Let’s Talk About Router Speed
You might be one of the lucky Google Fiber customers getting close to 1 Gigabit of download speed (That’s 1,000 Mbps. Yes, people actually have this. And yes, we’re jealous too). Or you might be living a little farther off the grid, relying on satellite internet to provide a modest 15Mbps. No matter which speed package you’re paying for, your wireless router plays a big role in your everyday, practical internet speeds.
Not sure what you have? Try a speed test. Connect a computer with an Ethernet cable directly to your modem supplied by your Internet Service Provider. Then go here to test your speed. An alternative speed test site that donates $0.01 per speed test to charity can be found here. This isn’t an exact science but it will give you an idea. Now try that speed test using a wireless device in your home like your phone or tablet. You will see a difference. Let’s talk about why.
Most home networks are composed of the following:
- Internet Service Provider (ISP)
- Wireless Router
- Internet Connected Devices (ie: smart phones, tablets, computers, gaming consoles, streaming devices, etc)
Each of those components has its own part to play that affects the speed of your internet.
As we mentioned before, your speed package from your ISP can vary wildly from very little to a lot of speed. You can upgrade your speed package at a cost but sometimes your wireless router is the limiting factor, not your ISP. No matter how fast the package is, your wireless devices will not go as fast as your wired devices. There is always loss in speed associated with Wi-Fi. But there are ways to minimize the loss and take advantage of your starting speed as much as possible.
The modem is typically the low maintenance part of the equation. As long as your modem is relatively up to date and the ports on the modem are Gigabit Ethernet ports, then you’re good to go. You would be hard pressed to find a modem that does not meet these basic requirements in most homes. So unless your modem was installed pre-2005, it probably isn’t hurting your speed.
Try not to get hung up on all the numbers. Gigabit ports and Wireless-AC technology are the key factors to focus on. Our newest router, the MLWR-AC1200 comes with Gigabit Ethernet ports but not all wireless routers have them. If your router only has “Fast Ethernet Ports” instead of the faster Gigabit ports, then you are limiting the potential speed of your devices dramatically.
Wireless-AC routers use 802.11AC technology to help you achieve very fast wireless speeds and help you avoid the interference of other networks and common household items. An AC router puts out two Wi-Fi signals from which to choose: the traditional 2.4G signal and the 5G signal. When you are scanning for networks you normally see them listed right next to each other as “YourNetworkName” and “YourNetworkName_5G” on devices that are compatible with the 5G signal.
The main differences between these two networks are distance and speed. The 2.4G signal covers a much wider area. The 5G signal can handle a lot more speed. For your devices that need a lot of speed, make sure they are as close to the router as possible, and make sure they connect to that 5G signal.
Internet Connected Devices
General rules of thumb when it comes to speed:
- Wired is always better than wireless.
- The 5G network is much faster but range is not as good.
- The 2.4G network is slower but reaches much farther.
If your device is right next to the router and has an Ethernet port, you should plug it in. This goes for your Smart TV, Apple TV, Fire TV 4K, computer, etc. If it has an Ethernet port and is close enough to the router anyway, then plug it in. It will be much more stable than Wi-Fi and it will be faster no matter what.
If your device connects wirelessly, supports 5G, and you’re close to the router, use the 5G network. You’ll know if it supports 5G because you can see the 5G network listed when you are scanning for networks. If the device doesn’t support the 5G signal, you just won’t see that network listed there.
If you must use the 2.4G network either because of distance or because your device doesn’t support 5G, just know that you will have significant losses in speed compared to your wired speed or the speed package you’re paying for. For instance, if you are getting 50Mbps when you plug into your modem directly, you may only see 20Mbps from a wireless device connected to the 2.4G network. This is still plenty of speed to stream HD movies and do most other common Internet based activities, but it may be surprising to see the difference in numbers on a speed test.
…But I Want Fast AND Far
There just aren’t great Wi-Fi solutions out there right now for people that want really fast speeds from clear across a large home (or even an average size home). A few options to help improve the speed of devices that are not close to the router are Range Extenders and Powerline Adapters. We’ll talk more about that next time. Have questions now? Give us a call! 856-216-8222