Before we begin this in-depth discussion, it is best to get this one particular factor out of the way: wired connection will always beat wireless in terms of internet speeds.
The only way to fully maximize your router's internet speeds is by utilizing wired connections via the Ethernet cable. Wired connection is the one full-proof way to achieve your router's theoretical speeds.
Of course, we also have to consider that we are now living in a wireless world. Having your gadgets connected via wires can be a hassle to organize and install.
Also, having your device online within a limited area can be a bother in most cases. This is why Wi-Fi has become the norm nowadays. But then, we go back around to the previous issue – wireless is not as fast as a wired connection.
Are there solutions to circumvent this ever-present issue with Wi-Fi connectivity?
Of course, there is. However, the answer you are looking for may not be as simple or straightforward as you might think.
Will Upgrading Your Wi-Fi Automatically Increase Your Internet Speed?
This is a rather broad question to answer with a simple yes or no. The fact of the matter is that your wireless internet speed will be affected by a multitude of factors which will all contribute to whether you will notice a significant increase to your network speed.
In some cases, switching to a high-end router can positively affect your overall online experience.
While in other cases, you won't experience much of an upgrade in terms of performance. So, the safest answer to the question posed above would be: maybe.
The Three Main Factors that Affect Your Internet Speed
Don't worry, though as I will be elaborating on the three key elements that impact one's internet connection speeds.
But understanding these elements, you are one step closer to knowing how you can optimize your wireless online experience at home.
To help put things into a more digestible perspective, you can think of your internet network as a pipeline system.
Now, similar to a pipeline – several elements will affect the 'flow' of bandwidth through the pipe system.
- Size of the pipes or the total bandwidth available to your network.
- How smoothly the bandwidth flows through the pipeline or the latency.
- Are there leaks in your pipeline, or are you experiencing data drops in the middle?
To go into further detail, we will be discussing each factor carefully to help you understand the importance of considering these three factors when it comes to improving overall Wi-Fi network speeds.
The Size of the Pipeline (Bandwidth)
The pipeline or bandwidth of your internet connection falls on your ISP (Internet service provider). ISPs will offer customers several plans of varying speeds that range from 1 Mbps to over 100 Mbps.
Of course, the faster the Mbps, the more expensive the monthly fee will be. More bandwidth is equal to a larger pipe.
The larger the tube, the more bandwidth is allowed to go through which will then reduce traffic and prevent slowdowns.
With more available bandwidth, your network not only has higher download speeds but also upload speeds.
This makes online surfing and streaming incredibly smooth. The amount of bandwidth that your router can utilize will be a significant factor to consider, but it is not the only aspect you should look for as it is only one part of the foundation.
The Smoothness of Your Data Flow (Latency)
Latency is the time it takes from data to go from server to your computer and vice versa. Remote servers such as YouTube and social media sites will be bouncing data back and forth from their side to your device.
High latency means that data being bounced between the server and your computer is slow and will cause pages and videos to load at a snail's pace.
What you want is to achieve low latency which means data is bounced back and forth smoothly and quickly.
Take note that even if you are operating with 5Mbps, having a router with extremely low latency will provide you with blistering speeds that will make said router perform much better than expected.
However, you should also take note that satellite-based internet providers might not perform as well because data from the server will need to go through a satellite first before reaching your device.
This process might lead to a slower connection even if the ISP advertises 20Mpbs+ speeds.
When it comes to transferring and receiving data, the data lost is data wasted. Data leaks that transpire half-way might cause requests to timeout and prevent pages and videos from loading.
Data leakage can also be caused by packet loss. Packet loss is the term used for when the issue is rooted on the ISP's side.
If your ISP is experiencing packet loss, you can expect your internet speeds to go down considerably.
Fortunately, computers can determine when packet loss is happening and will immediately send another request for the missing data.
However, this will not change the fact that it will cause a noticeable delay and slowdown in your network, which is also known as lag.
Other Factors that Will Affect Internet Speeds
Now that we have gone through the three major components that contribute to your overall internet speeds, you should also be aware that there are numerous other aspects in between that will also impact your network speeds.
If you experience any decrease in your internet performance, the chances are that it might be caused by one of these.
Bandwidth Traffic and Congestion
It is vital to consider the number of devices that will connect to the router on average. Some routers are designed to support a good amount of devices simultaneously without throttling network speeds.
If your router and bandwidth are not enough to support several connected devices at once, you will experience a significant drop in speeds.
This can only be rectified by either disconnecting some of the devices or upgrading your router to a model with a more extensive pipeline, so to speak.
You might also experience bandwidth congestion when someone in the household starts playing online games or is downloading a hefty amount of data online like movies.
This issue can also affect your ISP. If clients overburden your ISP's servers, a general decrease in performance can be experienced across the board and affect all customers.
Another common factor that can affect your internet speeds is with the equipment itself. From your router to your ISP's servers, any issues or problems with any of the crucial instruments can significantly affect your network.
Any issues with your device or computer can also impact internet performance. Unfortunately, the general solution for these problems will most likely require repairs or a complete overhaul of said equipment.
Will Getting a Newer Model Router Improve Internet Performance?
If you have an older model router, you might want to seriously consider upgrading to a newer model as it is highly likely that last generation routers won't be able to keep up with new wireless tech.
Some factors that negatively affect your Wi-Fi can be resolved by upgrading your router. Here are some of the most common issues that can get fixed by only getting a newer and more advanced wireless router.
A Solution to Common Wireless Environmental Issues
Previous generation routers that incorporate single band signals are known for having environmental issues.
This is due to being susceptible to signal interference from other Wi-Fi routers and other devices that emit radio frequencies.
Single-band routers are not ideal if you live in an area with lots of wireless routers as it will adversely affect your router's overall performance.
New routers will typically have dual-band technology and even utilize beamforming technology that will be able to deliver better wireless environmental performance.
If you have a single band router and experience regular slowdowns and lags, I highly suggest you consider upgrading your router as you are most likely not getting your ISP's optimum performance.
Take Advantage of New Wireless Technologies
As we have stated earlier, wireless technology has come a long way within just a decade.
What was once cutting edge ten years ago is now considered a relic of a bygone age. For example, check to see what wireless standards your current router support. Does it use 802.11g or 802.11n standards?
If it does, you should think about moving up to an 802.11ac router as it is the current standard used by modern wireless devices.
The 802.11ac wireless standard also provides better all-around throughput and a more expansive wireless range.
Newer router models will also have several helpful features that will significantly improve your overall internet experience.
One such feature is the QoS or Quality of Service feature which allows you to prioritize specific devices in your network in regards to bandwidth allocation.
This is a helpful feature for online gaming and streaming.
Does Having Two Routers Improve Internet Speeds?
Adding a second router will not be able to boost your internet speed. However, this setup can optimize your ISP's overall performance which means you might be able to reach the theorized speeds advertised by your ISP.
Keep in mind that you will need the same brand and model if you wish to apply this technique.
If you can't find the exact router, research, or inquire about your current router's firmware and get a model using the same system.
Simple Tips on How to Optimize Your Router's Performance
If you feel that you haven't been able to squeeze every ounce of power from your router, here are several tips that you can try out.
If none of these techniques yielded positive results, I'm afraid that upgrading your router or using a different ISP might be your last resort.
That said, before you completely overhaul your network at home, try these out first.
Utilize Network Cables
As we have already stated at the beginning of this article, the wired internet connection guarantees stable and fast internet speeds.
I strategically placed router cables throughout critical points of my house.
Yes, it can be time-consuming and a bit of a hassle if you live in more spacious residences, but the option to connect your device to the router via Gigabit connections will make it all worthwhile.
Use the Access Points
If the Wi-Fi range is an issue, one solution you can try out is by using additional access points. You install extra access points throughout your home and connect each to the main router via Ethernet cables.
This is an excellent method to extend your Wi-Fi range without it affecting Wi-Fi speeds.
I recommend you rename each extra access point using your primary router's SSID and password so that each device can seamlessly shift from one connection to the other.
Know the Best Overall Wireless Standard
If you are looking for the best router that balances performance and cost, I recommend you go with routers that use AC1900 standards as this is the most well-rounded router type available.
If you expect multiple devices to connect to your router regularly, look for a triband AC3200 router.
Of course, if you can afford it, you can always go for the higher-end models (like AC2600 routers) which are packed with more advanced features and tend to be future-proof as well.
A better router may lead to better internet speeds and performance, but it is not the only contributing factor to consider.
As we have detailed throughout this article, there are several other elements to consider when it comes to optimizing your Wi-Fi speeds.
Let's just say that a high-quality router is an excellent foundation for improving your internet performance, but it won't be enough.
The router will need the support of other vital components to deliver what is required for optimum internet speeds.
All in all, you can always invest in a premium-grade router, but you should also consider your ISP, home, number of devices, and primary use to make sure you make the most out of every penny.