Why Is My Internet Slow?
Even when you you have an ultra-fast internet connection, sometimes your internet speed might not be living up to expectations. There are many possible reasons why this might be occurring. With a little patience and a deliberate approach, you may be able to easily solve your problem without having to call in a technician. Perhaps, for instance, you are using an outdated modem device or are experiencing bandwidth congestion. Or maybe your service plan tops out at 1Gbps, or your “mesh” or Wi-Fi extender is doing more harm than good. It might be something as simple as an outdated ethernet cable or that certain apps you’re using are due for an upgrade. Read on to learn about the most common culprits, with tips on how to vanquish them!
You are using an outdated device
If you’re paying for a super-fast internet plan but you aren’t achieving the speeds you expect, your router might not be up to date.
Older routers can be limited on how fast they can process the data coming into your home. Home routers normally provide a firewall function that provides some protection to your local devices such as laptops, streaming devices (e.g. Roku), etc. In order to provide this protection, Network Address Translation (NAT) is typically used. This requires the router to look at every packet and figure out what home device it needs to go to or even if this is a packet it needs to block if it is something that shouldn’t be on your network. Managing this process takes CPU “horsepower”. Older routers can’t keep up with higher broadband speeds such as 1 Gigabit per second (1Gbps). If you have an older router from three or four years ago, consider upgrading.
Older Wireless Access Points (WAPs) will have slower modulation schemes such as 802.11a, b or g. Older standards will limit you to 54Mb/s or slower. Newer routers will support modulation schemes that are much more efficient and faster such as 802.11ac or 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), which can do more than a Gbps.
Make sure your router is Gigabit Rated. Similarly, the latest Wi-Fi routers offer peak speeds of around 300Mbps, as do the latest phones, laptops and tablets.
You are experiencing bandwidth congestion
There are two types of congestion: the bandwidth uplink to the ISP and spectral congestion. This means that your WAP may be on a channel that another WAP is using. They will end up interfering with each other. Changing the channel of the WAP can sometimes resolve this.
Your device only supports the 2.4Ghz WiFi-Band
There are two frequency bands that are used by WiFi up through 802.11AC: 2.4Ghz and 5.8GHz. Avoid routers that can only support the 2.4GHz band, which only accommodates three channels and must be shared with a range of appliances including microwave ovens, baby monitors, cordless phones, microwave ovens and many other devices. You’ll get much better results using a WAP/router that supports 5.8GHz. Upgrading to a new router and making sure your equipment can support the new bands will be a win.
Your plan tops out at 1Gbps
1Gbps service customers are provisioned 1000Mbps service. What this means is that there is an absolute top limit of 1Gbps for the data. In testing with sites like SpeedTest.net, there is overhead that is needed for these tests so this actually may show slower speed than the 1Gbps service you have. Additionally, depending on what speed test server you are using, the farther away from you, the less speed you will see due to the latency of the data to get to/from this server to you. It is normal for 1Gbps customers to experience between 800Mbps and 950Mbps speeds.
Your Wi-Fi device is not placed optimally
Speaking of Wi-Fi, signal strength is an equally important part of a good home internet experience. A weak signal can cause slowdown and frequent disconnects. Consider moving your router to an elevated position more central in your home or moving to a mesh network system to improve Wi-Fi coverage at home. A mesh router is generally good for homes up to about 2500 square feet.
A rule of thumb is: you can normally get good coverage through one wall but not two. Your coverage may vary depending on how the wall is made. For instance, Wi-Fi often has a difficult time passing through older “plaster and lath” walls. Consider any other “blockers” that could prevent the signal from getting to you such as file cabinets, etc.
Your “mesh” or Wi-Fi extender is doing more harm than good
Many people choose to place “mesh” or Wi-Fi extenders in locations where there is a minimal Wi-Fi signal. They are meant to receive packets from the main WAP and repeat them to an area with low signal. However, they often don’t receive sufficient signal from the WAP at their location so they will fail. Additionally, because they receive a packet and then resend it, the bandwidth is halved and will often conflict with other devices, resulting in lost packets.
You’re using different WAPs for different parts of the house
They will interfere with each other. If you have a large house, it is better to spend a bit more to get a “unified” system like Unifi from Ubiquiti, Ruckus or Aruba. These cost more, but they are designed to avoid interference with each WAP as they coordinate frequencies between WAPs.
Data-heavy apps are commandeering your bandwidth
Cloud security systems like Nest Camera and file-sharing apps like BitTorrent constantly move data through your home network. Take a look at their settings and make sure they aren’t eating up all your available bandwidth. If these services are allowed to use all available bandwidth, your video streaming and web browsing experiences will be slower. Some routers like Ubiquiti have this functionality built-in. Many routers will show top users by bandwidth and application.
Certain apps you use are due for an upgrade
App data, whether it’s a video from Netflix, a photo from Instagram or Facebook Story is stored on servers around the world. If you are experiencing slow speeds with one app but not others, that app might be having its own issues. When this occurs, Google the name of the app or website you want to use for updates. If Google is down we recommend using www.duckduckgo.com.
Your ethernet cable isn’t up to the job
Make sure that the ethernet cable going to your WAP is Category 5e or above, and that it is linking up at 1Gbs. A lesser cable could limit the bandwidth to 10 or 100 Mbps. Cables can also fail. If one out of the eight wires on the ethernet cable breaks, your link will drop down to a lower speed such as 100 or 10 Mbps.
The firmware on your router and WAP needs to be upgraded
Many times there are bugs that may be fixed with newer firmware or features to help with congestion, or CPU load, etc.
You’re not connected to the nearest WAP
If you have multiple WAPs, you could be connecting to the one that isn’t near you. Restart the Wi-Fi on your device and it should connect to the nearest (strongest) WAP.