Which Is Faster Wireless Router or Wired Internet?

Which Is Faster Wireless Router or Wired Internet?

Ever wonder which is faster, using a wireless router or plugging directly into the wired Internet? The short answer is that the wired Internet connection will always be faster because you are eliminating the “middle man” — the wireless access point.

Also, because WiFi connections half duplex (can only send or receive not both at same time) and contention based (users/devices and have to wait to transmit) you can never take advantage of the full duplex nature of wired Internet connections.

In reality, this is hard question to answer because it depends on so many factors such as:

  • Wireless technology (802.11a, 802.11g, 802.11b, 802.11n)
  • ISP connection speeds (upload/download)
  • Is wireless Internet (WiFi router) used by multiple users
  • Are there other WiFi devices nearby or interfering sources

Wired and Wireless Internet

Estimated throughput for 802.11 a/b/g/n

Even when connected to the access point at 54Mbps your actual throughput will be much less because the speed numbers quoted by vendors are the data rates for the various 802.11 standards/amendments (802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n) and not throughput for the connected device.

Below are estimated data half duplex throughputs for various 802.11 standards for single client scenarios. For multiple client scenarios the numbers would be shared for all clients and uniformity among clients may not always occur.

802.11a – 19 Mbps
802.11g – 17 Mbps
802.11b – 5 Mbps
802.11n – > 100 Mbps

Internet Connection Bottleneck

While a wired connection will always be faster than the same connection via a wireless access point, most Internet connections are much lower in speed than the wireless router. For example, an asymmetrical cable modem high speed broadband service that is 5 Mbps download speed and 1 Mbs upload speed would most likely have same performance on any 802.11 network for uploading and downloading. While another user with a 15 Mbps down/5 Mbps up Internet connection would not fully use ISP connection on an 802.11b network.

Also, while most ISPs provide download/upload data rates for service offerings, these numbers are burstable data rates. In reality, all ISPs are designed so that guaranteed data rates for all users are much less.

WiFi Speed Test

Another method to figure out if using a wired connection is faster is to test your Internet speed via wired and wireless connection and compare results.

WiFi Speed Test

In summary, if you have high end/low latency requirements (gaming, voice over IP, real-time collaboration) it is best to use a wired connection.

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Filed under: WLAN Deployment

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