If you are setting up a new smart home device such as a smart bulb, home security camera or smart speaker, chances are that the manual will require you to connect to 2.4GHz WiFi network. I have been wondering why this is the case. We know that WiFi currently operates in two bands; the older and more ubiquitous 2.4GHz and newer 5GHz band. Most routers today are dual-band meaning they support both bands. So why do smart home vendors insist on 2.4GHz?
Answering this question requires good understanding of the evolution of WiFi and the differences between the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
When WiFi started becoming popular in the early 2000s, the 2.4Ghz unlicensed frequency band was the default choice in most WiFi routers and consequently devices. The 5GHz WiFi band started being supported in the wireless standard IEEE 802.11n or WiFi 4 announced in 2009 and dual-band routers that support both bands started rolling out with the release of 802.11 ac/WiFi 5 in 2013. So WiFi support on 2.4Ghz is much older and more ubiquitous than in the 5Ghz. That’s one reason why Smart home vendors opt for that band.
Second reason has to do with the technical advantages of the 2.4GHz over the 5Ghz. The 2.4 GHz band has better range than its 5GHz counterpart and can penetrate through walls/ceilings or any sort of obstacles better than the 5Ghz band. Since Smart home devices such as smart bulbs and smart cameras are usually mounted outdoors or on walls and ceilings, it makes sense to go with the 2.4Ghz band.
Thirdly 2.4GHz chipsets are considerably cheaper than 5GHz. So there’s an economic incentive to stick with 2.4GHz band.
While the 2.4GHz is much slower or rather is capable of carrying less bandwidth than the 5GHz, that shouldn’t be a problem for smarthome devices. Most smart home devices require less bandwidth to operate. For instance smart bulbs or thermostats just need commands to turn on/off. That’s very little data needed.
So if you have a dual-band router and want to connect smarthome devices, makes sure that the router has two SSIDs or WiFi names for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz. That’s what I have done with my home network. When you need to setup a smart camera or bulb, you can easily select the 2.4GHz band. This wills save you a lot of headache as some smarthome device won’t even setup without the 2.4GHz WiFi band.