for recommendations, the Nighthawk should be much better than the Linksys both in terms of range and performance. You could check to see if the Nighthawk needs a software upgrade. That can offer improvements. Unless you have a very tiny house or apartment or there’s a fault with the Nighthawk, there shouldn’t be any problems with eventually getting it to work with your internet connection.

      This Nighthawk seems to come with some extra features. As per an Amazon listing for it, it provides cyber threat protection. If there are services running in the router like that, you could try disabling them if experiencing issues, to see if one of those are causing you problems.

      Hopefully some of this may be of some help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *