Broadband (Cable, DSL, Satellite, Fiber Optics)/Wireless Internet Speed

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Question
Hi Ted:

Hope you are well.  We have AT&T U-verse for our wireless internet at home and are currently paying for MAX PLUS which supposedly gets us speed of 18/1.5. I have no problems except at night when my sons are home and in the upstairs part of the house.  At that time we have 3 laptops going, 2 different XBOX consoles going and one or two TVs  watching Netflix.  Add to that 4 phones that are using the signal.  The boys complain that their XBOX runs slow, Netflix runs slow, and my computer comes to a crawl.  
I can get the TURBO MAX which is supposedly 25/2 but my son thinks we need another wireless unit upstairs.  I don't think that will make any difference.  It isn't signal quality that is the problem just overload.
Should I spring for the faster speed, get another wireless box, or what?  Thanks for your help.

Mike

Answer
You only would need another wireless unit if you were losing signal - check the number of signal bars on the laptop and the speed that the laptops are associating with the wireless.  It is likely higher than 18Mbts and if it is, another wireless unit will do nothing.

18Mbt is high enough and I kind of doubt that getting the 25/2 will do anything either.

I suspect the problem is the wireless unit you are using to provide signal is simply running out of CPU power.  It is probably not powerful enough to feel more than 2-3 Mbts to 1 or 2 associated units.  This is why nobody uses consumer wireless gear for a lot of high bandwidth clients.  Sure you can buy a new one that maybe has a faster CPU but what if that doesn't work?  Then your $150 in the hole and they are still complaining.

How old is your son?  If he is 15 years old or older, and you can trust him with a drill, if I were in your shoes I would dig in my heels and tell him that he is old enough to run ethernet cable and do the job right.  Just buy a small 8 port switch at Office Depot or whatever, stick it upstairs, then go to Home Depot and buy a box of ethernet cable and a punchdown tool, a stud finder and the outlet boxes and jacks, and tell him to spend the weekend learning how to do it.  There's tons of guides all over the Internet he can look one up.  He can poke a hole in the wall and run a bent clothes hangar wire through it with string then pull the cable through it.  then buy the patch cables that run from the hub to the devices and the the wall jack.

then once that's all done and everyone is on copper, if your still having bandwidth issues you can look at replacing the router.  Many routers are much more efficient at handing ethernet-to-ethernet routing than ethernet-to-wireless routing so you may be ok.  Also, a lot can depend on the application in use.  Some network programs like bittorrent will peg a router CPU into overload unless you run dd-wrt firmware on the router and go into it's settings and make adjustments.  Also, some viruses will do the same thing.  All of that is easy to check if your network is copper, you just look at the switch lights and the light on the port that is blinking madly you pull the connection and see if it fixes the problem.  But with wireless your wasting your time on any troubleshooting.

Broadband (Cable, DSL, Satellite, Fiber Optics)

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Ted Mittelstaedt

Expertise

I will answer questions on the following kinds of High Speed Internet connectivity; ISDN, Frame Relay, dedicated T1, higher speeeds such as DS3/OC3, wireless such as 802.11 and DSL. No questions on dialup V90 or Cable access. I can also answer questions on many types of Cisco routers, and a number of other brands of business routers as well.

Experience

I am the technical manager of Internet Partners Inc. an ISP.

Publications
I've written a book titled "The FreeBSD Corporate Networker's Guide" published by Addison Wesley

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