Does 5Ghz WiFi Travel Through Walls? [Avoid These Obstacles]

If you use WiFi in different areas of your home or office, you may notice that devices connected to the 5GHz frequency occasionally experience weaker connections compared to those linked to a 2.4GHz band. Unfortunately this is because WiFi on 5GHz does not penetrate walls and solid objects as efficiently as 2.4GHz networks.

5GHz WiFi can travel through walls however its shorter wavelength is more susceptible to losing signal strength (vs 2.4GHz) when traveling through solid objects. Walls made from dense materials such as concrete and bricks can cause significant signal attenuation which may result in unreliable packet delivery. 

Concrete at 203mm thickness was measured as causing -48dB, whilst brick faced masonry blocks caused -32dB. Lumber (-4dB) and drywall (-<1dB) barely impact the speed and reliability of a 5GHz WiFi connection.

This article looks at how walls and other materials slow WiFi and offer steps to make the best use of the 5GHz WiFi connection you have in your home or office. We’ll look at:

  •       Understand the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi
  •       Learn what types of materials block WiFi signals
  •       Choose the right spot for your WiFi router
  •       Use both 2.4 GHz and 5GHz WiFi networks

If despite implementing these steps you continue to have problems establishing a stable connection, you should consider investing in a WiFi extender for increased wireless coverage. Check out our article on WiFi boosters to learn more about choosing and setting up a WiFi extender.

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2.4GHz is good at sending data at low speeds across greater distances whereas 5GHz offers faster speeds across shorter distances.

How does 5GHz WiFi compare to 2.4GHz?

The radio waves emitted on the 2.4GHz WiFi band are longer, allowing them to travel further through solid objects. This means 2.4GHz WiFi suffers less from signal degradation due to walls and other objects.

5GHz WiFi uses shorter radio waves, which is necessary for achieving faster speeds over a smaller range. However, these shorter radio waves are more easily affected by obstacles, such as walls.

However whilst 2.4GHz forms a better connection through walls and barriers, another factor to consider is that 5GHz is less prone to interference from other electronic devices.

Bluetooth devices and most WiFi-enabled electronics have been designed to use the 2.4GHz band, thus increasing the risk that interference may occur to a 2.4GHz network.

What type of walls block a WiFi signal?

Walls, floors, and ceilings impact WiFi signals. However, some building materials and objects are more likely than others to negatively impact your network.

The attenuation of 5GHz through different different building materials was explored in a controlled experiment by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Here are some of the materials that may block a WiFi signal, listed in order of severity:

  •       Metal
  •       Concrete
  •       Plaster with metal lath
  •       Ceramic tile
  •       Glass and mirrors
  •       Drywall

What is WiFi signal attenuation?

WiFi signal attenuation is measured in decibel loss, which has a non-linear relationship with signal strength. For example a 3dB of loss (-3 dB) halves the signal strength whilst 10dB loss (-10dB) provides ten times less signal strength.

If you’re interested in a little more information on signal strength, I’ll leave a link to a more in-depth guide here.  

The main thing you need to be aware of for our purpose is that the greater the decibel loss the weaker the WiFi connection you can expect to receive. 

Wi-Fi connections become unstable at -80dB, which is approximately the minimum value required to create a connection. At -90dB it’s unlikely a signal will be established.

Where should I put my router to boost a 5GHz signal?

Try to place the router in a position that offers the most direct path to the area where you plan on using your wireless devices. You should also pay attention to the proximity of WiFi-blocking materials. Fish tanks, large appliances, and electronics may limit the strength of your signal.

Placing a router in a central area can help provide better coverage to all corners of your property. Yet, you may only need increased connectivity in a specific room or area of your home.

You should also try to minimize exposure to the objects and materials listed above. Imagine a line between the router and your wireless device. Move the router to limit the number of objects that block a direct path.

How can I improve my 5GHz WiFi?

Along with finding the right spot for your router, you can improve the 5GHz WiFi connection by continuing to use the 2.4GHz network. Using devices on both networks helps keep one network from dealing with too many devices.

Use the 2.4GHz network for low bandwidth activities, such as browsing the Internet or checking your email. 5GHz networks offer the bandwidth needed for online gaming and HD video streaming.

You can also enhance your 5GHz WiFi coverage by adding a WiFi extender. Place the extender on another floor or the room where you are most likely to use WiFi.

Round up

Does 5GHz WiFi go through walls? Yes, any WiFi signal can travel through a wall. However, walls can interfere with WiFi connections, especially when using 5GHz WiFi.

5GHz WiFi is more prone to interference from obstructions, resulting in a weaker signal. You can improve your 5GHz WiFi connection by placing your router in a central location. Choosing an area that offers a more direct path to your devices may improve the signal.

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