Internet access can never be fast enough. As Internet speeds improve across the country, many of us are figuring out our service provider isn’t the sole factor in how fast a site loads. Your Wifi router plays a huge part in the overall speed of your Internet access. If you get the most out of your router, you may not even need to pay extra for that premium service level from your ISP. Several issues keep your router from its true potential. While you can’t eliminate all the factors keeping your WiFi speeds down, here are some things to look out for now.
Wireless router speeds never live up to the hype. The advertised speeds are purely theoretical — an 802.11ac router is not going to deliver 450 Mbps like the box says. That’s because those speeds are based on a perfect lab environment — and you don’t live there.
What to Do About It: Adjust your expectations, then make sure your router has way more bandwidth than you’d ever expect to need.
Think about how many connected devices are in your home right now. A computer or two; phones; tablets; a video streamer; maybe even a light bulb or refrigerator. All those devices are constantly uploading and downloading information through the router, all fighting for the same bandwidth.
What to Do About It: Limit background activity — like checking for Facebook likes when you’re not actively using the app — on these devices so they don’t constantly need to access the router.
Most routers live in the 2.4 GHz bandwidth range, and that space is crowded. You have cordless phones, microwaves, and neighbor’s routers all fighting for bandwidth. Your poor router is fighting to make available space, and living off the scraps.
What to Do About It: Switch to devices (and a router, if necessary) that live in the more spacious 5.0 GHz bandwidth (and make sure you have a router that supports that range).
WiFi routers are omnidirectional, meaning they spread the signal equally in all directions. So if you’ve got your router tucked away in one corner of the house, your neighbor’s likely have a stronger signal from it than you do when you’re surfing on your phone at the other end of the house.
What to Do About It: Put your router as close to the middle of your home as possible, or at least closer to where you use the Internet most.
Each Netflix stream is using about 5 Mpbs; while you’re watching Narcos, you’re also uploading some PowerPoint files to Google Drive for work. Now your kid starts playing Call of Duty. Something’s got to give.
What to Do About It: Be smart about how many things you’re trying to do at once on the Internet, especially with bandwidth hogs.
The worst offender might be your router. If it’s more than a couple of years old, it’s likely the biggest bottleneck. If you’re still using 802.11g technology, you’re missing out on the better range and speeds that newer 802.11ac routers offer.
What to Do About It: Get a heavy-duty unit, like the Netgear Nighthawk X4 AC2350 Smart WiFi Router, or the $200 ASUS RT-AC68U, which delivers excellent speed even at long distances.