Why is My Wireless Download Speed so Slow?

[Edit] I have changed my ISP from Century Link DSL to Comcast/Xfinity cable due to the high speed they offer, which required a new cable modem. Unfortunately, the modem is not wifi enabled, thus I purchase a new wireless router. With all that, I no longer have the router described in the original article.

[Edit 2] Although the information in the original article is helpful, it is out of date and I suggest you review it to familiarize yourself with the terminology, etc., but I do not support the article’s accuracy in any way.

Understand that your download speed and upload speed change regularly and the cause could be one or more of 50 issues, from a bad cable (coax or Cat5e or 6,) router settings, modem settings, PC settings, browser, and so on.

ISP Throttling

Throttling is the intentional slowing of your Internet speed by your Internet provider. They all dismiss the notion, yet they all do it. Particularly on certain days of the week (Saturdays and Sundays) and certain hours (during weekdays between 6pm and midnight roughly.) Further, if you and your 30 neighbors are all using Comcast, for example, you are all sharing the bandwidth, which is split up so everyone has some.

How Can I Test My Speed?

I have an iPhone app called Speedtest by OOKLA, which I believe is free and it is available for both iOS and Android. Download it and see what it shows. Run it at 2pm on a Tuesday or Thursday and again at 8pm. You’ll see the difference. Also, there are many sites that you can visit, which offer speed testing. I use Testmy.net on my PC and Speedtest on my phone. My PC is wired and my phone is WiFi. Guess which is faster? The wired of course. Both the phone/tablet app and the Web site enable you to keep a log of your upload and download speeds and they compare you to your city, your state, the country, etc., so you can see your speed as a percentage of the average person in your state, or whatever.

Understand What You are Paying For

You get what you pay for. If you’re on the $19.95/month plan, then your upload and download speeds are slow. If you’re on the $80/month plan, then your speeds are faster than the $19.95 plan – all the time. That is, even though your upload and download speeds still slow down during high-use days and times, it is still faster than the $19.95/month plan. Check with your ISP and ask them what speed you have, if you don’t know. And pay attention to the terminology that the ISPs use for speeds when talking to them and what they say on their commercials. “54 “meg” download for only $29.99″ sounds great until you understand that it’s not megabytes (MB) they are talking about, which we are all used to hearing; they are talking about megabits.

An Example and Explanation of Mbps versus Mb/s

Here’s an example. Right now Century Link is offering “Connection speeds up to 40 Mbps in select areas” and if you are in one of the selected areas, Century Link (or whomever you choose to use) will tell you that you get 40 “meg” download, which is great! Right? Wrong, because Mbps is megabits per second, not Mb/s, which is Megabytes per second. If you’re downloading a file that is 1 gigabyte (GB) at 40 Mbps it would take how long? Thinking Megabytes per second, which is what the Internet providers infer by using the term “meg” (“meg” has always meant megabyte) and there are 1000 megabytes in a GB, then it should take roughly 25 seconds to download the 1GB file! Woo hoo! That’s damn fast! But wait, you don’t have 40 megabytes per second. You have 40 megabits per second. So, how many megabits are in a megabyte? There are 8 megabits per megabyte, which makes your 40 “meg” download speed, more like 5 meg per second. Much slower download speed, isn’t it?  So, your file is 1GB (1000 megabytes) and your download speed is 5 megabytes per second, so your real download time for that 1GB file is 3.5 minutes. That is IF, IF, your speed is at 40Mbps. The actual download speed is typically lower than what you bought. Read the fine print and it is actually “up to” 40Mbps. Figure at that speed minus bandwidth sharing, minus throttling, minus Xbox games online, minus your significant other on their iPad, you will probably have around 18 to 20 megabits per second download speed, if that, which is roughly 2 megabytes download speed. Right this second, my wife is watching something on Netflix via WiFi through our Xbox and my kids are each on their tablet or phone. My speed test app on my iPhone (WiFi of course) is, I’m not joking here, 2.25Mbps and my upload speed is 5.83Mbps. I use Comcast and my speeds I’m paying for are something like 70Mbps download speed. Now, the wired PC speeds: 45Mbps download and 6.5Mbps upload. My WiFi is super slow. So, if you can wire your Xbox or PS to the router instead of using WiFi, you will have much faster speeds. The ISPs don’t even advertise their upload speeds, only their “ultra-fast 40 “meg” download” speeds are advertised.

Call your ISP and ask them what the fastest download speed you can buy is and when they tell you “40 meg!” say “Is that 40 Megabytes per second or is that 40 Megabits per second.” Betcha they don’t know. But, now you do.

I hope this helps. I’ll leave the info below in case it is useful to someone.

How can I improve my WiFi download speed?

I looked all over for an answer as to why my wireless download speeds were so slow, but could not find any information. I posted to a tech forum and was told what to do. I hope you find this helpful.

I have a few iPhones, an Android tablet, and an xBox that is wireless. Recently I noticed that my download speeds for all of my wireless devises was very slow. For example, streaming Netflix to my xBox would reusult in the buffering (or loading) spinning circle every 30 seconds or so. The download speed on my Android tablet and my iPhone was anywhere from 0.63Mbps to 1.93Mbps but my upload speed was between 6.67Mbps and 6.15Mbps. Exactly opposite of what I expect. That is, my upload speed should be slower than my download speed. Over 3G, my speeds were just fine, thus it must be my router.

As I stated, I Googled every term I could think of to find some information on what would cause this. I finally posted a question on Tech Support Forum and someone was kind enough to answer my question and solve my problem.

My problem was in my Wireless router settings. I have multiple devices running wireless-g and wireless-n, so I had my wireless Network Mode setting on “Mixed“.  Why wouldn’t I? I have mixed wireless devices!

To fix the issue, I was told to change my Network Mode to either Wireless-G Only or Wireless-B Only, which I did – to Wireless-G Only.

This small change fixed my problem. Why? I have no idea. It just downloads faster when set to Wireless-G Only mode. My upload speed slowed by half, but I am no longer waiting 12 minutes for an app to update and I’m no longer watching the “buffering” circle spin every 30 seconds while trying to watch Netflix on my xBox 360.

Note: The number of wireless devices connected to your home network affects speed as does the Channel that you select on the Basic Wireless Settings tab of your router Setup page. Play around with these settings and see what fits you the best.

Hope this helps!

Don't Use Mixed Mode!
Use Wireless-G Only or Wireless-B Only

Update: I have been using a second wired router in my office for a couple of years and I just updated this Linksys wireless router to be a second wireless router in my house. This greatly improves the wireless in the one area of my house that was lacking.  If there is enough interest in this, then I’ll post how I did it.

Note: My wireless signal strength from the first wireless router (across the house) is roughly -80 (dBm), whereas my upgraded router in my office is roughly -50 (dBm), so worth the time spend figuring it out for me.