The data transfer speeds you can expect from your router are largely dictated by the type of connection running between it and your computer. Both Ethernet and Wi-Fi comprise a range of data transfer standards, meaning that two similar-looking routers may transfer at markedly different speeds. In addition, speed differences between LAN and WAN technologies may result in internal traffic running faster than Internet traffic from the same device.
- Data transfer between two devices only happens as fast as the slowest link between those devices can run. For example, a computer might be connected to a router over 100 megabit per second Ethernet, but if the router’s Internet link only runs at 20 Mbps, the computer can never receive external traffic at more than 20 Mbps. When calculating router speed, it is important to remember that the connection speed between your computer and router may be significantly higher than the speed with which the router can communicate with online devices.
- Most Ethernet interfaces transfer data at either 10, 100 or 1000 Mbps. Your router documentation should indicate which data rates your device’s interfaces accommodate. These standards are backwardly compatible; with 1000 Mbps Ethernet, interfaces can transfer at 100 or 10 Mbps if necessary. Ethernet connections are designed to negotiate speed automatically, meaning that your router should automatically use the fastest possible speed to communicate with your wired clients. For best performance, ensure that you do not use cable runs of more than 25 feet.
- Wireless-N devices are capable of transfer speeds of up to 300 Mbps. The earlier Wireless-G standard is capable of up to 54 Mbps. Wireless networks are far more susceptible to external interference than wired networks, meaning that the speeds you see from your router may fluctuate heavily over even simple Wi-Fi setups. You can maximize Wi-Fi transfer speeds by minimizing the number of obstructions between your computer and your router and by keeping both away from other forms of wireless or radio equipment.
- In general, Internet connections are slower than local network connections. A fast Internet link is important, as it is this — not your local network speed — that governs the speed with which you can download. The speed you can expect from your Internet connection is largely dependent on the plan you are on with your service provider. As a guideline, however, 2012 figures from networking company Akamai put the average U.S. broadband connection at 7.4 Mbps, with average peak speeds of 31.5 Mbps.