How To Love Your Wi-Fi Even More - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

So how much do you love your home Wi-Fi?  Do you stream seamlessly in all your rooms, have no buffering issues and are constantly having to reset your router or call your ISP?  You probably don’t love your Wi-Fi as much as you could – and you’re not alone.  — In an IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Linksys, titled The Home Network, the Neglected Workhorse, IDC found that 50% of home router users haven’t gotten a new router in 12 years!  12 Years!!!   That is 802.11g (Wireless-G) – 54Mbps technology.

Let’s break this down.  If you are using a Wireless-G router – you are getting max advertised throughput of 54Mbps of performance. Actual real-life performance is about 20-25 Mbps.  Real-life performance throughput is lower because the actual environment has variables such as walls, building materials, other devices that use the same radios frequency as Wi-Fi such as microwaves and remote-control toys, range of the device from the router etc. that impact the signal – thus lowering the throughput.

 

If your router is giving you about 20Mbps of throughput – for every device in your home that is using the internet at the same time will use up some of the Mbps.  Examples of how much Mbps a device uses are in the chart below:

Activity Mbps Needed What is your experience when when Wi-Fi is slower that needed speed?
General Web Surfing, email, etc. 1-5 Mbps Waiting forever for the webpage to refresh.
Online Gaming (PS4, Xbox, PC) 2-10 Mbps You just lost! GAME OVER!
Video Conference (Skype etc) 1-4 Mbps Just frustrating!
HD Video Stream (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube) 5-8 Mbps Movie in standard definition. Feels like in 1990s – Outrageous!
4K Video Stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube) 25+ Mbps On a tired day! Cannot watch Orange is the New Black in Ultra HD – Annoying!
Large Downloads like Videos/Movies 50+ Mbps Waiting forever!

 

So do the math – if you are streaming a 4K video on a wireless-G router – well, you basically can’t – or you’ll just keep getting the buffering signal a lot when you try to stream.  And all the other devices on the network will have no bandwidth to perform. According to the IDC study –   The average house with a home router has at least 8 devices connected to the internet and 5 are being used simultaneously.  So if you are on a Wireless-G router – it’s probably safe to say you are not a lover of your Wi-Fi.

 

So how do you turn Wi-Fi woes into Wi-Fi you’ll Love? 

Let’s start with your Broadband Service Package.  Do you know what you service package you have?  In another IDC infobrief sponsored by Linksys, Revisiting the Cable Modem, where the Internet Meets the Home, IDC found that 46% of surveyed users had no idea what service package they had.  Now if you don’t know what service package you have – how do you know if you have the right router that will service that broadband speed?   For example, if you are using a Wireless-G or N router as described above – you have about 20 Mbps of bandwidth to use for all your devices.  However if you purchased the 100Mbpsrvice package from your service provider– you are only using 1/5 of the bandwidth you purchased.   If that is the case – it’s time to update your home router.

Say you just upgraded to a 100Mbps plan or 300 Mbps plan and pay $59/month to $100/month. If you have an old router either provided by your ISP or one you purchased 5-10 years ago, you may be only getting 30Mbps.

For example: Your ISP may be providing you 100Mbps or 300Mbps, you are only getting 30Mbps. You are not getting the Wi-Fi you are paying for throughout your home. All because of the old router! This is not because of your ISP reducing the speed. It is because the router does not support the Wi-Fi speed.

So how do you decide what router to get?  First determine what service package you are getting  – which you can usually tell on your internet service bill – or give them a call  (Comcast just reported in Jan 2018 that 75% of their customers have at least 100 Mbps Wi-Fi connection).  Once you determine your package (and ask them how many Mbps) – then you can choose the right Wi-Fi system or router to distribute all that bandwidth so you can get wireless all around your home.

Most Service Packages are offered by Mbps:

  • 50 Mbps and Less (considered Basic)
  • 51 to 100 Mbps
  • 100-300 Mbps
  • 1 Gbps and More.

Next is to determine the mesh system or router that will distribute that real-life performance:  Keep in mind the more devices connected to the Internet – the more Wi-Fi bandwidth that will be used.

Broadband Speed  

Ideal – Mesh System

 

Alternatively, suggested Router  
50 Mbps and less Dual-Band Mesh Systems AC1000, AC1200 and AC1300 routers.
51-100 Mpbs Dual-Band Mesh Systems AC1750 and AC1900 routers.
100-300 Mpbs Tri-Band Mesh Systems. AC2200- AC5400.
300- 1 Gbps Tri-Band Mesh Systems AC5400 and upcoming 802.11AX routers.

 

A good tip would be that if you plan to update your service package in the next year or two – you might want to purchase a new Wi-Fi mesh system that will support that service when you upgrade – so you won’t have to buy a new Wi-Fi mesh system again.   If you have a basic plan now – and plan to purchase a premium package over a 100Mbps, you might want to splurge and get that new Tri-Band Mesh system or an AC2200 router now and future proof yourself.  It wouldn’t hurt to have a router that provides performance more than your service package – but it will hurt if your service package supports more bandwidth that your router can distribute.

To recap – to love your Wi-Fi even more – you will want to:

  • Determine what service package you are getting from your service provider
  • Make sure to ask how many Mbps are you getting?
  • What router do you have? Is it wireless-G or Wireless-N or maybe you haven’t gotten a new one in about 8-12 years.
  • Look for a router that performs at the speed of your internet service package or go a little higher in router throughput to future proof your network – for when you do update your service package
  • Consider a Mesh System like the Linksys Dual-Band Mesh System or Linksys Tri-Band Mesh System over traditional routers. Mesh systems will enable you to have more endpoints to distribute your broadband connection so that you can get up 100% of the service you purchased.

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Samara Lynn

Samara Lynn is a technology journalist, covering the industry for a decade. Her work appears in The Wirecutter, Tom's Hardware, PC Mag, and other online outlets. She's the author of "Windows Server 2012: Up and Running" and previously worked in the IT industry. She's currently the digital manager at Black Enterprise.


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