What Are the Differences Between Wireless G & Wireless N Routers?

By Warren Rachele

Wireless routers are a proven way of building a computer network within your home or office. Being radio-based, the transmitting and receiving network hardware must be able to communicate. The Ethernet 802.11 protocol is continually being revised to improve the performance of networks and the "g" and "n" standards are the latest revisions available for use. To decide which revision is appropriate for your network, it is important to understand the difference between the two.

802.11 Protocol

The 802.11 protocol is a communication standard established by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) for data exchange over a wireless local area network (WLAN). The protocol has advanced through a series of updates, each marked by a letter appended to the numeric designation. Wireless routers based on 802.11 transmit and receive over unlicensed radio bands, varying the frequency with the different revision standards. The advancing revisions expand the bandwidth of the network, from 1 to 54 megabits per second (Mbps). Both G and N class routers are based on the 802.11 protocol.

Router Bandwidth

A router using the 802.11g protocol has a maximum bandwidth of 54 Mbps. This is a significant improvement over the preceding 802.11b standard of 11 Mbps. The current 802.11n standard has a maximum bandwidth of more than 100 Mbps. This transmission speed enables you to transfer a 1.2 gigabyte file in 1 minute and 53 seconds, instead of the 3 minutes and 29 seconds it would take at 54 Mbps. It generates this throughput by utilizing multiple signals and antennas in a scheme called Multiple Input/Multiple Output (MIMO). The increased signal intensity of this design also expands the range of the wireless signal.

Router Frequency

The 802.11g router utilizes 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) radio frequency range in order to maintain backward compatibility with the 802.11b standard. This frequency falls within the industrial, scientific and medical bands, unlicensed frequencies used by many types of equipment in addition to wireless networking. Routers using 802.11n are designed with dual-band equipment that works in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz range, to maintain compatibility and increase throughput. A router using the 5 GHz frequency range is less affected by interference from other wireless equipment.


The primary difference between 802.11g and 802.11n wireless routers is the greater bandwidth possible with the more recent standard. Backward compatibility has been an important design objective throughout the revision cycles. Because of this, most new equipment can work with mixed networking hardware of preceding revisions. Manufacturers of routers tend to work ahead of the approval of standards and you may encounter hardware labeled "draft-n" in regard to the protocol. This is because the IEEE had not finalized the standard at the time the hardware was designed. The 802.11n standard was approved in 2009 and it is recommended that you choose hardware that is implementing the full, finalized standard to avoid any interoperability problems.