How Important Is My Wireless Router to My Internet Speed?
Does my router affect my internet speed?
Yes, your router affects your internet speed. It manages and processes all the data from your home network—so a good router makes the most of your internet speed, while a slow router can bog it down.
Your internet is only as fast as the slowest part of your network, so if your router isn’t capable of handling your internet speed, it acts as a choke point for your whole home network. And if that’s the case, you need to replace your router ASAP. Otherwise, you’re paying for more internet bandwidth than you’re actually getting.
For example, if you recently upgraded your internet plan to a 400 Mbps speed but are using an N300 wireless router, you’re losing 100 Mbps of bandwidth just because your router isn’t capable of handling speeds that fast.
How do I tell if my router is slowing down my internet connection?
You can usually tell if your router is slowing down your internet speeds by taking a couple of internet speed tests.
Take the first one with your device connected to your router, preferably with an Ethernet cable for the most accurate results. Then disconnect your router and take a second speed test with a wired connection to your modem. If your speeds are much faster from your modem than from your router, your router is probably a choke point for your internet speed.
If you don’t have a separate modem and router, you can still do the second portion of this test by logging in to your device’s web interface and putting it into bridge mode.
If the speed test results from your router and modem aren’t dramatically different, your router could still be the issue. Get your network up and running again, and take a few more speed tests on the devices you usually use to connect to the internet.
You may notice that devices connected via Wi-Fi are a little slower than wired connections, which is normal. But if your Wi-Fi connections are a lot slower than wired speed, you need to troubleshoot your Wi-Fi network to see if your router is the issue (it may just be where your router is placed).
Does old equipment affect my internet speed?
Older routers and network equipment can have much lower speed limitations than ones made in the last few years. Depending on how fast your internet plan is, old equipment can limit the internet speeds you get.
Tech and the way we use it are constantly changing and improving—max Wi-Fi speeds have gone from 300 Mbps in 2009 to 9.6 Gbps in just ten years.
Wi-Fi standards are one major reason why dated equipment might not perform as well as newer equipment. There are three main Wi-Fi standards to be aware of if you think your router is causing slow internet speeds:
Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) was introduced in 2009, uses one wireless band at 2.4 GHz, and can reach maximum wireless speeds of 450 Mbps.
Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) was introduced in 2014 and combines the 2.4 GHz band with an additional 5 GHz band for faster speed capabilities. Wi-Fi 5 routers can handle speeds up to 3.5 Gbps (3,500 Mbps). This generation of routers also includes tech like MU-MIMO and beamforming for better range and the ability to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously.
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is the latest Wi-Fi standard, which was introduced in 2019. Wi-Fi 6 uses both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. It can reach max speeds of up to 9.6 Gbps (9,600 Mbps), but Wi-Fi 6 was primarily created to better handle network efficiency as opposed to just faster speeds. Many Wi-Fi 6 routers can easily handle dozens of connected devices, making them ideal for smart home tech.
None of this is to say that all routers more than a few years old are bad—Wi-Fi 4 routers can still be perfectly serviceable for some homes, and most people are still successfully using Wi-Fi 5 routers. But if you’ve upgraded your internet plan or added multiple additional devices to your network, an older router will have a more difficult time juggling the extra work than something newer will.
Can a new router speed up my internet?
A new router can speed up your internet, but even the best wireless router can’t make your network faster than the max internet speed your provider sends to your home. So, if you have a 100 Mbps internet plan, even the fanciest router on the market can’t make your internet speeds go over 100 Mbps.
But if you’re using old equipment that’s preventing you from fully utilizing your 100 Mbps speeds, replacing that router is bound to help make your internet faster.
Author - Rebecca Lee Armstrong
Rebecca is a natural techie and the friend you turn to when your Wi-Fi randomly stops working. Since graduating from the University of Evansville with a degree in creative writing, Rebecca has leveraged her tech savvy to write hundreds of data-driven tech product and service reviews. In addition to HighSpeedInternet.com, her work has been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ and iMore.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.