5 Telecommunications Terms You See Everywhere

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You might find yourself glossing over words when you read about Wi-Fi. For example, do you recognize terms like band, bandwidth, channel, and dual band/tri-band?

Maybe?

But can you define them? Don’t worry, it’s ok if you can’t. We’ll clarify what they mean.

Band

You’ve probably heard that there are electromagnetic waves all around us. Band Frequency (measured in Hz) refers to a tiny slice of the overall spectrum. In the case of telecom, there are only two bands—2.4 GHz and 5 GHz—reserved for personal use.

So, you’ve heard about two bands, what about the others?

Bandwidth

Where band refers to the name and frequency of a wave, bandwidth refers to the total amount of data able to be transmitted over time. We typically measure it in bits (of data) per second, or bps. A bit is pretty tiny, so you’re more likely to see Kilobits (Kbps—thousands of bits), Megabits (Mbps—millions of bits), or even Gigabits (Gbps—billions of bits).

Analogy time: You can think of a wireless band as a road while the traffic represents data. The wider the road (band), the more traffic (data) can travel on it.

Sometimes, we combine two or more bands to break up traffic and provide an even higher transfer rate.

Channel

To keep frequencies free of clutter, the bands are broken up into channels. For example, the 2.4 GHz band is divided into 14 channels, with at most three of them non-overlapping completely with each other at the same time.

So, when you have two or more access point (AP) devices, it is necessary to set them to different channels to avoid interference. We can then properly arrange devices onto different channels for low interference and high efficiency.

Dual Band

Dual band means that your equipment has the feature of connecting to both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band. Signals working in the same area might cause interference with one another. But you can link your devices to different bands to ensure smoother streaming and faster downloads.

The 2.4 GHz band features a smaller bandwidth, but it’s good at anti-attenuation (a technical term meaning it prevents the weakening of signals over longer distances) and works through walls in indoor scenarios. Simple tasks like sending emails or web browsing can be handled by the 2.4 GHz band.

However, since many devices work in the 2.4 GHz band, interference again becomes a problem. This is where 5 GHz comes in.

The 5 GHz band provides a higher bandwidth, throughput rate (actual amount of data transmitted over time), and expansibility. The 5 GHz band reaches 1,300 Mbps which is ideal for bandwidth-intensive tasks like online gaming or 4K video streaming. 5 GHz, however, suits for small-ranged environment only, due to its high rate of decay over distance.