Why Band Steering Means Better Wi-Fi

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

What Are Frequency Bands in Wi-Fi? A quick explanation (also found in the article about band steering below)

What Are Frequency Bands?

A frequency band is a section of a lager frequency area. Wi-Fi uses 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 Wi-Fi networks, as well as other wireless equipment (Bluetooth, baby monitors), and microwave ovens.
  • 5 GHz is available to devices using the latest wireless standards such as 802.11ac, as well as some of the older standards (802.11 a/n). The 5 GHz frequency band provides the wireless signals that have a shorter reach than 2.4GHz, but , but the highest speeds/best performance, which is why it is the preferred frequency band for new laptops and devices. The short reach of the signals on this frequency band means multiple access points are often necessary to provide satisfactory coverage in a home.

What Is Wi-Fi Band Steering?

Band steering is a technology available in some Wi-Fi access points which ensures that you don’t need to think about which frequency band you are connecting to or what your device can support. The access point knows what the device can handle and steers it to the correct frequency band automatically.

Depending on the sophistication of the band steering feature, the access point may also make its own calculations of expected performance based on signal strength—normally, 5GHz will provide the best performance, but if a device is located at a distance from the access point, 2.4 GHz might still offer the best coverage because its signals reach further.

Band steering is often part of a larger client steering feature that ensures all devices connect where they will obtain the best performance.

What Happens When There Is No Band Steering?

When a wireless access point does not support band steering, it is up to the user or the device to select what is right or best. Some access points are configured to have separate networks and SSIDs for each frequency band, so that the user must choose which network to connect to.

This means you can try to connect to a network that your device does not support, or one that provides it with much poorer performance than it actually supports.

You can read more about the best ways to set up your SSID in How to Choose the Best SSID for Your Wi-Fi.

Article by Geir Arne Rimala and Jorunn D. Newth