The rise of 5GHz WiFi

There is strong growth in the number of devices connecting to WiFi networks using the 5GHz band rather than the more popular 2.4GHz band. This is according to AlwaysOn CEO Nico Pretorius.

WiFi networks typically use the ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) spectrum bands which are license exempt in most countries, with the 2.4GHz band being the most popular.

The growth in popularity of WiFi means that the 2.4GHz band is becoming congested in some areas, and many WiFi providers are growing their use of the 5GHz band for WiFi services.

One such company is South Africa’s largest WiFi hotspot provider AlwaysOn. The company’s CEO Nico Pretorius told MyBroadband that more than 90% of their WiFi access points have support for the 5GHz, 802.11a standard.

“About 35% of the devices that connect to our network are 5GHz capable client devices,” said Pretorius.

The AlwaysOn CEO further revealed that around 15% of all connections on their network (135,000) are using the 5GHz spectrum band.

According to Pretorius the most popular devices that are equipped with 802.11abgn adapters are iPads, iPhone 5, MacBooks, Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC One X.

Curiously the traditional laptop market is not showing the same levels of support for the higher frequency WiFi spectrum

“An interesting trend we noticed during the last 18 months in the traditional ‘Intel Windows’ laptop market, is that very few of the devices sold during this period had support for the 5GHz 802.11a/n standards. We suspect this has mainly to do with cost savings,” said Pretorius.

802.11 standards explained

802.11b and 802.11g operate only in the 2.4GHz band. 802.11a operates in the 5GHz band, while 802.11n can operate in both bands

Further growth in 5GHz WiFi band expected

Pretorius said that they expect the growth in the number of 5GHz WiFi enabled devices and traffic in this band to continue because:

  • The 5Ghz ISM band has at least 6 times more spectrum than the 2.4GHz ISM band
  • The 5GHz band is less congested and with less interference
  • The latest 802.11ac standard is a 5GHz only standard

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The rise of 5GHz WiFi