So, you’ve purchased smart bulbs for your home, and it’s time to set them up—but the packaging says that the bulbs need a 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) frequency to work. You’re not sure what that means, but you try to connect the device to the network anyway but to no avail. What gives?
Most smart bulbs run on a 2.4 GHz protocol. Dual-band WiFi connections offer both 2.4 and 5 GHz, but may operate on 5 GHz by default, depending on range. Since smart bulbs and other smart home devices are not yet compatible with 5 GHz frequencies, they must connect to a 2.4 GHz network.
Since home automation is relatively new, the configuration is causing a lot of confusion for smart bulb users. It seems like a simple fix; just get a 5 GHz smart bulb—but do 5 GHz smart bulbs exist? Read on to learn more about frequencies, smart bulbs, and how to connect them.
Also read: Can Smart Bulbs Be Used In Any Lamp?
Are There Any 5GHz Smart Bulbs?
Smart bulbs connect to the internet so that users can customize, schedule, and control them remotely, usually via a mobile app. Most smart bulbs allow users to control the brightness and color of the lights, in turn controlling the ambiance of their home. These bulbs typically operate on a 2.4 GHz frequency—but are there 5 GHz smart bulbs?
As of July 2021, 5 GHz smart bulbs do not exist. Most manufacturers produce bulbs that work on 2.4 GHz frequencies because they’re much more reliable than 5 GHz, especially for smart home devices. Compared to 5 GHz, 2.4 GHz has much better reception and does not use much bandwidth.
Connecting a smart bulb to a 5 GHz frequency is impossible because 2.4 and 5 GHz are two separate frequencies.
What’s the Difference Between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz?
As mentioned in the previous section, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks are two separate wireless transmission frequencies—but what’s the difference? If a smart bulb requires 2.4 GHz and most WiFi networks are 5 GHz, why don’t manufacturers make 5 GHz smart bulbs?
Speed and range are the two most significant differences between 2.4 and 5 GHz. Although slower than 5 GHz, 2.4 GHz has a broader range and a signal that better penetrates floors and walls; therefore, it has a more reliable connection. While 5 GHz runs faster, the range is restricted.
Smart bulbs do not utilize download speeds, so there is little need to operate on a 5 GHz network. Manufacturers produce bulbs that run on 2.4 GHz frequencies simply because they’re more reliable.
In addition, a 5 GHz frequency requires more power to send signals, especially when devices are out of close range. However, systems such as laptops, computers, and mobile phones benefit from faster downloads, so the priority is speed.
Unfortunately, since most mobile devices connect to the 5 GHz frequency, but smart home devices, including smart bulbs, connect to 2.4 GHz, the two cannot communicate. This is a common issue seen during home automation configuration—but there are workarounds.
How Do I Connect a 2.4 GHz Smart Bulb to a 5 GHz Network?
Technically speaking, you cannot connect a 2.4 GHz smart bulb to a 5 GHz network. Fortunately, there are solutions to get all of your smart home devices communicating.
To connect 2.4 GHz smart bulbs, you’ll need to create two separate SSIDs—one on 2.4 GHz and the other on 5 GHz. Dual-band systems already offer this. Alternatively, you can opt for smart devices that utilize a “bridge” and create a second access point to communicate with your smart home assistants.
Many network providers offer dual-band routers that provide both 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies. To switch to a different frequency, users can access their router settings and create two separate SSIDs. From there, they can connect the smart bulbs to the 2.4 GHz SSID.
Unfortunately, some routers make it challenging to switch between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz—they automatically adjust based on the signal strength, and users cannot manually change the frequency without difficulty. If that’s the case, a second access point is the best option with less frustration.
Many smart switches or hubs utilize Zigbee, a system that creates a personal wireless local area network (WLAN) with low-powered digital radios. Zigbee’s primary purpose is home automation.
Does Philips Hue Work With 5 GHz?
Philips Hue (see it on Amazon), a brand of smart bulbs, offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor lighting options. These bulbs have dimming, color-changing, and motion-sensing capabilities and may also run on timers—but do these lights work with 5 GHz networks?
With Philips Hue, it doesn’t matter what network frequency you use. These bulbs do not use a WiFi chip like other smart bulbs on the market. Instead, the lights utilize a “bridge” between WiFi and the Zigbee protocol. Users control the lights remotely using the Hue mobile app or a digital assistant.
These smart bulbs do not connect directly to the home’s WiFi network. Instead, they use a hardwired hub (Hue Bridge) that connects directly to the router using an ethernet cable.
This hub acts as a bridge between Zigbee and the WiFi to allow for communication between assistants and smart home devices. Because these smart bulbs utilize a bridge instead of directly connecting to WiFi, they offer greater reliability.
It should be noted that the Philips Hue app, however, does connect to WiFi using a phone or tablet, but the bulbs themselves do not. The Zigbee protocol acts as a personal WLAN, so it does not use your WiFi signal or bandwidth.
Therefore, users experience no interference in connection, and the Hue smart bulbs, no matter how many you’re using, do not affect your WiFi speed.
Learning to configure and connect different smart home devices may seem like rocket science for those new to home automation. Fortunately, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. With a bit of configuration or the addition of bridge devices, users can have their smart bulbs and other smart devices up and running in no time.