Wi-Fi v Ethernet: Comparing wired internet speed to a Wi-Fi connection
Tips & Tricks

Wi-Fi v Ethernet: Comparing wired internet speed to a Wi-Fi connection

While Wi-Fi is incredibly convenient, it does have its drawbacks. Perhaps the largest comes to the forefront when discussing Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet speed.

When you connect to the internet at home, at work or while visiting your local coffee shop, chances are you’re doing so using Wi-Fi. This wasn’t always the case, however. In the past, connecting to the internet required a wired connection—first with phone lines and then through Ethernet cables. While the benefits of Wi-Fi are obvious, it does have its limitations. The biggest trade-off is speed. While with the right modern Wi-Fi equipment, you can get impressive speeds, those who want to reliably access the full potential of their fast internet choose a wired connection. Here’s why Ethernet is better when it comes to internet speed.

Connecting via Ethernet

The first thing to understand is that the maximum speed quoted by your internet provider is (or at least should be) the speed that’s delivered to your modem. Whether you actually get that speed or something close to it on your devices depends on the connections between them and the modem. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why a wired connection is superior. With Ethernet, you’re creating a connection “straight to the source.” 

An important consideration here is the quality Ethernet cable being used. As technology has developed, cables have been given different ratings. It’s currently recommended that internet users stick with cables that meet the Cat 6 standard (which theoretically supports 1,000 Mbps) and above. If you have a very fast connection, like Ting’s 1 Gbps fiber internet, it’s best to go with a minimum of Cat 6a, which supports 10,000 Mbps.

The second thing to consider is the length of your cable. This won’t be a problem for most people, as cables generally are rated up to 328 feet. However, if for some reason you’re using a cable that exceeds that length, you may experience some slowdown.

Connecting through Wi-Fi

The wireless nature of Wi-Fi that makes it so convenient is also what makes it less desirable in the Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet speed discussion. The source of your Wi-Fi will be one of two things—a modem with built-in router or a separate wireless router that connects to your modem using Wi-Fi. If it’s the latter, that connection is already a potential source of speed loss, so make sure the Ethernet cable is rated high enough to handle your internet’s maximum speed.

The main culprit responsible for speed losses is often the router itself. If you’re using a router provided by your internet provider, or a carryover you’ve owned for a while, chances are it may not be able to support particularly fast internet speeds. A good rule of thumb is to always use a router that supports speeds higher than your maximum bandwidth.

There’s more to it than that, but we won’t bore you with pages worth of tech talk. To give you an example, though, Ting Internet uses routers that support over twice our maximum speed of 1,000 Mbps. Also, with features like multiple internal antennae and automatic bandwidth distribution to multiple devices, you won’t experience drastic slowdowns when multiple devices are online (which happens with many routers).

Then there’s the unavoidable fact that wireless signals are very susceptible to disruption. As distance increases, the quality of the signal decreases, resulting in slower speeds and dropouts. Physical barriers (objects, walls, etc.) also degrade signal quality. Then there’s electrical interference from all the devices and appliances in and around your house. In short, even in the best cases, there will be some level of speed loss using Wi-Fi instead of Ethernet.

Use speed tests to see the difference

Want to figure out the true internet speed at your modem vs. Wi-Fi speeds? Just use Ting’s highly accurate online speed test. First, connect your computer directly to your modem or router using an Ethernet cable, and run the test. Then, give the test a try while connected wirelessly. As you get further away from the router, chances are you’ll see that speed dropping. And in areas of your home where connection gets spotty, you can bet the speed will be especially low.

Stay up to speed with Ting Internet

At the end of the day, great internet starts with a great internet connection. Ting Internet offers 1,000 Mbps fiber internet with a connection that uses fiber-optic cable all the way to your modem. That means that you’ll see speeds near 1 Gbps when you use a wired connection.  You’ll get excellent Wi-Fi speeds thanks to our modern routers, and to achieve the best wireless performance throughout the house, we also offer an advanced Whole Home Wi-Fi system. See if Ting is available in your neighborhood

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