It’s that time of year when a lot of families buy new tech toys. New tablets, new smartphones, new smart TVs, new streaming boxes (e.g. Roku, Chromecast), and other toys. With added tech toys in your home comes an added burden to your Internet bandwidth and your router.
You typically have a limited amount of bandwidth from your provider. Bandwidth is often called “speed” but it’s a little different than just speed. Bandwidth is “how much data can flow at its maximum speed at one time.” If you are downloading a file, a faster Internet speed will not necessarily make the file download quicker. But if you are downloading a file while streaming on four smart TVs at the same time, proper bandwidth ensures that the file comes in as fast as possible while those four smart TVs continue streaming without a hiccup. Too low of bandwidth will mean that either the download will be slower or one or more of the streams will buffer, pause, or drop to a lower resolution.
Think of two roads — one with a single lane and one with multiple lanes. At low traffic (i.e. few devices), the cars in the single lane can probably move along as quickly as those on the multiple lane road. But as traffic increases (i.e. more devices, doing more things online), the single lane road will become congested and traffic will move slower while the multiple lane road will have enough capacity to handle all of the cars without them having to slow down.
So when you add those new tech toys, they will be sharing the bandwidth your existing devices are using. And depending what type of applications those devices run, how far from the Wi-Fi signal those device(s) will be, and the age/type of router you use, you may need to increase your bandwidth/speed in order for all of your devices to perform properly. The age/type of your router might also affect the performance of your new devices (or the old ones after you add some new ones). Newer devices have the technology to send data at faster speeds, provided that your router is also capable. If not, your new device may not perform at its best. Similarly, an older router might not be very efficient in its communication if you have a mix of old and new devices.
You may not have any issues when adding new devices to your current mix of connected devices. Your new devices might connect and work seamlessly alongside everything else and your current bandwidth might be plenty for the devices you’re using and possible more. We hope they do! We just want to point out that when you add new devices, it is perhaps the most common time to have hiccups and problems. Very often, the problem is with the speed/bandwidth you subscribe to (not enough for all your devices and what they are doing online) or your router (too old or the wrong type to efficiently communicate with all your devices).
Things you can do:
A) Call your Internet provider and let them know you plan to add new devices (and what kind) and they can help determine whether your current plan and your current router will be fine or if you should think about making changes.
- They may suggest a faster speed (more bandwidth) so your devices perform at their best
- They may suggest a newer router if your current router uses an outdated signal type or if it is not fast enough to properly handle your newly added devices.
- They may also suggest adding a “Wi-Fi Extender” to your home to improve the signal strength to any devices whose signal seems to be diminishing. The better the Wi-Fi signal, the faster a device will perform.
B) Hard-wire non-mobile devices — especially those that will take a large share of bandwidth — including smart TVs, streaming boxes and game systems. Taking them off your Wi-Fi connection will mean less wireless congestion and better performance for those still using Wi-Fi. Also, there is typically some speed loss from the modem/router to a wireless device. The further the device and more interference, the more speed is lost. The speed loss is very minimal (basically non-existent) when you directly connect a device to the router. You do this by running ethernet (cat-5) wire from the back of your router (ports 1-4) to the back of the device. You can buy ethernet cords from most electronics and home improvement stores. TCC can also make ethernet cords to whatever length you need.
There are even special adapters called Powerline Adapters “hard wire” a device to your router through your house electrical wiring in cases where you can’t reach the router or don’t wish to go through walls and floors. You buy at least two Powerline adapters and plug one into a power outlet by your router and connect it to your router with an ethernet cord. Then you place other Powerline adapters wherever you want to connect a device with a hardline. Just plug the Powerline adapter into an electrical outlet and then connect it to the device with ethernet.
C) Consider removing/replacing old devices. Adding new devices to your home can make the limitations of older devices more apparent. Routers can really only “talk” to one device at a time (they just do it very quickly). When you have an older device and a newer device, the router has to slow down to talk to an older device which increases the wait time before it gets to the new device — making you think the new device is “slow” when really it’s just waiting to get the router’s attention.