Recommended Reading: Wi-Fi

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.

Questions like:

  • 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.

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