Long-awaited gigabit internet speeds are finally coming to a growing number of cities, as fiber infrastructure improves and companies offer ultra-fast service packages. But are you and your devices ready to upgrade to gigabit internet?
Existing internet speeds can be improved by several factors (including router setup), but gigabit-level services are still worth getting excited over. And it’s essential to make sure that you and your devices are ready to take advantage of the new potential speeds. Here are five steps to prepare appropriately.
Set up quality wired connections
Wired connections are generally better for gigabit speeds because of their reliability and lack of interference. If you want the best benefits of gigabit internet, you need the right wired connections. It’s particularly important to sort out the wired connection from the internet modem to your router.
The good news is that most of the modern Ethernet ports manufactured in the last few years are in the gigabit Ethernet range. The bad news is that if you have a router or other wired device that’s older than that, it may be using an older type of Ethernet connection that will not be able to support your new, exciting speeds. If so, the router will bottleneck your entire home network. There are adapters for a USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet connection, but they aren’t ideal as they can slow down performance in other ways.
If you don’t have a clue as to what kind of ports your router has, find the product number and look up the specifications online to see what type of ports it has. You can also do this with your computers to check on factory cards and connections. Everything should be rated for gigabit speeds or 1,000 Mbps. You can also look in your Settings or About This Computer section to find more information on your connections. IF you don’t
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Finally, it’s worth taking a glance at the Ethernet cables themselves. They should be at least Cat5e or higher to support these speeds: However, we recommend that you go for Cat 6 cables if possible, which will have a better chance at delivering gigabit speeds. They are cheap and easy to replace if necessary. If you buy a new computer, modem, or router, they tend to come with compatible Ethernet cables, but you should still double-check to make sure they are up to the latest standards.
Make sure your devices support the latest Wi-Fi standards
If you aren’t using a wired connection on a particular device, check to see what Wi-Fi standards it supports. The official gigabit-compatible Wi-Fi standard is 802.11ac, but by the end of 2019 we will have officially moved on to the 802.11ax standard, which is being re-labeled as Wi-Fi 6. If you are buying a brand new router that needs to last for years, then it’s a good idea to look for a model with the Wi-Fi 6 label so it will be prepared for the future.
If you don’t want to buy a new router quite yet, make sure your old router supports at least the 802.11ac standard. This standard has been around for years, and only the most aged routers won’t have it: It’s necessary to benefit from the Gigabit speeds you are trying to get.
Desktops and laptops that don’t support Wi-Fi 5/802.11ac (you can check your network settings for more information on this) can be upgraded with an affordable adapter. However, with Wi-Fi 6 on the horizon, it’s a good idea to start saving up for a new device–there are Wi-Fi 6 adapters out there, but they’re more complicated and more costly than previous adapters, so it’s not the right choice for everyone.
Finally, keep in mind that there aren’t any adapter solutions for your mobile devices, so they need to be “ac” compatible to work with Gigabit speeds. Many other technologies, like MU-MIMO, can also improve mobile connections, but only if your device supports them.
Set up your Wi-Fi router’s 5GHz band
Many routers are now dual-band, which means they support the typical 2.4GHz band and the less-used 5GHz band. That 5GHz option shines in certain respects. It may not have as much range at the original band, but there’s a lot less “noise,” or wireless tech chatter, at 5GHz. That means the 5GHz band can provide a more precise signal, and help you draw closer to those sweet gigabit-level speeds.
Most dual-band routers will urge you to create and name a 5GHz channel during setup, so check to see if you have one or can create one. You also have to remember to use it. You may mentally default to the regular band out of habit, but that can seriously downgrade the performance of your connected device.
If your router isn’t dual-band, consider a replacement. Modern routers tend to be dual-band, and many have software that can intelligently switch between bands when necessary to provide the best connection. It’s also less likely that a single band router will be 802.11ac compatible.
Note that the 5GHz band can be helpful for a clear connection in a busy area, but it also has a shorter range, so it’s more important that your devices are closer to the router.
Update firmware and operating systems
If your router has gigabit Ethernet, the latest Wi-Fi standard, and a 5Ghz Wi-Fi band already set up and ready to go, then you’re in luck! However, you should still check to make sure that the firmware is updated to the latest version, just to make sure everything is running smoothly.
You can check for firmware updates by logging into your router administrator console with the right address, and we can help walk you through that process. Once in the router settings, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for upgrading the device. If you have enabled automatic updates, then you don’t need to worry about this step.
It’s also a good idea to update all your other devices, too, especially if there are updates that you have been putting off. Many general OS updates include quality-of-life changes that improve general performance and efficiency. Barring any notable bugs, it’s a good idea to let these updates go through so that your devices are performing to the best of their ability.
Run speed tests on devices to find weak spots
There are several useful online speed tests you can run on both wired and wireless devices. Try a few tests on your most-used devices during the time of day when you are likely to use them.
Running a test before you upgrade will help you find an average baseline of your current speeds to compare to your gigabit speeds after the upgrade. Rerun the tests with gigabit internet, and boast about the difference!
If you get gigabit internet and your speeds don’t change very much (all other things being equal), you know that you need to investigate further to see what’s causing the bottleneck.
You can also check how speed varies between wireless and wired. If the difference is considerable, you can make decisions about which devices need to be wired for the best performance. You can also identify wireless dead spots that might need to be fixed. For more information on that, check out our guide on boosting Wi-Fi speeds.
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