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How your "Network" affects your Internet experience.

1. Your network is made up of your modem and the devices you have connected to your modem using a wireless or wired connection. All devices that connect to your network share your "speed".
Take for example, the Sullivan family. They have a 15Mbps Internet connection.
  • John is watching a video from Netflix™ on a TV using 1080p resolution [5Mbps].
  • Beth is watching a video from YouTube™ on her tablet using 720p resolution [3Mbps].
  • And Steve is playing online games using his Xbox™ 360 [3Mbps].
The total minimum speed requirement for the house is 11Mpbs, so 12 - 13Mbps should keep everyone happy. Suddenly John's video starts buffering. John knows he has a 15Mbps Internet connection, but can't figure out why his video is buffering? The Sullivan's also have smart phones and a DVR that are not currently being used. The phones and the DVR started running updates in the background. These additional requests exceeded what the Internet connection can provide, causing everyone's video to suffer.

User Activity Speed Needed Available Speed: 15Mbps
John watching movie on Netflix at 1080p 5Mbps 10Mbps
Beth watching a show on youtube at 720p 3Mbps 7Mbps
Steve playing games online with a xbox 360 3Mbps 4Mbps
John phone is not in use but is updating 1Mbps 3Mbps
Beth phone is not in use but is updating 1.5Mbps 1.5Mbps
Steve DVR is not in use but is updating 3Mbps negative 1.5Mbps
2. Make sure your modem is using the latest firmware. If a firmware update is available, it will be located on the modem firmware page.

3. Should you use wired or Wi-Fi? Wired connections are faster, more secure, more dependable and should be used whenever possible. The problem with wired connections is they are not always available. This is when Wi-Fi comes in handy. If you don't have access to a wired connection or you are using a Wi-Fi only device like an Android device or an iPhone, this limits your options. (show me)

4. Wi-Fi devices are manufactured to meet certain standards, and those standards have a maximum theoretical speed. Theoretical speeds don't consider real world factors, like distance and interference. But, even if conditions are perfect, you can't achieve the maximum theoretical speed. There are several reasons for this, here are a two.
  • The maximum theoretical speeds are a combined total for both uploading and downloading so you would never be able to download at a maximum theoretical speed.
  • The maximum theoretical speeds don't account for overhead. Overhead is required for both radio communication and network protocols. Since Wi-Fi uses both, it is loaded with overhead. You can learn more about Wi-Fi overhead here.
5. If you decide to watch a video over a Wi-Fi connection, here are some real world factors that can affect your video experience.
  • A: When you mix Wi-Fi protocols your speeds will only be as fast as your slowest protocol. For example, if you have a 802.11n access point and a laptop using 802.11b, your theoretical maximum speed would be based off the slowest of the two, which is 11Mbps.
  • B: The frequency you are using can affect your experience. Wi-Fi devices run on either 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz. Each frequency has it's benefits.
    • The benefits of 5.0GHz is it's faster than 2.4Ghz and less likely to be congested.
    • The disadvantages of 5.0GHz is it has a smaller coverage area and does not penetrate solid objects as well as 2.4GHz.
    • The benefits of 2.4GHz is it has a larger coverage area and penetrates solid objects better than 5.0GHz
    • The disadvantages of 2.4GHz is it is more likely to be congested, prone to interference from cordless phones, garage door openers and other home appliances and consumer products.
  • C: Wi-Fi Security is used to prevent unauthorized users from accessing your Wi-Fi network. Enabling security can add additional overhead and slow down the connection on older devices. Even though there is some performance impact, the security benefits far outweigh any reduction is speed you may experience.
  • D: Distance is the amount of space between the modem and your the device.
  • E: Wi-Fi interference is one of the biggest causes of slow internet. Here are some causes of interference.
    • Other Wi-Fi networks on the same channel as you.
    • Other Wi-Fi networks that overlap your channel.
    • Other non WiFi devices that operate in the 2.4 GHz range like microwave ovens, baby monitors, cordless telephones, video senders, cordless phones (2.4 GHz), cell phones, bluetooth devices, televisions, dimmer switches, fans, fluorescent lights, copy machines, microwaves, treadmills, wireless surveillance systems, wireless speakers, wireless baby monitors, motion detector lights, garage door openers and some amateur radio equipment.
    • Physical barriers such as brick, walls, water, metal, reflective surfaces, windows and furniture can prevent your Wi-Fi signal from talking to your modem. Wireless signals need to be able to pass through stuff. If they can't, you end up with intermittent (or no) signal. To improve connectivity, try moving your modem (or the physical barrier). You may need to try a few locations to figure out what consistently works.
6. Now that you have learned about theoretical speeds and real world factors, this table gives you a better idea of what you can expect. Every environment is different.
Standard Frequency Theoretical Speed Theoretical Range RW* Speed RW* Indoor Range
802.11b 2.4Ghz 11Mbps 115 ft 2 - 3Mbps 55 ft
802.11g 2.4Ghz 54Mbps 125 ft 10 - 20Mbps 62 ft
802.11n 2.4Ghz 600Mbps 230 ft 40 - 50Mbps 88 ft
802.11ac 5Ghz 1.3Gbps 115 ft 70 - 100Mbps 55 ft

*Based on real-world factors that are dependant on your environment.