A question we all have asked, and rarely seem to get properly answered! The go-to answer seems to turn it off and back on. That may help a little but typically doesn’t last too long. That’s because, like so many electronics, there are just too many variables to give a simple “one size fits all” answer. You may have heard the term IoT … or maybe you haven’t! It stands for Internet of Things and is just that, all the smart devices we have that communicate out to the internet automatically. Things like our mobile phones, laptops, desktops, printers, tablets, televisions, Blue-ray players, game consoles (think Xbox/Playstation), security cameras, Ring or Nest devices, garage doors, door locks, landscape lighting, Sonos, AV receivers, refrigerators, washers and dryers, … and the list does go on!
So how does this all work together, and what does this have to do with your speed being slow? When you subscribe to an internet provider, you agree to a speed and a monthly fee. That speed is not guaranteed, and in general, just means the speed you should expect to get under the best conditions from your modem to your provider’s servers. From the provider’s servers, you go out to the internet, where they have no control over what’s happening. Like traffic jams on a highway, speeds can be all over the place. Getting back inside your home, you likely have a modem and a router. Often times the ISP (Internet Service Provider) supplies a WiFi unit that combines the router and modem in one device. That can be convenient for you and profitable for them (you’re probably “renting” their equipment), but may not be the most optimal setup for your situation. The more devices you connect to one of this combination modem routers, the more bogged down your speeds are going to be before the data even leaves your home. The ISPs generally supply products that will meet the average needs of most users, and therefore may not be able to perform as well for users who have lots of devices.
What can you do? I am so glad you asked! The first thing you can do is a power cycle (reboot by unplugging). If you haven’t added any new devices, and your internet connection has been working fine, then simply unplugging the power to the modem and router for about one minute may resolve the issue. Also, make sure you’re paying for the speed you need – in today’s world 50Mbps (megabits per second) is at the low end for speeds. If you’ve been adding more internet-connected devices recently, you may be causing a slowdown because your router is not designed to handle the extra network traffic. Even when you aren’t actively using a device, it’s still likely communicating with your router. For example, a Ring doorbell constantly checks in with your router to make sure you will receive a notification when someone rings the doorbell. Your phone, if connected to your WiFi, is constantly checking in with the router for all those apps you have to see if there are updates, notifications, etc. So you probably need to invest in a higher quality router. Often times we recommend people look at the starting price range of a few hundred dollars, and it can go up from there depending on your network needs. Beyond upgrading your router, there are environmental variables to be aware of. Appliances, cordless home phones, neighbor’s WiFi, and other devices may be interfering with your WiFi signal, especially in the 2.4Ghz range. This is why you now see the option of 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz for your WiFi. 2.4Ghz is a strong, long-range signal, while 5Ghz is faster, but not as strong. 5Ghz is also less likely to be susceptible to interference (there is more to this with regards to channels that we don’t have time for today). So while some may say always connect to the 5Ghz signal, just remember that it may not be the best connection for your situation.
WiFi also gets so much talk that people often don’t realize that a physical connection is probably your very best option. I have had people ask me not to connect their television directly to their router because they have been told they need to connect it with WiFi! A wired connection is always going to be faster and more reliable than a wireless one. I personally have as many of my internet connected devices directly wired so that the WiFi signal doesn’t have as much traffic, and that has resulted in a higher internet speed in my home, giving me a true 4k signal consistently to my TVs, printer (never had an issue printing over the network!) and security cameras that are always just up and running.