There’s no such thing as too fast an internet connection since today’s connected world requires data transfers to be as fast as possible.
That’s why users look for high-end connection devices that can deliver ultra-fast internet speeds.
However, all the elements in the connection chain, from your ISP to the end device, can affect your internet speed.
Routers are essential components of this chain, without which the connection is impossible.
Can routers slow down your internet?
After all, they’re supposed to deliver internet connectivity to your devices, so it’s counterproductive that they slow down the internet.
Does A Router Affect Internet Speed?
Yes, routers can slow down the internet speed because they’re responsible for dividing the bandwidth among all connected devices.
If the router is old or has outdated firmware, it may not do its job effectively since it can’t find the fastest and least crowded channel.
In addition, your router has to be compatible with your ISP and the maximum speed you get in your plan.
If your router’s maximum data capacity is lower than your purchased internet plan, it’ll bottleneck your connection, slowing down your internet.
How Does A Router Slow Down Internet Speed?
A router can’t help you get a faster connection than the plan you have purchased.
However, it can reduce it in different ways.
1. Traffic Prioritization
Your router is responsible for creating a local area network inside your house or office building, connecting all devices to the same network.
It assigns a separate IP address to each device, routing traffic to and from each device.
However, the router doesn’t assign traffic randomly or equally among all connected devices.
Instead, it does so depending on each device’s needs.
It acts like an air traffic controller that maintains order, keeps everything safe, and ensures everything gets whatever they need.
One of the most important features of a router is that it determines what each application needs in terms of internet speed and assigns different bandwidths to each application.
For example, video streaming has the highest priority, so it always gets the most traffic.
You can set these priorities via Quality of Service (QoS) in the router’s web interface, giving each application its required bandwidth to run smoothly.
If you haven’t set these priorities, the router won’t make a difference among these applications, giving them equal bandwidth.
As a result, you’ll face slow speeds for demanding applications.
2. Router Hardware Specs
Even though you have the fastest speed on your data plan purchased from your ISP, you may not get those speeds if your router can’t handle them.
In these cases, your router becomes a bottleneck for your internet connection.
As a result, you’ll get the maximum speed the router can handle based on the principle of the weakest link.
According to this principle, your maximum internet speed is as much as what your weakest device can handle.
If your plan supports 500 Mbps, but your router can only handle 300 Mbps, your maximum data transfer speed will be 300 Mbps.
Another factor affecting the router’s ability to handle higher speeds is its connection standard.
Different kinds of wireless standards are found in today’s routers, each with different frequencies and speeds.
You can have 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802,11ac, or 802.11ax standards.
The oldest standard is the A standard, which can handle 5 GHz and 20 Mbps.
On the other hand, the latest standard is the AX, which can handle 1.2 Gbps.
An old router may not do its job efficiently under a heavy load.
For example, suppose too many devices are connected to the router simultaneously, and the router has to divide bandwidth among them based on their internet requirements.
In that case, it can’t handle such a heavy workload, leading to slower connections.
This slow speed is due to neither your low internet speed nor your bandwidth.
It’s only because an inefficient router can’t handle complicated situations.
Similarly, old router firmware can affect your internet speed.
Although ISPs update router and modem firmware whenever new versions are available, some ISPs may skip a version or have other policies in place.
Outdated firmware can slow down your internet due to bugs and glitches that the manufacturers address through firmware updates.
Plus, old routers with outdated firmware may have difficulty finding the fastest and least crowded networks, which is one of the essential duties of every router.
In addition, old firmware can pose security threats to your hardware and connection, leaving your devices at risk.
3. Your Router’s Location
Even if you have the most updated firmware and a high-end router that supports your data plan, it can limit your internet speed if you don’t put it in the right place.
Wi-Fi signals are radiofrequency waves that need to travel freely to reach your devices.
They can’t reach your devices if there are obstacles in their way.
Concrete walls, wood, and even water can absorb Wi-Fi signals and weaken your internet connection.
The further you put your router from your device, the weaker the Wi-Fi signal.
That’s why you’ll get a weaker connection in bedrooms if you put your router in the living room, for example.
In addition, many other objects in a building can produce radiofrequency signals and interfere with Wi-Fi signals, reducing your internet speed.
That’s why your router can never deliver the speed it advertises, giving you up to half of the advertised speed.
Microwave ovens and cordless phones are among the most frequently used household items that interfere with Wi-Fi signals.
4. Wi-Fi Channel
As radiofrequency waves, Wi-Fi signals can travel in different frequencies.
Routers can produce these waves in two frequencies: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
You can choose between these two frequencies if you have a dual-band router.
If you want a higher speed, you should choose the 5 GHz band, while a 2.4 GHz band will give you more coverage.
That means a single-band router that only offers a 2.4 GHz band will create speed limitations.
In addition, these bands include smaller bands called channels.
These channels are mediums or routes through which data travels.
Routers typically have 11 channels for the 2.4 GHz band and 45 channels for the 5 GHz band.
If you’ve set your router’s channel selection mode on auto, it will select any faster channel with less interference.
The router’s ability to select the best channel affects your speed.
Some routers choose overlapping and crowded channels more than others.
In such cases, you need to set the channel manually.
For example, channels 1, 6, and 11 are the best ones that Wi-Fi users choose.
Other Factors That Affect Internet Speed
Although the router is a traffic cop that determines how fast your data can transfer, it’s not the only factor that affects your internet speed.
Here are the most important ones:
Your ISP is the first element in the connection chain that affects your internet speed.
If your ISP lacks the appropriate infrastructure, it can’t offer a high-speed internet plan.
For example, if your ISP delivers an internet connection via fiber-optic, you can get much faster speeds than traditional copper wires.
That’s why an ISP can’t offer the same internet speed in all locations.
Similarly, DSL, dialup, and 2G, 3G, or 4G internet can affect your internet speed.
A modem can limit your internet speed, similar to the router.
It translates signals from your ISP to Wi-Fi signals that are readable by your router.
You may have a modem/router combo or separate devices, but in either case, the modem component can slow down your internet.
If your modem can’t handle the maximum speed provided by your ISP, it will bottleneck your connection.
For example, suppose you have a 300mbps plan, but your modem can handle 100 Mbps.
In that case, your internet speed won’t be more than 100 Mbps.
3. Wi-Fi Extenders
A Wi-Fi extender is a device that takes Wi-Fi signals and boosts them to reach devices that are far away from the router and can’t receive the signals without help.
These extenders can limit your internet speed but not in the same way as modems or routers do.
They don’t affect your original internet speed but limit the internet speed of the devices connected to them.
That’s because they don’t have the same bandwidth as the router, typically half of that amount.
The reason is that they can’t talk to the router and the client simultaneously and through the same band.
As a result, the internet speed that goes into the connected devices will be cut in half in the best-case scenario.
4. Connected Devices
It’s a known fact that the higher the number of connected devices to the same LAN, the lower the internet speed.
However, another factor affects your internet speed regarding connected devices.
If your devices are old or include faulty and outdated hardware, they may not get the speed you purchase from your ISP.
They may take up a lot of bandwidth, limiting the connection for other devices.
No matter how fast your internet plan, router, and modem are, you can’t get the most out of your connection if your devices are old.
How To Ensure Your Router Is Slowing Down Your Connection
If you’re getting slow internet speeds, you may want to consider the factors that affect your internet speed.
High-traffic hours can slow down your internet because too many people are connected to the same network, causing network congestion.
To rule out the router as the main culprit, you can perform a simple test.
Before doing the test, you should know your internet plan and the maximum speed your ISP provides.
Note that this plan is the highest speed you can get, so it’s normal to get lower speeds.
You need to run speed tests with and without the router connected to your device.
There are different speed test tools that you can run online for free.
Write down your internet speed with the router connected.
If you have a separate modem, you should bypass your router by disconnecting it from the modem and turning it off.
Connect your computer or laptop directly to the modem using an Ethernet cable.
Remember to close all the programs, and ideally devices, that use the internet to ensure you’re testing the pure internet connection from your modem.
For a modem/router combo, you should go to your router’s web interface and enable the bridge mode.
To enter the router’s web interface, you should know its IP address.
Open a command prompt, type ipconfig in the command window, and press Enter.
The router’s IP address is listed as Default Gateway.
Copy the number and paste it into your browser’s address bar.
Enter the router’s credentials to log into its web interface.
You can find the bridge mode under Advanced Setup or Wireless settings labeled as Wireless bridge.
After enabling the bridge mode, plug the router into the computer’s LAN port to connect the modem directly to the device.
Now, run a speed test and compare it to the speed you got with the router connected.
If the second reading is considerably higher than the first one, your router is limiting your internet speed.
Note. When you bypass your router, you’ll lose all the security features it offers to keep your network protected.
Therefore, you need to reconnect your router as soon as you perform the speed test to avoid online threats.
How To Speed Up The Router
If you’re 100% sure that your router is slowing down your internet, you may need to replace it with a more advanced model.
However, you can do other things to speed up your router before giving up on it.
Here’s what to do to speed up your router:
1. Power-Cycle Your Router
Rebooting is an age-old solution that works for many problems in the digital world.
No matter how serious your problem looks, it may go away by rebooting your laptop or smartphone by eliminating the temporary glitches that can cause the issue.
Power cycling the router can equally help remove these glitches, especially those related to interference slowing down your connection.
In addition, by rebooting the router, you force it to use a faster and less crowded channel to boost your connection speed.
To power-cycle your router, turn it off, unplug it, and wait for 30 seconds.
Then, plug it back in and turn on the router.
Now, test your internet speed and see if it has improved.
2. Remove Obstacles
If you experience lower speeds when you move the device away from the router, then the router may not be faulty.
As mentioned, furniture, concrete, and even water can act as obstacles that absorb radio-frequency signals.
Try moving the device closer to the router and see if it helps.
If you have an aquarium, put it out of the path between the router and the device.
You should determine the router’s location based on the devices with the highest bandwidth requirements and keep it closer to those devices.
And since concrete absorbs Wi-Fi signals, don’t put the router on the floor.
It’s better to put it on an elevated surface.
Depending on your budget and requirements, you could also try a Wi-Fi extender, an access point, or a mesh network to boost signals.
3. Try Wired Connection
Wireless connections are typically less reliable than wired connections.
Although the wireless connection is always more convenient, you should save it for devices without wired connection capability, such as smartphones.
Unlike wireless connections, an Ethernet connection doesn’t limit bandwidth by dividing it among devices, giving each device its required bandwidth.
Wired connections are essential for applications, such as video or game streaming, which need fast and reliable internet.
4. Replace Your Router
If the above solutions don’t work, the best solution is to replace your router.
However, if you’re still not convinced that it’s time to get a new router, consider the router’s age.
Although routers can last up to ten years, you may not get the best performance if you keep them that long.
The main reason is that technology progresses fast, and you must keep up with it to enjoy its benefits.
If your router or modem is over five years old, you’re behind the technological advancements in range, frequency, speed, security, and traffic handling abilities.
Physical issues like overheating are telltale signs that show your router is overworked and can’t handle the increased burden of everyday use.
Some experts even recommend replacing your router every three years, but the ultimate decision is up to you.
If you’re experiencing lowered performance and want to stay on top of new technology, replace your router.