Last updated by Albert Duong
1. Why is my wireless router not delivering gigabit speeds over Wi-Fi?
While wireless routers may be advertised with multi-gigabit speeds on the box, most numbers are theoretical maximums or aggregated link speeds. For example, an AC1900 wireless router is not physically capable of reaching 1.9 Gbps over a single connection; that number is an aggregate of the maximum link speeds over both of its wireless radios (600 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and 1300 Mbps on 5 GHz). In practice, your device can only connect to one radio at a time and even then, it will not be capable of reaching the individual band speeds outside of a controlled lab environment.
Another factor to consider is the "ceiling speed". For example if your router supports 1733 Mbps wireless AC on the 5 GHz frequency, your smartphone's Wi-Fi chip may only support 433 Mbps wireless AC. The slower of the two will be the wireless link rate.
As noted above, the numbers advertised are tested in highly controlled lab environments which are not achievable in the real world. Typical real-life performance will vary based on several environmental factors such as distance, interference, barriers, and software. However, you can generally expect around 25-33% of the ceiling speed in optimal circumstances. For a general idea on expected speeds on Ting's Gigabit plan, you can check out our performance guide found here.
2. What are differences between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz network bands on my wireless router?
Many modern wireless routers (including the one Ting offers) have two or more wireless radios capable of broadcasting on different FCC-approved bands, specifically 2.4 GHz and more recently, 5 GHz.
The 2.4 GHz band is characterized by decent signal penetration through solid objects (walls / floors / furniture) and hence better range however, it only has 3 optimal operating channels (frequencies). This spectrum is older and many household electronics such as microwaves, cordless phones, wireless headsets, game controllers, baby monitors, and security cameras compete for spectrum space on similar frequencies which results in significant wireless interference.
On the other hand, the 5 GHz band has a wider operating spectrum with up to 24 non-overlapping channels so there is less chance for interference. With less devices supporting it, it also means less overall interference from competing devices. The 5 GHz band will generally provide much faster speeds than 2.4 GHz by nature. However, 5 GHz signals are more absorbed by barriers such as walls or furniture, so the effective range is much shorter and does not cover as much of a typical home. The 5 GHz band operates most effectively when there is "line-of-sight" between the router and the device.
3. Why can't I connect to the 5 GHz band on my device?
Your device needs to be in range and support 5 GHz connectivity in order to detect and connect to that band. Many newer (at least 2013) laptops, smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs will have built-in 5 GHz support however, you should always check with the manufacturer's website or user guide to confirm the device's available connectivity options.
4. When should I use the 5 GHz band over the 2.4 GHz?
You should connect to the 5 GHz band if you are within line-of-sight of your wireless router or if the signal strength (number of bars) is equal or better than your 2.4 GHz network. Many devices will connect to the first network it encounters instead of picking the one with better performance so you will need to manually select it from your device settings to get the best experience.
5. Why does my Wi-Fi connection suddenly drop?
This typically occurs when the Wi-Fi signal strength between the router and your client device is marginal causing the connection to be unstable and inconsistent. The best way to alleviate this issue is to move closer to the router or add more broadcasting points into your home network to improve the overall wireless distribution.
Wi-Fi will also drop sporadically (among several other issues) if the router has been up and running for a long period of time without being power cycled. We recommend you power cycle ("reboot") a router at least every 30 days. To do this: remove the router's power cord from the wall, wait about 30 seconds, plug it back in, and allow it a few minutes to re-connect to the internet automatically.
6. Why do my Wi-Fi speeds vary so much?
Fluctuations in Wi-Fi speeds can occur if the signal strength is poor (see Question 5) or there is significant wireless interference from neighboring Wi-Fi signals and other transmitting devices as listed in Question 3. Interference can cause the transmitted data to be lost and the router will need to re-transmit that data several times before it reaches its destination.
While the signal strength indicator on your device can sometimes provide insight for the connection quality, the signal can be objectively measured using decibel-milliwatts (dBm). As a rule of thumb, you will get the a better experience if your signal strength is equal to or better than -60 dBm (more positive).