This morning Ars Technica posted the most useful article I’ve ever read about Wi-Fi problems, by Jim Salter. It answered questions I’ve had for a long time.
- How can my wireless router claims 1300 Mbps speeds when my 100 Mbps Ethernet connection is clearly so much faster?
- Why does the network lock up when there are a lot of devices attached?
- Is buying a “louder” router really the best solution to the interference from other networks in my building?
I learned more about Wi-Fi in this one article than the last several years combined. Some highlights for me:
- Advertised wireless router speeds report a totally theoretical maximum transfer rate from the router to all connected devices. The actual speed to a single device, even in ideal real-world conditions, is usually less than a tenth of the advertised speed – which is why Ethernet is still so much faster and more reliable.
- Only one device can “speak” on a Wi-Fi channel at a time. That’s not just within your network but for all devices within “earshot.” This means a powerful router isn’t just causing interference in the “radio static” sense: It’s also one more caller on a crowded party line to every device that can hear it on that channel.
- The future is about less power, not more. New Wi-Fi mesh products create your home network with a collection of low-powered access points instead of one high-powered access point, giving each device less competition when trying to speak on the local wireless channel.
I definitely recommend you read the full article, which is very accessible but covers a lot more ground than this, and in more detail.