Does it make sense to keep different SSIDs for 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless networks


My router can have different SSIDs for 2.4 and 5 GHz and I'm not sure if it's better to have the same SSID or not.

Initially I put the same network but I got confused when the MacBook Pro displayed me two networks with the same name, an I was not able to distinguish between then.

So the next step was to configure two networks, "home" and "home-slow".

I would like to know what are the pros/cons for these configs.

Note, I do have a Cisco E4200 router, configured:

  • 5GHz – SSID "home" – Mixed – Auto 20 MHz/40MHz – Auto-DFS
  • 2.4GHz – SSID "home-slow" – Mixed – Auto 20 MHz/40MHz – Auto

Note, iPhone4 and HTC Desire HD do not see the 5GHz network, only the 2.4 one, not sure why. MacBook Pro seems to detect both of them.

Best Answer

If you have high quality Wi-Fi client devices, it's best to use the same SSID for both bands so your clients will automatically roam to the band that suits their needs best.

If you have low-quality Wi-Fi client devices, you might need to second-guess their band-choice decisions, so you might want to have separate SSIDs.

Your MacBook Pro should not have shown you two networks with the exact same name, unless you had accidentally configured two different security types for the two networks. Or maybe you thought you had configured the exact same name for both bands, but you'd accidentally put a space at the end of one of the names and didn't notice.

Your iPhone 4 doesn't have a 5GHz radio, which is why it can't see your 5GHz network. I suspect the same is true of your HTC Desire HD.

I recommend that you leave your 2.4GHz network set to 20MHz-only. Using 40MHz in 2.4GHz doesn't leave enough room for other uses of the band, such as Bluetooth. All of Apple's N-capable gear limits itself to 20MHz operation in 2.4GHz (even if the third-party Wi-Fi AP is configured to allow 40MHz operation in 2.4GHz), in order to leave room for Bluetooth. So your MacBook Pro is only going to use 40MHz-wide channels in 5GHz.