Freshening up a home network can yield big bandwidth benefits

One of the funny things about being a PC enthusiast, for me, is how there’s a constant ebb and flow of little projects that I end up tackling. At one point, I may be busy updating and tuning my HTPC, and shortly after that’s finished, I’m on to something else. One way or another, it seems I’m almost always trying to fix or improve something.

My project lately has been optimizing my home network. By nature, my hardware testing work requires me to move lots of data around, whether it’s deploying images to test rigs, downloading new games from Steam, or uploading videos to YouTube. I’ve noticed that I spend quite a bit of time waiting on various data transfer operations. Within certain limits, that’s probably an indicator that some money could be well spent on an upgrade.

The first step in the process was getting my cable modem service upgraded. I’m too far out in the ‘burbs to partake of the goodness of Google Fiber happening in downtown Kansas City, so I’m stuck with Time Warner Cable.

For a while, I’d been paying about 60 bucks a month for Road Runner "Turbo" cable modem service with a 15Mbps downstream and a 1Mbps upstream. We use a host of ‘net based services like Netflix and Vonage, along with the aforementioned work traffic and hosting a Minecraft server for my kids, so both the upstream and downstream were feeling sluggish at times.

Time Warner Cable’s website told me I could get 20Mbps downstream and 2Mbps upstream for $49.99 a month here in my area. There’s also an option for 30Mbps down and 5Mbps up for $59.99. I was vaguely aware that my old-ish cable modem would have to be replaced with a newer model to enable the higher speed service, so I disconnected the modem and headed to the local Time Warner store, hoping to exchange it and upgrade my service.

When I got there, the salesperson informed me I could upgrade, but insisted that I’d need to pay an additional $15 per month above my current rate in order to get 20Mbps/2Mbps service. I asked if she was sure about that and whether there were any better pricing options, but she insisted. As she typed away, beginning the service change, I pulled up the Time Warner website on my phone, attempting to get that pricing info—which was conveniently hidden on the mobile site. I fumbled for a while as she kept typing, because apparently service tier changes require a 25-page written report. Only after my third inquiry, some bluster from me, and a whole lot more typing did she decide that she could give me the $49.99 price for 20Mbps/2Mbps service.

I later talked another rep into switching me to the 30Mbps/5Mbps service for $59.99, instead. Heh.

Anyhow, I eventually came home with a rather gigantic new cable modem and, for the about same price I’d been paying before, started enjoying double the downstream bandwidth and 5X the upstream. The difference is very much noticeable in certain cases, such as Steam downloads and YouTube uploads.

I suppose the morals of this story are: 1) if you have an older cable modem, you may be able to get faster service by swapping it out for a newer one, thanks to newer DOCSIS tech, and 2) you may also be eligible for better pricing if you do some research and prod your service provider sufficiently. Don’t just take what they’re giving you now or even the newer options they’re offering to existing customers. Look into the offers they’re making to new customers, instead, and insist on the best price.

Only days after I’d posted my shiny new Speedtest.net results on Twitter, I turned my attention to our internal home network. Although I really like my Netgear WNDR3700 router, we’ve never used it to its full potential. The 5GHz band is practically empty, either due to lack of device support or range issues. Signals in that band just won’t reach reliably into most of the bedrooms, so it’s a no-go for anything mobile.

The range is great on our 2.4GHz network, but transfer rates are kind of pokey. There are many reasons for that. At the top of the list is a ridiculous number of devices connected at any given time. Between phones, tablets, PCs, and other devices, I can count 12 off the top of my head right now. There may be more.

You may be in the same boat. I didn’t plan for this; it just happened.

Also, we have a silly number of other devices throwing off interference in the 2.4GHz range, including wireless mice, game controllers, Bluetooth headsets, the baby monitor, apparently our microwave oven, and probably a can opener or something, too.

One particular client system, my wife’s kitchen PC, really needed some help. We store all of our family photos and videos on my PC, and my wife accesses them over the Wi-Fi network. As the megapixel counts for digital cameras have grown, so has her frustration. The process of pulling up thumbnails in a file viewer was excruciating.

Her system had a 2.4GHz 802.11g Wi-Fi adapter in it, which caused several problems. One was its own inherent limit of 54Mbps peak transfer rates. The other was the fact that, in order to best accommodate it and other older Wi-Fi clients, I had switched my router’s 2.4GHz Wi-Fi mode from its "Up to 130Mbps" default mode to "Up to 54Mbps"—that setting seemed to help the Kitchen PC, but at the cost of lower peak network speeds for wireless-n clients.

This problem should have been solved ages ago, but it had momentum on its side. The Kitchen PC’s motherboard had a built-in Wi-Fi adapter with a nice integrated antenna poking out of the port cluster, and I was reluctant to change it. However, a quick audit of the devices on our network revealed something important: the Kitchen PC’s 802.11g adapter was the only 802.11b/g client left on our network. Replacing its Wi-Fi adapter wouldn’t just speed up its connection; it would also allow me to experiment with the higher-bandwidth 2.4GHz modes on my router.

Once I resolved to make a change, it was like the girls from Jersey Shore: stupidly cheap and easy. I decided to measure the impact of various options by noting the speed of Windows file copy to the Kitchen PC. With its built-in 802.11g adapter, which has a stubby antenna attached, file copies averaged 2MB/s.

Ugh.

I then disabled the internal adapter and switched to an insanely tiny USB-based 802.11n adapter that I happened to have on hand. These things cost ten bucks and have zero room for an antenna, but they seem to work. I also switched the router to "Up to 130Mbps" mode on the 2.4GHz band, since the last legacy device was gone. The changes didn’t help much; copies averaged 1.88MB/s, practically the same. However, when I flipped the router into its 20/40Hz mode ("Up to 300Mbps"), transfer rates more than doubled, to 5MB/s.

Better, but not great.

To really improve, I needed to make use of that practically empty 5GHz bandwidth. As a stationary system not far from the router, the Kitchen PC was a perfect candidate. I ordered up a Netgear dual-band USB Wi-Fi adapter—20 bucks for a refurb—to make it happen. This adapter is large enough to have a decent-sized internal antenna, in addition to the dual-band capability. Once it was installed, Windows file copy speeds on the 5GHz band (in 20/40Hz mode) were a steady 14MB/s—fully seven times what they were initially. And that’s with just four of out five bars of signal strength.

There are a couple of lessons here, too, I think. First, wireless-b and -g devices are really stinkin’ old, and moving to better adapter hardware is worth the modest cost involved. Getting rid of those old clients may even help speed up your whole network. Second, if you have a dual-band router with lots of clients, make use of that 5GHz bandwidth where possible, especially on stationary systems that are in range of the base station.

Of course, the big takeaway for this entire episode was this: devoting some attention to your home network can yield some nice benefits, especially if you’ve neglected it a bit. And heck, I haven’t even started down the path to 802.11ac. Yet.

Comments closed
    • christianlez001a
    • 7 years ago
    • kathyx039x
    • 7 years ago
    • TDIdriver
    • 7 years ago

    I recently did the same at my parents’ house. After replacing the old 802.11g “Airport” and “Airport Express” that was working as a range extender with a Netgear WNDR4500 (purchased new, works flawlessly), I wasn’t seeing the performance and range I’d expected.
    We were a “Mac family” until the move away from PowerPC and have a decent collection still in use including a G4 Cube and Pismo in addition to some more recent models. Being that those two were using the original “Airport” cards which are 802.11b, I thought that might be the problem.
    After installing some TrendNet TEW-648UB/UBM adapters (which have PPC OSX drivers) in those the performance of other devices on the network improved noticeably.

    • KarateBob
    • 7 years ago

    I’ve been running gigE here at home for almost 10 years now. Where are my upgrade options???

      • End User
      • 7 years ago

      Gigabit ethernet is the big bottleneck now (120 MB/s is no longer enough). The only option you have, apart from spending a fortune on 10 GigE, is link aggregation.

    • xeridea
    • 7 years ago

    I have 2 words: Cat 6 (or 5e). Unless you have a fully finished basement/house where wiring is difficult. You the kitchen computer is not far from the router. N is decent, but nothing would compare to gigabit, and you don’t have to worry about interference or random network dropping. Also frees up the airways for laptops and other mobile devices since even if you can get decent speed from N, its a shared medium, with congestion and collisions, like the old days of hubs. Just a thought.

      • Prototyped
      • 7 years ago

      Meh 6 or 5e. 6[b<]a[/b<] please. 10[b<]G[/b<]BASE-T at up to 100 meters/yards. [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category_6_cable#Category_6a[/url<]

        • bandannaman
        • 7 years ago

        “These new global Cat. 6A/Class EA specifications require a new generation of connecting hardware offering far superior performance compared to the existing products”

        Meh. I guess I’d run it in new construction maybe.

    • albundy
    • 7 years ago

    lol, kitchen pc! seriously? in the century of tablets, its it really necessary? secondly, having any expensive electronics in a room where greasy smoke and fumes gather and settle on everything, is the last place i would want to put a pc in.

      • xeridea
      • 7 years ago

      Yes, tablets are extremely over rated. They are ok at basic web browsing, apps, and facebook, but terrible at regular computer tasks. Can you manage and edit hundreds of pictures easily on a a tablet? Use any complex web apps? Play any worthwhile games aren’t just a simplistic mind distraction? They aren’t really good for much more than your average smartphone, I see them kind of pointless, and most people that get them just want to seem high tech and feel cool, but they have limited usefulness.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      First of all, Scott built it before the iPad popularized tablets. Second, it’s his wife’s PC (yes, people made jokes about the wife’s PC being in the kitchen :p) so she doesn’t just do simple tablet tasks on it.

      • asdzxc57
      • 7 years ago

      Oh course a kitchen PC. I have a 42″ flat screen on the wall. I can can flip it to the PC and watch netflix or display recipes. A wireless keyboard/mouse and you don’t even know the PC is in the kitchen. I would never trade it for a tablet.

      • CoWBoY
      • 7 years ago

      I too have a kitchen pc. 1) The reasons mentioned previously as for recipes. 2) Why not enjoy a movie, internet and such while cooking? 3) So I can easily monitor the kids while they are doing their homework /or making sure they aren’t doing anything stupid.

      So yes, my old repurposed gaming pc continues to exist as a media server/kitchen pc. Would love an all-in-one, though this old Intel P4/P4C800-E w/6800GT OC does the job well still for being 13yrs old now. =)

    • kathyes7309
    • 7 years ago
    • Sahrin
    • 7 years ago

    Wireless Router/AP roundup, please.

    Ideal areas of focus:

    Heavy loads (Bittorrent, Multiple clients, etc)
    Response time through router (test without the router, with the router, wireless versus wired, etc)
    Thermal performance (ie, do they heat up and fail/throttle themselves?)

    • Freon
    • 7 years ago

    I added an 8 port gigabit switch a few years back and I’m happy I did. Wireless routers with gig ports were still a bit pricey at the time and 4 wired ports wasn’t quite enough for expansion. It just hangs off my wireless router now.

    These days with standard hard drives that can write at 80-120MB/s normal 100mbit isn’t enough. Network file copies were too slow so I had to upgrade.

    Still need to hop on the dual band MIMO bandwagon for my wireless, but I don’t quite have the need yet. I think my current is 108mbps whatever g/n at 2.4ghz only, and my tablet and old laptop aren’t really hurting on network speed.

    • judoMan
    • 7 years ago

    Damage, you’re in KC, right? I wonder if the Google FIOS rollout has affected Time Warner’s pricing structure. I am a Time Warner subscriber in San Diego, and we have nothing approaching the speeds you were offered.

    • anotherengineer
    • 7 years ago

    Ewwww wireless, it has it’s purpose.

    I have my main rigs on the wire, the NAS also. I enjoy the 80-105 MB/s transfer speed (read or write)

    Only thing on wireless is the laptop. I only have it set to “G” speeds, testing on speedtest, gives me about 15 Mbits/s down (actual connection speed from ISP is 40 Mbit/s, which can stream netflix no prob.

    My desktop will routinely get 38-39 Mbit/s down and 1.95 Mbit/s up (ISP package 40 & 2) I am not happy about the 2 Mbit/s up though, I would prefer 10 up πŸ™

      • xeridea
      • 7 years ago

      Sad that the US is so far behind, Europe and Korea had higher speeds years ago, for cheaper.

        • Vaughn
        • 7 years ago

        Very true but you cannot compare Europe and korea to north america.

        There is a huge difference in land mass and density of the cities. And the biggest factor they make internet a priority. While the US government is more concerned about buying F35 jets and spending billions on elections and suing grandma for sharing 4 songs on the internet.

    • unmake
    • 7 years ago

    I have two of those refurbed Netgear adapters, and they both crapped out within six months – they (or their drivers) actually managed to crash my Windows 7 desktops πŸ™ – ‘egg reviews show similar experiences.

    Replaced them with Rosewill RNX-N600UBE, which Newegg periodically features as a daily deal. Seems solid so far.

    • Aphasia
    • 7 years ago

    Just to straight things out a bit with regards to jumbo frames, if you actually want to experiment with it, please do, but do not that you need end-to-end support for it to be effective, and it’s quite common that say a netgear switch, an intel nic and an realtek nic have 3 different sizes for what they consider maximum MTU. TCP and path mtu discovery should take care of differences, but there are times when support on some routers can be spotty.

    Now for the pickle, at a time when you didnt have proper offloading on the NIC, it could save CPU calculating checksums, etc on packets and only sending one packet instead of 4, but today when you have asics on the nics doing the lifting, you can easily achieve wirespeed utilization, or as close to it as possible considering headers, etc on a properly configured network on the normal 1500 MTU.

    That is… about 115-120MB/s or 98-99% utilization. Nowdays mechanical disks can often work up into this range so using gigabit is having a good impact.

    For me personally, I run with a 4x2TB raid 5 array in my fileserver where most of my data resides, the only things I keep on a local drive is fraps’ed video, downloading things and installed programs. The rest is done in real time from my server, even working with lightroom and 5D mk2 images. Am I using Jumbo, no, I tried it, compared the transfer speeds compared to usual ones, also ran into one of the caveats above with path mtu over a router and different sizes on nics and switch, found no significant different and turned it off again.

    Although there is also a few other caveats to note. Media applications and the windows multimedia schedular. Before win 7 this limited bandwidth in one direction of transfer usage at any time you had a media application running, this included steam/wmp/etc. Had to be disabled. Win 7 seems better on this.

    There is also at times certain problems with running the windows fileservices on heavy usage since if misconfigured you can “freezes” during heavy loads and multiple streams, etc. Kindof spotty at times, but when it works, it works just fine.

    Here was a decent article comparing use of Jumbo vs. Non Jumbo in different scenarious.
    [url<]http://www.boche.net/blog/index.php/2011/01/24/jumbo-frames-comparison-testing-with-ip-storage-and-vmotion/[/url<]

    • marvelous
    • 7 years ago

    Is 50mbits down and 56 mbits up good?

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      I’d say it’s pretty sufficient for 2012

      • Krogoth
      • 7 years ago

      That is in the 90-95 percentile range.

      In other words, you have better internet connectivity speed than 90-95% of the userbase.

      Your speed is quite phenomenal for personal connections.

        • marvelous
        • 7 years ago

        I’m in Korea though. It’s average here.

          • Krogoth
          • 7 years ago

          I was referring to the global population. πŸ˜‰

    • chelsie09xmarie
    • 7 years ago
    • th3t1ck
    • 7 years ago

    Surprised not to see anything about pulling wires here. I recently dropped Cat-6e around the house. Have a couple access points at opposite corners with DD-WRT, but the wired network is the thing. Alot of the thinking is to future proof the network for when UHDTV is set, I’ll have lines capable of supporting a 10Gbit ethernet.

    • ZGradt
    • 7 years ago

    And for the cost of a fast wireless adapter (or less), you can get a fast wireless router that supports one of the open source firmwares instead and put it into bridging mode. I have a couple of 5Ghz bridges for Xbox and Raspberry Pis and other stuff connected to TV’s. And the desktop I can’t be bothered to run a cable to. I use 2.4 Ghz for all my mobile stuff, mainly because they don’t support 5Ghz.

    Also, I found a problem with a switch I recently installed. I couldn’t figure out why it was transferring so slow. I discovered that it didn’t like the trusty cat5 ethernet cable I was using. I guess some devices will do 1Gbps over cat5, but some won’t? I swapped with the one I was using for the Xbox, since it’s limited to 100mbit anyway…

    • LoneWolf15
    • 7 years ago

    I’ve been doing my project around the same time, Scott.

    Ran out of router ports downstairs. Added a Netgear 8port gig switch.
    Realized my upstairs Netgear 8-port switch (trunked off the router) was 100TX. Replaced with a Netgear 5port gig switch (there for the media streamer and the Tivo).
    Realized my trusty-but-aging Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH router was starting to hold things back. Got compulsive. Went and got an ASUS RT-AC66 router. Despite one issue (ASUS reserves port 443 for one of their own onboard apps, which was a pain), huge wireless speed boost there, I can run some things on 2.4GHz, and also make the 5GHz band N-only.

    I’ll be doing additional testing on the wired side, but I’m sure I’ll see some real improvement there too. The only older piece of equipment I kept was a Buffalo wireless-N bridge/4-port 100TX switch unit, as there’s very little if any others like it on the market, and it still works well with the ASUS router. My wife’s desktop and our color laser are connected to it.

    • Jakubgt
    • 7 years ago

    12 down at $70/month with Comcast. My only other option is satellite internet, which isn’t that great either. Does anyone else have this problem?

    Google please save us from this monopoly.

      • absurdity
      • 7 years ago

      I’m with you. Comcast is my best option. DSL is available, maximum of 3Mbps last I checked.

    • entropy13
    • 7 years ago

    LOL yeah, our router is very old that none of our phones can connect to it anymore (well actually, it can connect but internet connectivity suddenly disappears and the router doesn’t know what to do anymore LOL), just the laptop and iPod touch.

    • jonjonjon
    • 7 years ago

    you work for a tech site and had a DOCSIS 2.0 modem with 15 down 1 up this whole time? its almost 2013 not 2009.

      • gamoniac
      • 7 years ago

      Everyone’s priority is different at home and at work. To redicule him would be to discourage him from sharing his true experience. He could just as easily set the whole story up as extending a helping hand to a friend. Besides, being an enthusiast does not mean one has to have the latest and greatest tech.

        • ratborg
        • 7 years ago

        If he’s like me it’s like the old saying about everyone’s car working on the block where the car mechanic lives except his own.

      • cynan
      • 7 years ago

      DOCSIS 2.0 is plenty fast for most home users. After all, if your ISP has their end configured properly, you can push 30 down on DOCSIS 2. My old cheapo RCA DOCSIS 2.0 modem does up to 30 Mbps no problem (aside from during peak usage periods). That’s 3.5+ MB/s…

      But yeah, fiber would be nice. I wish Google fiber was everywhere, and not just Kansas City and Stanford University…

      • jsfetzik
      • 7 years ago

      Sometimes you don’t have a choice. There are still parts of the fairly well to do suburb of Chicago I live in that are not served by cable and the best internet they can get is 768Kbps DSL. Yikes!

      • absurdity
      • 7 years ago

      You know he doesn’t host the site, right?

    • Philldoe
    • 7 years ago

    Though this is not an option for eveyone, I had my entire home wired with ethernet. I have one plug in every room in the house except the kitchen. The few devices I have on the wireless end being a Blackberry Bold 9900, Blackberry Playbook, and Asus TF300 Tablet all are on the n side. Sadly my old Linux laptop does not have an 802.11n network card, but it does have 10/100/1000 NIC so it usually sits on an end table with a cable sticking out of it. I really would like to buy a new laptop, but I’m so picky about hardware that I can’t find one that suits me.

    • excession
    • 7 years ago

    You should come and live in the UK…

    HD Cable TV, phone, and “100Mbps” internet is costing me about $80/month in your dollars

    [url<]http://www.speedtest.net/result/2388199955.png[/url<]

      • Chrispy_
      • 7 years ago

      You poor bastard, you’re on Virgin Media. Just pray to all the deities you can think of that nothing ever goes wrong, because when it does, you’re in the hands of world-class incompetence.

        • excession
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah I know – a shiny BT Fibre cabinet has just appeared at the end of my road though so might be heading back to Sky/BT in a year or so! TiVo not all it was cracked up to be…

      • Mourmain
      • 7 years ago

      Pshaw, the UK is so 2008… 150 Mbps (+HDTV and telephone) for 26$/month in Romania.

        • MyK
        • 7 years ago

        Yes yes, Romania is so advanced the Internet waits for you…

    • pogsnet
    • 7 years ago
      • Flying Fox
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]For Security? You don't need uber dupper uncrackable PW (it can still be), just make Enable Hidden Wireless/SSID Broadcast along with typical WPA/WPA2 passphrase.[/quote<] Still living in 2005-7? [url<]http://www.zdnet.com/blog/ou/wireless-lan-security-myths-that-wont-die/454[/url<] [url<]http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/28653/debunking-myths-is-hiding-your-wireless-ssid-really-more-secure/[/url<]

        • jonjonjon
        • 7 years ago

        you really think anyone cares enough about your home network to try cracking your wireless pw? even if they did what are they going to do? is your neighbor going to download some porn on your network? its not like you cant just look and see what devices have connected to your router.

          • Flying Fox
          • 7 years ago

          [url<]http://www.thetfp.com/tfp/general-discussion/41183-man-arrested-wardriving-child-porn.html#axzz2Frww188W[/url<] Easy tools are out there even your SSID is hidden, and you may be blocking your own usage with devices that cannot use hidden SSIDs. Not every one knows how to check which devices are connected. Heck, not all router firmware will show you that.

    • jabro
    • 7 years ago

    You have TWO cable providers servicing in your area?!?! Perhaps the real lesson from this story is that consumers would be a lot better off if there was more competition in the broadband market place. In my town, we only have Cox cable and AT&T DSL, with no hope of getting AT&T UVerse or Verizon FiOS in my life time. Cox is the only game in town if you want decent bandwidth.

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    OK, you guys are messing with the fabric of the universe. This story gets posted, and just this very evening the wall-wart transformer that powers my home router starts to overheat and the home router falls into a reboot loop. Fortunately I had a compatible power supply and the router is back up & operating OK… but you guys really need to stop jinxing me here!

      • BIF
      • 7 years ago

      No way, dude!

      We tapped into the part of the universe’s fabric that is woven with good karma.

      Honestly, if we hadn’t, you might not have noticed this and your house could have burned down!

    • Flying Fox
    • 7 years ago

    Powerline networking may also be something to think about, especially if you have long distances to cover and/or high interference. My 2nd floor router cannot get to the basement reliably resulting in games dropping out and all the really unpleasant experiences. While the house is old with crappy wiring, at least I am getting steady ~10-15Mbps speeds once switched to Powerline. The most important thing is that it is [i<]stable[/i<].

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Aye, even though N networks are comptible with b/g devices they’re terribly slow. Just having a b/g device try to connect to the N access point usually results in all the other N clients getting knocked down to a slower speed or the N or b/g clients wont stay connected and disconnect each other.

    I’ve had to deal with this before and I’ve found one of the best ways to deal with old devices (if there is more then one) is simply buying a separate router for them. You can get them for like $10 and simply set one at the other end of the house for b/g and set the other one for N only connections. Makes sure they’re seperated by like five channels too and you’re good to go.

    You can even subsidize a newer router upgrade doing this. People don’t seem to realize what a huge upgrade going from G to N is too. N made massive improvements in wireless tech compared to a/b/g.

    Weirdly so, you can haggle with ISPs as Scott noted. I really don’t know how or why this came about, but it’s entirely possible to get the introductory rate every month for as long as you have service simply by calling them up and saying you want it. If they tell you no, tell them you’ll switch ISPs. It’s important to note that you have to follow through if they don’t actually reduce your price, so keep that in mind. The longer you wait after your rates have been jacked up, the more effort it takes to get them to change your pricing plan. I guess that goes to show you how much retaining a customer is worth to them.

    We actually have a pretty good ISP in our area (Charter). When their service plans change to a faster one, they upgrade you to them without you having to do anything. That isn’t the way it goes for most ISPs. So in addition to haggling your price, you should most definitely call if there is a better package available for what you’re paying. Most ISPs will simply let you sit at your old speed.

    • Game_boy
    • 7 years ago

    In the UK, live right next to an exchange, yet max is 2Mbps down. Monopolies suck. I can switch provider in name only, but speed wouldn’t improve and my family stupidly uses ISP email.

    • spuppy
    • 7 years ago

    Out in rural Hong Kong, the fastest internet available to me is 8 Mbps down. When my contract is up, I will look into LTE based home internet, but I am worried about bandwidth limitations that way :\

    Edit: Looked it up and most will engage the “fair use policy” at 5GB, meaning one football game and I “will be given lower priority to access the network resources, where the Customer’s experience may be affected when the network traffic is busy”

    Wonder if it’s worth the risk

      • Flying Fox
      • 7 years ago

      I would say no. Cell connections also get interrupted from time to time, resulting in dropped calls (I know people with SmarTone “home phone” using cell network and the coverage is not great in the area to begin with).

        • spuppy
        • 7 years ago

        My PCCW 3G connection is actually much more stable and reliable than my PCCW landline here. In fact, I use it when I want to download something more quickly, as I can get 8-10 Mbps out of it while I am lucky if I get 5-7 Mbps from my land line.

          • Flying Fox
          • 7 years ago

          Nice of you to have that stability. Go for it then. The 5 gigs “soft cap” can be annoying though.

            • spuppy
            • 7 years ago

            I asked in a local forum, and one person responded and said they do about 15GB a month and the speed never drops despite a warning each time

            That is encouraging! We’ll see how it goes

    • willmore
    • 7 years ago

    What was your old cable modem and what is the new one?

    I redid my wireless network a while back and split it into a WPA2-EAP/TLS 40MHz n only network and a legacy WPA2-PSK 20MHz b/g/n for anyone who can’t live on the other network. It made a huge difference for almost all devices. I think I’m down to one g-only device. Once that’s gone, the ‘legacy’ network will go n-only. That network also serves as the guest network most of the time as few devices are easy to configure EAP-TLS on. PCs cope, but no iOS nor Android device I’ve tried ever got it right.

    • BIF
    • 7 years ago

    “…and heck, I haven’t even started down the path to 802.11ac. Yet.”

    It may be time you started thinking about it. I upgraded my router earlier this year to the big Netgear that supports it. That was back in June/July.

      • Damage
      • 7 years ago

      Heh. That path is currently lined with gold bricks, innit?

      • davidbowser
      • 7 years ago

      I got a couple Buffalotech 802.11ac routers (setup as access points) because I got sick of replacing cheap APs and cheap WNICs. I had upgraded B to G to N and still had random issues because I always seemed to cheap out and get what I paid for. After installing the new Buffalotech APs, I have been solid in every room of the house (old house with lots of stone and thick walls). The worst connection still gets better than 11 Mbps.

      I didn’t think it was going to make as much of a difference as it has, but I also think it has to do with the good MIMO antenna design. The old cheap ones I had were pretty crappy antenna-wise.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah, cheaping out on some things just isn’t worth it. I got a DGL4500 long ago and it’s still going strong. I did get a decent price on it but it was still at least 2x the cheapest of the decent routers.

        I’m not sure I’d go -ac quite yet, it’s a bit *too* new and pricey, we need more competing chipsets. I think it’s good to let things settle down with new standards too. (This despite my buying a draft -n router.)

    • sweatshopking
    • 7 years ago

    i just wish my wireless devices wouldn’t drop connection. have a number of devices, a number of routers, and the issues seem consistent across all of them. i’ll wire when i can, that’s for sure.

      • tone21705
      • 7 years ago

      I am having the exact same issue. I have tried every router at Costco and found that they all drop wireless connections randomly. While the wired connections stay. Very frustrating.

        • Bauxite
        • 7 years ago

        Consumer routers are able to use ISM for free because its ISM…not a quiet frequency by any measure.

        My <1yr old microwave will kill the bandwidth of any 2.4 in range.

        Try 5ghz, not as crowded, though generally shorter range and “anyone” can use it as well.

      • druidcent
      • 7 years ago

      I’d say review the routers.. I thought it was interference and such from various things like phones and other 2.4 GHz devices.. turned out my router was crap.. I switched to an Asus RT-N56U and it’s been working like a dream.. I’m looking into an adapter for my PC, becuase the integrated wi-fi is crap.. That’s one decision I wish I hadn’t made πŸ˜›

    • Dygear
    • 7 years ago

    Have you tried a router upgrade in a while?! I think it might be time for a home router shoot out, so you can buy a ASUS RT-AC66U and write it off on your taxes, as its for ‘testing’, yeah testing. I would try the old gard the WRT54G vs the gards from the N line of products, and finally the new AC routers that are coming out.

    I think you’ll find the ‘Dark Night’ worthy of such an auspicious name.

    • ptsant
    • 7 years ago

    I just installed Cat 6a S/FTP cable, ready for 10Gbps, but am still running a 10Mbps subscription (at a true 10Mbps, meaning 1.2 Mbytes/s). My provider offers 100 Mbps fiber for the not-so-low price of approximately $150 per month, TV and phone included, but I don’t know what I would do with 100Mbps! My 14.4kbps modem seems like yesterday…

      • Dygear
      • 7 years ago

      Dude, what won’t you do with a 100Mbps connection!? It’s likely owning 3TB HDDs you find ways to fill them up.

      • Firestarter
      • 7 years ago

      What’s not to like about 12 MB/s? Lord knows you can’t ever have too much!

    • Bauxite
    • 7 years ago

    Cable, DSL and all the other widely asymmetric crap can get bent.

    2~3:1 is alright for consumer links, but this 5~6:1 or sometimes even 10+:1 junk is a joke. It just proves how much they are overselling the real capacity.

    35/35 fios here, though it specs 40+ both ways in real use unlike almost everything else that is always ‘up to’ at best. They have a [i<]lot[/i<] higher if you want to pay through the nose, 150/75 and 300/150. I manage to keep my internet+hdtv+2 cablecards (no ripoff dvrs) bill to $94/mo after taxes with [u<]no contract[/u<]. No landline either of course, paying to get bothered during dinnertime is for the birds.

      • DancinJack
      • 7 years ago

      FiOS covers like 10 percent of the country. I’m sure if we all could have it, more people would.

        • Bauxite
        • 7 years ago

        Comcast, Cox, etc still manage to capture quite a few people that don’t know better in the same markets.

      • Shambles
      • 7 years ago

      Amen. It’s a big scam. Currently I’m getting 50/2.5. That’s an amazing 20:1 connection. I think somehow we manage to have even more corrupt ISPs up here in Canada than there are in the states.

        • Firestarter
        • 7 years ago

        I have 50/1. It used to be 16/1 but then the network got upgraded. I’m not complaining because it’s the best internet I’ve ever had, but I sure would like to be able to upload something to youtube sometime.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        I think they are…don’t lots of ISPs in Canada have atrocious data caps, like 5GB?

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      I’m not sure if I’d say asymmetric service is all-around crap. I personally upload very little – it’s all downloading (=Netflix) for me. I’d be much happier with 9/1 than 5/5 if it costs the same amount

        • Chrispy_
        • 7 years ago

        Nothing wrong with asymmetric, he’s just misguidedly beating on slow connections;

        Take the 35/35 FiOS: I would certainly rather have 60/10 for the same money.
        Downloading is waaaaaaaay more important than uploading, since I am a content consumer, not a content creator.

      • vargis14
      • 7 years ago

      For a easy 10+ years i had RCN with 20meg down and 2 meg up on a surfboard 5100 cable modem hooked to a separate linksys wtrg-54 wireless router…..but i was unlucky..it could not be upgraded to tomato or anything. It was the lowest memory model. I had to stay with RCN since they did not have a stupid 250gb cap likw comcast.
      Then After 2 years of seeing Fios trucks in my neighborhood A Fios guy finally walked up to my door and offered me a deal that included a HD DVR/hd box along with 5 other HD boxes and 2 BOBO boxes Along with Telephone and a 35Mbs dwn and 35 up. All for 60$ less then i was paying RCN. Let me just say i wa ecstatic and delighted.
      After setting up a account on the Fios web site i saw that for 5$ more a month I could get 75mbs down and 35 up. So i pulled the trigger on it. I average 84Mbs dwn and 20-30 up….i do not care about uploading.

      [url<]http://www.speedtest.net/result/2391897104.png[/url<] Its a great service nice to be able to download from steam at 10.8mbs I have to say i was impressed with the cable modem that included wireless N and all gigabit connections i am a happy camper. All for less money. Now i hope Google fiber comes in the next 1.6 years before my contract is up πŸ™‚

    • NeelyCam
    • 7 years ago

    Back when I was with Comcast, I managed to squeeze out huge download speed boosts by upgrading the cable modem, but also by improving the cabling.

    I went from some 20Mb/s to 35Mb/s peaks with the modem alone, but when I got some “high”end low-loss RF cables (from Monoprice) and got rid of the useless splitters in the Comcast-to-modem path (left one splitter for TV – another “high-end” high bandwidth one from Monoprice), my peaks went to 50Mb/s and beyond.

    It was awesome for a while, but eventually I guess Comcast noticed my higher download speeds, and started throttling me back to the original 16Mb/s w/ powerboost thingy by modulating the download activity. I would get this huge download burst, and then the line would be quiet for a few seconds… until the next huge download burst.

    The average was fine, I guess, but this “on again, off again” nature of the link totally screwed up my Netflix streaming with Tivo and Roku. These streamers would realize that the link got slow, downgrade the download speed [i<]and keep it there[/i<]. PS3 at least was able to upgrade the speed back up, but intermittent low-res streaming pissed me off so much that I cancelled Comcast and switched to FiOS. FiOS is fantastic. I get consistent 36Mb/s +/-1Mb/s without dips. They clearly throttle me to the download speed I'm paying for, but they also deliver it. Streaming works great - two HD Netflix streams simultaneously without problems, and even a HD YouTube thrown in doesn't hobble the link.

      • druidcent
      • 7 years ago

      I wish I could get FiOS in my area.. you’d think it would be easy to get FiOS in the SF Bay Area, but no… apparently it is a huge PITA to get anything decent here..

      I did find out my local TWC store absolutely rocks.. they’ve swung awesome deals for me in store, that don’t show up on the website or when you call them up.. especially if you tell them what you are doing and they are interested…

      • davidbowser
      • 7 years ago

      I wish I could get FiOS…

      I bought my own cable modem and immediately saw speeds jump from 15-20 to 30+ Mbps. Of course, Comcast is still Comcast, so I can’t get anywhere near Speedtest results when actually downloading something, but it’s still better than DSL.

      • My Johnson
      • 7 years ago

      Splitters kill me.

        • NeelyCam
        • 7 years ago

        Me too. Before I rewired everything, there was [i<]four[/i<] splitters in the signal path, two of which were unterminated..

    • liquidsquid
    • 7 years ago

    Hell at this rate we are going to need traveling IT guys to straighten out the alphabet on the end of the 802.11… I’m an engineer and I cannot keep track of what’s what and how to diagnose the old clients.

    Of course it hardly matters when I am on DSL from HELL.

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      Yep, the proper pronounciation is “dee-es-hell”

      • thecoldanddarkone
      • 7 years ago

      I have dsl as well, but at least it’s the fiber to the node kind. So I have 20/.896. I wish the upstream was higher but I really shouldn’t complain. If I was on the other side of this road I’d get 1.5 down……. lol.

      • Scrotos
      • 7 years ago

      You think you got it bad? I used to have iDSL. DSL over 2 ISDN lines. Man, was that ever a pile!

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah…’used to’.

          • Vaughn
          • 7 years ago

          Good timing for this article I just upgraded also from a Surfboard 5100 Docsis 2.0 modem. I’m in ontario using rogers for my ISP, on the old 10/1 extreme package with a 95GB cap I was paying $60. So I called and told them I wanted to upgrade it. I ended up with the Hitron docsis 3.0 modem and the 45/4 Extreme plus package with a 150GB cap. And I talked the rep into giving me 55% off my internet bill for the next two years.

          [url<]http://www.speedtest.net/result/2381332269.png[/url<] As for the home network setup I also just redid mine. Using a DGL4500 which isn't dual band at the same time, so that is in 5Ghz N only. Then I have a Gigabit switch and access point hooked up on the lower floor. The switch is to have my HTPC hooked up at gigabit speed and the access point is at 2.4 B/G. I wanted to have seperate networks so guest can use the 2.4ghz access point. The whole house is covered this way!

    • Ryhadar
    • 7 years ago

    I had a similar experience compared to your Time Warner service upgrade. I started out with performance internet from Comcast: 20 Mb/s down, 5 MB/s up with power boost. Not great, but it was enough for me. Only $30/month for the first 6 months with $42 / month after that.

    A couple of months later, I was browsing the comcast site to pay my bill and they had a special on for 50Mb/s down, 10Mb/s up with power boost. For the same $30 / month for 6 months. Granted, after 6 months it’ll shoot up to $72 / month but since there’s no contract I’ll either drop back down or maybe I’ll get lucky and there will be a new special.

    • Forge
    • 7 years ago

    On anything new enough and smart enough to get there, make 5GHz preferred over the 2.4GHz SSID. They’ll go to 5 whenever they can, which frees things up for the older/slower/dumber devices to fight over 2.4GHz. If you wander out of 5GHz range, you should roam onto the 2.4 pretty smoothly.

    • Forge
    • 7 years ago

    It’s nice, dumping 802.11g, isn’t it?

    Now for your wired backhaul… Gigabit at least, I assume? Tried jumbo frames? Hit 9K on those, it’s awesome. Wireless at 15MB/s is nice. Wired at 100MB/s+ is even better. I’m starting to get my first 10GbE gear now, I can hardly wait to have a proper 10000Mbit network section.

    Even on Gigabit, I have some old machines set up to netboot and net-run. Ethernet access on a proper Gigabit setup is faster than the disk in the old machines, sometimes by 2X or more!

      • rhettigan
      • 7 years ago

      Are there any caveats to turning on jumbo frames? I’ve never really investigated it under the (false?) assumption that it can cause problems with older clients. Although now, I probably don’t even have/use any clients that would be negatively affected by it.

      What about doing other things, like increasing the network’s MTU and such? More things I’ve never really messed with.

        • Bauxite
        • 7 years ago

        Jumbo won’t help internet use at all, and there is a slight overhead with fragmenting. If you are purely internet use focused, might as well use the MTU your WAN is. (unless its braindead low, then don’t)

        It can speed up LAN transfers, if you have a lot of large files moving around (lots of shares or a non wimpy NAS or SAN) its worth looking into. If your lan is mostly tiny payloads in the packets, the extra overhead can technically cause a slowdown but nothing you would see on a home network.

          • bcronce
          • 7 years ago

          Just disable packet fragmentation on your router and if your computer sends a 9k packet at your router, the router will just respond via ICMP and be like “LOWER YOUR MTU FOR THIS PATH!!!!!” and your computer should only send 1.5k packets at your Internet facing router.

          This assumes you have a decent router and you aren’t using too old of an OS that does not support MTU path discovery.

    • Airmantharp
    • 7 years ago

    While mileage will definitely vary, moving to 5GHz with a TP-Link router and PCIe NIC really helped my desktop, and I was starting to get desperate. Laptops with Intel NICs (6200 series in one, 6300 series in the other) had no problem at 2.4GHz, but they also run great at 5GHz, so I try to keep everything there.

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