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I've got a computer connected to a wireless router on a different floor. When I look at the network connection, I'm told the signal strength is low, and that I've got a connection of about 26mbps (often higher). However, my internet connection on that machine is very slow. Speedtests show it at about 1-2mbps, and it really shows when loading pages and video. I have fiber optic internet access, and the machine that's connected to the router/modem via cable gets the 20mbps on speed tests, and is extremely fast in every day use.

My question is, is the advertised 26mbps+ connection speed perhaps inaccurate, and that my wireless bandwidth is the likely bottleneck here? Or is the signal strength what's key here? And what might I do about this? Power cycling the router helped a bit, a speed test went as high as 6mbps after doing that.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are a number of reasons why you might be experiencing problems with your wireless network speeds:

  1. A neighboring wireless network might be using the same channel
  2. There might be too much interference between the access point and your computer
  3. Your router might be incompatible with your ISP's fiber modem

Likely it's either the first or the second. Network strength is a likely cause due to dropped packets. If there is a weak signal, the communications on both sides are hindered and each device will send out a packet, wait for a response from the destination; if that times out, it will resend the same packet. Once that is successful it will send the next packet and wait again... You can see how this could dramatically slow down network performance.

The way I see it, you can do a couple of things:

  1. Move either the router or the computer closer to each other.
  2. Check to make sure any networks close by are not using the same channel. If they are, change your own to something that's at least 2 channels away.
  3. Try upgrading to Wireless-N (802.11n)
  4. Get a more powerful antennae. Do a Google search for an 8 ohm antennae that is compatible with your router. A note of warning here: I did this with one of my wireless networks and I had some angry neighbors because my signal was drowning out theirs.
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In response to StampedeXV's "26mbps is an unrealistic number"... No it isn't. I've gotten 60 MB/s over Wireless N before. It's all about the hardware and signal strength. – Thom Mahoney Apr 14 '10 at 12:33
I'm granting that we did not have 802.11n then, but I don't think that MIMO increases that number that significantly. The protocol alone will give a not unsignificant overhead. And: as soon as there are multiple clients, speed drops. – StampedeXV Apr 14 '10 at 13:36

26mbps is an unrealistic number. We made tests at the university during my time there and if I remember correctly the real throughput was about half of it. Which means about 13Mbps. (And I hope you mean bit per second in both cases.).

Secondly: If the connection is bad data must be repeated due to losses in the wireless transmission.

At home I made an observation: I have about 13 Routers in my neighbourhood. With 12 available channels there is no chance that they do not disturbe each other. Most of current routers have adaptive signal strength, which means if they don't get their throughput, they increase the signal strength. Now, when I was downloading something, everything went fine for the first 10-20 seconds. After that my throughput went down to just 1-2mbps. My guess is, that through my constant transmission other routers powered up to still be able to send. This results in more collisions (i.e. data not received correctly) which results in a repeated transmission which results in decrease of transmission speed (seen on a received data basis).

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