Should I/Can I buy a higher-end router to support my new higher-end ISP package?

mccoolaustinm

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Recently upgraded from a Verizon Fios package of about 15 down, 5 up? Wirelessly I got a lot less than that. Since I just built my own gaming system at a high budget, I upgraded to a Fios quantum package with 75/35. The increase in performance in everything I do is enormous, at least, with a wired connection to my desktop. I draw even more speed than I pay for; speed tests put me as high as 90/45 on my desktop.

With 5-7 devices acting wirelessly within the house though, the wireless speeds are still laughable. As low as 5-10 down and 2 up with a wifi connection, and on newer devices such as androids/iphones/ipads, and two laptops. And I don't mean running all at once and sharing bandwidth, I mean that sometimes even with just one wireless device having everything to itself, it still rarely exceeds 15.

I'm still running with a four year old Verizon standard router, the Actiontec MI424-WR. Should I replace this/add something to my network to improve wireless speeds? I have heard but do not know for sure that the Actiontec is required if you also have Fios TV, which I do.
 

choucove

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Most likely this is going to be a limitation due to many reasons collectively.

First and most obvious could be the wireless router. Many basic routers have very poor performance capabilities, and even with all the latest new technologies out there which advertise capabilities of 150 Mbps to 300 Mbps, they aren't actually performing at that level. Utilizing a high-performance Wireless N router is going to give you better performance throughput, but a lot of this still depends on many other factors, which brings me to point two.

Your end point device wireless capabilities are also going to determine your throughput. Sometimes the integrated wireless in some smartphones and basic laptops just don't support great throughput. Especially when you are a decent distance from the wireless origin. What's worse is many wireless routers will only operate at the speed of the slowest device connected on the network, so older Wireless B devices will actually cause ALL wireless devices to connect at the slowest speed. Part of this can be overcome by utilizing the latest Wireless N compatible adapters and integrated wireless devices, and even further you can purchase wireless routers and wireless adapters that support dual radio 2.4 Ghz and the faster 5 Ghz band. Those devices that need separate high-throughput connection you can connect separately to the 5 Ghz band, while slower or older devices you can connect to the 2.4 Ghz band and keep the wireless throughput separated that way.

Also a factor is going to be distance and interference. How close are the wireless devices to the router when you are doing tests? As you get further distance from the router, your signal quality will also get lower, and there will be more interference, which means your throughput will also drop. While it may be possible for a new wireless router to theoretically give you 300 Mbps throughput to a single wireless device, you're going to probably get a fraction of that once you get fifty feet from the router. You can help overcome this again with dual radio performance wireless routers, but the main factor for distance and interference is finding a wireless router with high performance antenna. This can be a little more tricky as many manufacturers are very good about listing their theoretical throughput capabilities, but not near as many list specifications about the types of antenna their router uses.

And then there is the number of devices connected simultaneously to a wireless signal. You said you have multiple wireless devices connected to this router, and even if they aren't all being used at the same time that you are performing a speed test, they are still connected and going to be utilizing some throughput as well as system resources of the actual router. For the best evaluation of your actual throughput, turn of all wireless devices except one with the best wireless antenna or adapter of your devices, and then perform a throughput test that way. It might not make much difference, but really it does possibly have an affect on the overall performance of your wireless network.
 

choucove

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Most likely this is going to be a limitation due to many reasons collectively.

First and most obvious could be the wireless router. Many basic routers have very poor performance capabilities, and even with all the latest new technologies out there which advertise capabilities of 150 Mbps to 300 Mbps, they aren't actually performing at that level. Utilizing a high-performance Wireless N router is going to give you better performance throughput, but a lot of this still depends on many other factors, which brings me to point two.

Your end point device wireless capabilities are also going to determine your throughput. Sometimes the integrated wireless in some smartphones and basic laptops just don't support great throughput. Especially when you are a decent distance from the wireless origin. What's worse is many wireless routers will only operate at the speed of the slowest device connected on the network, so older Wireless B devices will actually cause ALL wireless devices to connect at the slowest speed. Part of this can be overcome by utilizing the latest Wireless N compatible adapters and integrated wireless devices, and even further you can purchase wireless routers and wireless adapters that support dual radio 2.4 Ghz and the faster 5 Ghz band. Those devices that need separate high-throughput connection you can connect separately to the 5 Ghz band, while slower or older devices you can connect to the 2.4 Ghz band and keep the wireless throughput separated that way.

Also a factor is going to be distance and interference. How close are the wireless devices to the router when you are doing tests? As you get further distance from the router, your signal quality will also get lower, and there will be more interference, which means your throughput will also drop. While it may be possible for a new wireless router to theoretically give you 300 Mbps throughput to a single wireless device, you're going to probably get a fraction of that once you get fifty feet from the router. You can help overcome this again with dual radio performance wireless routers, but the main factor for distance and interference is finding a wireless router with high performance antenna. This can be a little more tricky as many manufacturers are very good about listing their theoretical throughput capabilities, but not near as many list specifications about the types of antenna their router uses.

And then there is the number of devices connected simultaneously to a wireless signal. You said you have multiple wireless devices connected to this router, and even if they aren't all being used at the same time that you are performing a speed test, they are still connected and going to be utilizing some throughput as well as system resources of the actual router. For the best evaluation of your actual throughput, turn of all wireless devices except one with the best wireless antenna or adapter of your devices, and then perform a throughput test that way. It might not make much difference, but really it does possibly have an affect on the overall performance of your wireless network.
 

mccoolaustinm

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First of all, thank you very much for your very thorough and educational response :D

I took one of the laptops, which I presume to be the strongest of the wireless device, and set it down within 5 feet of the router, and turned off all other devices. The wireless improved, to about 20Mb down/8Mb up. This is still a bit of a disappointment though to me, because while I understand the difference in the technologies is difficult to surmount, I would like to at least approach 50% of what I pay my ISP for on at least one wireless device at a time.

My house is not wide, but tall, and my router is conveniently positioned in the center of the house on the center floor. I'd say from the radius to the farthest corner in any direction is no more than 20-30 feet.

In my previous tests where I listed the statistics in the OP, I was also in close-range of the router (at least in the same room) though I did not turn off other devices. I didn't presume that simply having them on and not using them would drastically affect my test.

Based on this information, would you suggest that I make a purchase of some kind? I'm not against spending a bit of money, because I have a nice 20% off promo-code to use at Newegg on a wide variety of items.
 

choucove

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It's going to be hard to say for sure if purchasing a new wireless router is going to net you a drastic improvement in performance as there are just some unknowns there, but at the very least it is definitely not going to hurt. You will want to be sure to turn off the wireless signal on your current router if you do install a new one. If you just want a standard home wireless router, I've had good luck with signal speed and strength on the Amped Wireless routers, as well as the nicer Linksys series, though you will pay less for the same performance with the Amped. What I instead tend to do for someone who already has a decent router in place is to purchase a Ubiquiti UniFi Wireless N access point. This is not a router, and requires connecting to your existing router to be able to get out to the internet and connect with other devices, but think of it as a powerful antenna for your router. I've had great luck with the UniFi WAPs, and they are fairly cheap for the great performance and range that they are. Just plug one in to an available LAN port on your current router, and then you install the configuration software on a computer directly connected to that same primary router. The configuration software can be used to set up the wireless networks (you can have multiple SSIDs, public and private networks, etc.) as well as monitor the status, users, current loads, etc. The other nice thing with these is they are PoE which means you don't have to locate it right next to a power outlet, you just have to connect a Cat5/6 ethernet cable and it sends data and power across that one cable. This means if you want to tuck it away somewhere, mount it up higher, whatever, its much easier to do.
 

mccoolaustinm

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Thank you again :D

I'll look into add-on access points like the one you described. Would something like that assist in the issue with multiple devices being defaulted to the slowest speed, or just help to improve the speed of a single device? If only the latter, perhaps would it be wiser to upgrade the entire package and run with a dual-band router that can do as you described and associate faster devices with faster speeds, not bottleneck them?

Edit:
http://www.amazon.com/Ubiquiti-Networks-UniFi-Enterprise-System/dp/B004XXMUCQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374632451&sr=8-1&keywords=ubiquiti+unifi
Are you referring to this?
 

mccoolaustinm

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Not editing the last post, because I think I've run into a problem I mentioned in the OP; that the router I have "might" be required for Verizon FiOS TV?

This is the exact model I have: http://www.amazon.com/Verizon-Actiontec-M1424WR-Router-Cable/dp/B002V75U7I

It appears to act as both a router and a modem and allows for the FiOS TV package to be present in every room via coaxial cable? I think I may be misunderstanding how it works. However, I also know that the router part of it also receives its internet connection through the same generic coax cables that the set-top boxes use for the TV. I have at times noticed that when the router is not connected to the internet, parts of our TV package become unavailabe: namely, everything but a few channels that I presume to be unencrypted clearQAM?

To be honest, I don't know much about networking at all, which is why I seek help here.

Edit: I found a guide for connecting another router, apparently the Verizon-supplied ActionTec router IS "required" (maybe there is a workaround to it somewhere) but only for the set-top boxes.
http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Your-Own-Router-With-Verizon-FiOS
 

choucove

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Yes, you will have to use your original Verizon router as the actual router for your network. The wireless access point is in addition to that, it does not replace it. Think of the WAP as basically an antenna, it's not the whole router. You will continue to operate your existing Actiontec router just as is.

The UniFi WAP that you linked to from Amazon is their base model. I've used several of those and the range and performance is really quite nice. They do have an Enterprise version that is dual-radio with simultaneous 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz channels if that is something you are interested in, but it is quite a bit more expensive than the base model that you located. Unless you have wireless antennas that are specifically 5 Ghz capable, I wouldn't bother with the Enterprise dual-radio version unless you plan to implement that in the future and have the funds to spend on it. When it comes to slower wireless antenna devices slowing down the whole network, well that is just a possibility no matter what router you use. Any Wireless-B devices connecting will force all the others to also connect at the slower speed standard from what I understand. However, most all devices today should be at least Wireless-G and ideally should be Wireless-N.

There may be some noticeable difference between using the ActionTec for your wireless compared to the UniFi WAP for doing your wireless. First, the UniFI WAP will have many more options and features for enterprise-level wireless network configurations. Second, there will probably be a noticeable difference in signal coverage as these have a very nice quality internal antenna array, and third, the UniFi WAP systems are designed to handle MANY simultaneous connections (I've heard 30+ without much issue) steadily while the ActionTec is more of a home wireless router intended for more like 5 simultaneous wireless connections.
 

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