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How Fast is Wi-Fi?

All You Need is Love and Wifi
Last modified: November 9, 2023
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Estimated reading time: 2 min

West Quay Offices offer many Wi-Fi protocols and speeds for your devices. Wireless signals can transfer all sorts of data. They are essentially just electromagnetic waves traveling through the air on specified spectrum of frequencies – the rate at which a signal vibrates. So our mysterious numbers mean that router exchange information on 2.4 or 5 GHz frequencies, and now 6 GHz as well.

What is the difference between the frequencies?

Under ideal conditions, 2.4 GHz WiFi will support up to 450 Mbps or 600 Mbps, while 5 GHz Wi-Fi will support up to 1300 Mbps. But be careful! The maximum speed is dependent on wireless standards we support and your device: 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, or 802.11ac.

The second case is bursts of noise around the 2.4 GHz spectrum.

The 2.4 GHz band is a pretty crowded place. It’s used by many devices, such as cordless telephones, Bluetooth devices, or even microwave ovens. This can cause a significant decrease in speed, or sometimes the total blocking of the WiFi signal. The 5 GHz band is much less congested, which means you will likely get more stable connections and witness higher speeds.

2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz: pros and cons

2.4 GHzLarger coverage area
Better at penetrating solid objects
Lower data rate
More prone to interference
Usually, more devices use this frequency
5 GHzHigher data rate
Less prone to interference
Usually, fewer devices use this frequency
Smaller coverage area (except 802.11 ac)
Worse at penetrating solid objects

What are WiFi 4, WiFi 5 and WiFi 6?

WiFi standards like IEEE 802.11ax or IEEE 802.11ac started to be confusing for consumers, so the WiFi Alliance decided to simplify naming and clearly indicate technology progression. Let’s look at the latest standards, their names, and their features.

  • 802.11n, also known as WiFi 4, was the first one that was “dual-band” enabled (both 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies). 
  • The IEEE 802.11ac was renamed to WiFi 5 and is the current popular standard for fast 5 GHz WiFi connections.
  • The IEEE 802.11ax was renamed to WiFi 6 and is now the incoming standard, bringing even more throughput and much lower latency. It also introduces new security protocols like WPA3.

Comparing Speed

There can be a significant difference between the speed potential listed on a WiFi device and what that device can really do in everyday use. Understanding the factors at play will help you understand how to get the best speed and performance possible.

Theoretical speed is the maximum speed that is usually listed for a device. This can be misleading, because even if all conditions are ideal, you may not reach this speed all the time. 

Theoretical speed:

  • Is the combined total for both uploading and downloading
  • It is calculated based on a  single device being connected to the network
  • Does not consider wireless overhead, interference and distance 

Real-world speed accounts for factors like:

  • Sharing bandwidth with other devices connected to your WiFi network
  • Interference from physical obstacles
  • Interference from electronics
  • Interference from nearby WiFi networks or wireless devices
  • Signal loss resulting from the distance between your device and your wireless router

Keep in mind that every environment is different, and even in the same environment, you can get different speeds depending on the time of day and where you are located. 

Maximum speed comparison

2.4 GHzTheoretical SpeedReal-World Speed
802.11b11 Mbps2-3 Mbps
802.11g54 Mbps10-29 Mbps
802.11n300 Mpbs150 Mbps
5 GHzTheoretical SpeedReal-World Speed
802.11a6-54 Mbps3-32 Mbps
802.11ac433 Mbps – 1.7 Gbps210 Mbps – 1 Gbps
802.11n900 Mbps450 Mbps
6 GHzTheoretical SpeedReal-World Speed
802.11ax9.6 Gbps1,7 Gbps

WiFi 6 (802.11ax) is only available in the lounge area for the time being.

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