Why Band Steering Means Better Wifi

Wifi band steering detects what a wireless device supports and automatically steers it to the best available frequency band when connecting to a Wifi network.

Band steering is functionality that automatically steers anyone connecting to a wireless network to the best frequency band available and supported, thereby optimizing performance for the client.

What Are Frequency Bands?

A frequency band is a section of a larger frequency area. Wifi uses primarily two frequency bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.

  • 2.4 GHz is used by the older wireless standards and technologies (802.11 b/g/n), and provides the signals that reach the furthest but provide the lowest speeds. Because of the long reach of its signals, this frequency band is also the most vulnerable to interference from other wifi networks, as well as other wireless equipment (Bluetooth, baby monitors), and microwave ovens. See also 10 things that interfere with and block wifi signals.
  • 5 GHz is available to devices using Wi-Fi 5 and 6, as well as some of the older standards (802.11 a/n). The 5 GHz frequency band provides wireless signals that have a shorter reach than 2.4 GHz, but also the highest speeds / best performance. Newer computers and devices prefer this frequency band because of this superior performance. Because of the shorter reach of the signals on this frequency band, multiple access points are often necessary to provide satisfactory coverage in a home.

What Happens When You Don't Have Band Steering?

If your equipment does not support band steering, it is up to the user or the device to select the correct/best frequency band. Many routers are set up so by the vendor or service provider so that there are separate networks with different names and credentials for 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz. It is then up to the user to know which network and thus which frequency band to connect to.

At worst, the user tries to connect to a network that is not supported by the device, or a network that provides much slower performance than the device actually supports.

See also Five reasons not to buy a Wi-Fi repeater.

What Does Band Steering Do?

Band steering means you don't have to worry about which frequency band is supported by the different computers and devices that you use, because you have a router or other wireless access point that can make these assessments and direct each device to the appropriate frequency band.

Band steering is often part of a more comprehensive functionality called client steering, which ensures that all clients (devices) connect to the wireless access point that provides the best performance.

Article by Geir Arne Rimala and Jorunn Danielsen

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