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A wireless connection should be capable of the same speeds as a wired connection. I look at both distance and hardware as possible culprits in slowing down a system.

Hi, Leo. My problem is that I'm paying about $55/month for FIOS internet from Frontier and I'm supposed to be getting 25 Mbps both up and down. On the desktop computer that's hard wired to the router, I am getting this speed. At least in download: 25 Mbps plus, although the upload is only about 13 to 14. I can live with that. The problem is that on my other desktop and my laptop (both of which are connected wirelessly), I'm only getting speeds of around 2.5 to 3 megabits per second. Since those two machines are the ones I use the most, I need to get the higher speeds on them or else I'm just wasting money. I've been having a lot of trouble lately trying to view videos on the laptop, which is running Vista. Though the other desktop wirelessly connected also, it seems to run the videos fine. Can you help? If I can't get these sped up, I might as well try to find a cheaper connection just to save some money.

In this excerpt from Answercast #32, I look at a system where the wireless router is not delivering the same speeds as an ethernet cord.

Wireless slower than line connection

So, clearly, you've already isolated the problem to the wireless connection.

My belief is that your wireless access point is somehow throttling what's going on. I'm going to assume that you have a wireless access point and wireless network adapters that are capable of the faster 54 Mbps 802.11 (I think it's "N" that does that).

  • The wireless connection, in theory, should be faster than your download speed.

Somehow, for some reason, the wireless connection itself is the throttle point. It's the choke point here.

Distance

What you haven't indicated is how far away from the wireless access point your machines are. Distance absolutely impacts speed. The stronger the signal is, the faster that signal can be used to transfer data.

So the very first thing I would do is take your laptop, locate it next to your wireless access point, and see if that makes any kind of tangible difference to the download speeds that you're seeing.

Hardware problems

Assuming that it does not, I would then start suspecting hardware.

  • At this point, I would start suspecting the wireless point, itself, of simply not being up to the job.

It might be time to investigate getting a higher quality access point that can operate efficiently at those higher speeds.

Realize that, until just recently, wireless access points could get away with slowish speeds – because people's internet speeds weren't that fast. Even now, at that 25 Mbps down connection... I'm quite jealous. I don't have that. Most people don't. It's unfortunate, but that's just the way it is.

That means that the wireless access point (and hardware manufacturers) can kinda sorta get away with not providing the absolute fastest abilities in their hardware.

Now, obviously as we all start to speed up slowly, that has kinda changed. I know that one of the things that can vary dramatically from manufacturer to manufacturer is, in fact, the speed of the device itself – how fast it can run.

Faster wireless

Unfortunately, I don't have a specific recommendation for you. I actually don't know what hardware you're running right now; but the thing that I would look into is:

  • Make sure that both – the wireless access point you have – and the wireless adapters in your laptop and on your desktop PC (the one that's connected wirelessly),

  • are actually, not only, rated to run at those higher speeds,

  • but are capable of running at those higher speeds.

Other than that, I don't really have any good suggestions but that's the very first thing comes to mind.

Article C5552 - July 5, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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3 Comments
Ken
July 6, 2012 10:25 AM

Hi Leo, you forgot to mention one thing: Changing the channel that the wireless router broadcasts on can make a huge difference. When I first set up to stream video from my computer to my multimedia player (attached to TV) I found that depending on what channel I set on the wireless router, the speed would vary from 450 kbps to 9000 kbps. I made note of the fastest two or three channels and if I ever have interference on one, I switch to one of the other, takes only a few seconds (but have really only had to that once every 6 months or so). Hope this helps.

brian
July 6, 2012 10:36 AM

I have just problem solved a similar situation. Bottom line, my wireless laptop is typically used in an area of the house that is bombarded by electrical interference. My router / modem is in the basement on the north side of the house and my laptop is used on the main floor / kitchen, living room area. The signal strength gets beaten down with interference (aluminum duct work, wireless phones, microwave oven, other wireless devices etc) thereby negating my download speeds.
Go to http://www.metageek.net/products/inssider/?utm_expid=190328-1&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.metageek.net%2F and download this tool (inSSIDer). Install it on your laptop and roam around your house. Watch as your wireless signal improves and decreases based upon the levels of interference you encounter room by room. This will help you to understand where to relocate your modem / router.

Robert R
July 9, 2012 2:52 PM

Inssider is a great tool. I used it and discovered a neighbor's wifi would come on using the same channel I was (I'm guessing his auto channel selection was turned off) and it was causing all kinds of insidious problems (speed, losing my connection). Changed my wifi to a different channel and voila, no more problems.

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