Whether you’re setting up a new router or looking to get the best speeds from an old one, it’s important to understand which settings have an impact on network traffic speeds. When you’re configuring your router, it’s also important to know which types of traffic should get priority over others. For example, you can set up most routers to give priority to video and audio so your video conference calls aren’t bogged down by someone else in the office who is downloading a software update at the same time.
802.11n and Encryption
The 802.11n standard on a wireless router will give you the fastest speeds, up to 300 Mbps. However, this standard is handcuffed to a mere 54 Mbps if you set it to WEP or WPA encryption. The router will only reach its highest speeds if there is no encryption in place, or WPA2 encryption. If you set the router to mixed mode or WPA/WPA2 encryption, the moment a computer or other device begins using WPA encryption, the speeds for all computers on the network at that time are reduced to 54 Mbps as well.
Most routers use a default auto setting that lets the router switch between 20 and 40 MHz channel widths. The 20 MHz channel is slower than the 40 MHz channel but accommodates older computers and has a slightly better range. In most small offices, this range difference is not a factor. If your computers all support 802.11n — which is basically any computer less than ten years old — try setting the router to 40 MHz. If this doesn’t improve speed, you can set the router back to its auto mode again.
Quality of Service
Not all of your Internet usage requires the same amount of bandwidth. For example, if you are doing a video conference call or trying to watch streaming video, speed is usually more important than software updates or sending and receiving email. Most routers have a Quality of Service panel in the admin dashboard where you can specify which types of traffic should get priority. With QoS enabled, you can ensure that Internet phone calls or video get priority, even when someone on another computer is downloading files.
WMM, or Wi-Fi Multimedia, Support is an automated version of QoS available on some routers. WMM is designed to give priority to video and audio traffic, including Internet phone calls, streaming video and music. If these are the types of traffic you want to have priority in your office, you can enable WMM support instead of configuring QoS. However, if you configure QoS, you should disable WMM support, because having both on can cause one to interfere with the other, slowing down your traffic.