You are watching a movie and it buffers. You are playing a game and it is lagging. You just got kicked off your Zoom call. When this happens, most people will do a speed test to see how their Internet is working. But do you know what a speed test really does?
First, a speed test rarely tests your Internet speed. It is testing how fast the tested device can access the Internet. There are many factors to consider when trying to test your Internet speed.
If you really don’t care about the details, I’ll start with the best way of doing a speed test. Then I’ll explain some basic wireless network information to help you optimize your home Internet.
The best way to test your Internet speed is at the router level. Most newer routers have apps you can download that will let you test your Internet speed from the router. We recommend making sure nobody on the network is streaming or doing other intensive downloading while doing the test. If your router does not have a speed testing app, we recommend testing with a newer computer connected to the router using an ethernet cable. Reboot your computer and do a test using www.speedtest.net. For windows users, we recommend downloading the speedtest.net windows app from the windows store. The app will give better results being it does not have the overhead of a web browser. If you are using an older or entry level router, the internet port on the router may be locked to 100mbps. If this is the case, you will never get a speed test higher than that. We have also seen some issues with Quality of Service (QOS) settings on some more advanced routers. We recommend turning QOS off when using our higher-level plans. Finally, reboot your router and computer and try again.
Speed testing with wireless devices is not an accurate way to get total speed. A speed test on a wireless device will report the maximum speed of the individual wireless device. There are three primary wireless modes N, AC, and AX. N is the oldest and is for the 2.4ghz and 5ghz bands. AC is for the 5ghz band. AX is for both the 2.4ghz and 5ghz bands. These modes are backwards compatible, so a new AX router will support N and AC devices. Your speeds are determined by the lowest device. If you connect an N device to a new AX router that device will only get N speeds. Things get even more complicated with channel sizes (20mhz, 40mhz, 80mhz) and number of streams/chains. Once again, the lowest common denominator rule is in effect. If your router supports 80mhz channels and your device only supports 20mhz channels, you’ll only get 20mhz speeds. To simplify, we are assuming the wireless device is a 2×2 chain device. We are also assuming that the 2.4ghz is using 20mhz channels and the 5ghz is using 80mhz channels. These are the most common settings out of the box.
Using an AC router with the 2.4ghz radio you can expect speeds of 45-70* mbps.
Using an AC router with the 5ghz radio you can expect speeds of 260 – 560* mbps.
Using an AX router with the 2.4ghz radio you can expect speeds of 170-480* mbps.
Using an AX router with the 5ghz radio you can expect speeds of 360-800* mbps.
Remember even if you have an AX router, if you are using an AC device, you will only get the AC speeds.
*When dealing with wireless there are a lot of variables to consider. Distance from the router, interference from other devices, obstacles between the device and router, etc. Introducing wireless extenders or mesh units also impacts speed in both a positive or negative way depending on configuration. The above maximum speeds will only be obtained under optimal conditions.