Understanding Home Networking Speeds

A home typical home network consists of many different components, such as:

  • Wi-Fi Router
  • Wi-Fi Extenders
  • Homeplug adapters
  • Ethernet cards
  • Wi-Fi Cards
  • Ethernet Switches.

There are many different ways that these components can be connected together, and each of these components will have an impact on the overall speed on your home network.



The following connection technologies and their approximate speeds are shown below:

Ethernet Using Cable (UTP)- Ethernet Adaptors

Current common Ethernet Speeds are:

  • 100Mbps
  • 1000Mbps =1Gbps -Common for home networking
  • 10000Mbps =10Gbps

Wi-Fi Speeds

Standard Theoretical Typical
802.11an- Wi-Fi 4 600Mbps 100Mbps
802.11ac- Wi-Fi 5 1300Mbps 200Mbps
802.11ax- Wi-Fi 5 10Gbps 2Gbps

Taken form Lifewire

Powerline

Standard Theoretical Typical Maximum
av200 200Mbps 80Mbps
av500 500Mbps 250Mbps
av1200 1.2Gbps 400Mbps

Note: old powerline adaptors may have an Ethernet connection of 100Mbps which would limit the connection speed to that.

Internet Speeds

Low Medium High
15Mbps 50Mbps 70Mbps *note1

note1– All fibre connections have a top speed of around 300Mbps

Home Network Traffic and Design Guidelines

Just like traffic on roads network traffic flows predominately in a certain direction.

For traffic on roads the flow is usually heavy into and out of cities, and your will notice the size of the roads reflects this.

On home networks the flow is predominately to and from the Internet, and so your network design should also reflect this.

However if you look at the tables above you can see that the slowest Ethernet, the slowest Wi-Fi and the slowest powerline are all usually faster than the fastest Internet speed.

Therefore for most home networks the main reason for slow connections is the Internet speed, and not the local network.

So when considering exchanging equipment for speed reasons you should be aware of this fact.

However it may not always be the case.

To illustrate we will look at a couple of example network topologies and answer a few questions regarding speeds and improvements.

Example 1

network-Speeds-examples-1

Referring to the network diagram above answer the following questions:

Q1- What is the maximum download speed from the Internet?

Q2- What is the maximum transfer speed between laptops A and B?

Q3- Would upgrading the switch to a 1Gbps switch improve the Internet download speed.

Q4 -Would adding a Wi-Fi hub (802.11ac- Wi-Fi 5) improve the Internet download speed.

Q5- Would adding a Wi-Fi hub (802.11ac- Wi-Fi 5) improve the transfer speed between laptops A and B?

Q6 -If we now Upgrade the Internet connection to fast fibre 70Mbps what would now be the maximum Internet download speed be for laptops A and B.

Example 2

home-networking-speeds-example-2

Referring to the network diagram above (example 2) answer the following questions:

Q1- What is the maximum download speed from the Internet?

Q2- What is the maximum transfer speed between laptops A and B?

Q3- Would upgrading the AV200 homeplug adaptor improve the Internet download speed.

Q4 -Would connecting over the Wi-Fi hub (802.11ac- Wi-Fi 5) improve the Internet download speed.

Q5- Would adding a Wi-Fi hub (802.11ac- Wi-Fi 5) improve the transfer speed between laptops A and B?

Answers Exercise 1

A1- 20 Mbps limited by the Internet Connection

A2- 1 Gbps limited by the switch.

A3- No

A4- No

A5- Yes could possibly get 200Mbps

A6- 70 Mbps limited by the Internet Connection

Answers Exercise 2

A1- 70 Mbps limited by the Internet Connection

A2- 100 Mbps limited by the switch.

A3- Perhaps- The speed over the link is limited by the AV200 and is close to the maximum Internet speed and depending on the home wiring may be less so an upgrade might be considered.

A4- No as it would still have the 70Mbps limit

A5- No it would make it slower

Measuring Your Home Network Speed

Most people are familiar with Internet speed checks. These are all done using a web browser and rely on a server on the Internet that sends and receives data from the browser.

To do the same on a local network requires that you have a server located somewhere on your local network that does the same as the ones on the Internet.

Because of this requirement local network speed checks aren’t so easy to perform.

There are many free speed testing utilities available see this tutorial. However the iperf utility is the only one that runs on windows, Linux, Pi, Android and IOS.

The only negative with it is that it uses the command line.

Here are a few screen shots that show the effect of distance on Wi-Fi speed.

For the following tests the server was on a laptop connected by Wi-Fi and the client on a windows machine connected via Ethernet cable through a 100Mbps switch.

speedtest-Wi-fi-1speedtest-Wi-fi-2

You can clearly see the how the speed reduces as you move away from the Access point.

Summary

It is important to be aware of the different home networking technologies and their possible speeds when laying out your home network.

You should also note that speeds using Wi-Fi in particular but also homeplug can vary considerably.

As Internet speeds improve the home network design could limit your Internet Download speeds.

Resources and Related Tutorials

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