Your Upload Speed is Probably Too Slow

Last weekend, a dear friend of mine asked me to help fix her WiFi. Her boyfriend said it was too slow and took them forever to load things. At first I thought, “Hmm…okay this should be really easy. Probably just a weak signal to their office which is located at the back of the house.”

Boy, was I wrong. Diagnosing WiFi issues are a pain in the ass. There are just so many variables and standards. So after some investigation I basically told her something like this:

“So here’s the thing my dear friend. Your WiFi is slow because the 5GHZ band on your router, which carries a higher bandwidth, can’t reliably reach to your office room. Only the 2.4GHZ bandwidth can, which doesn’t carry much bandwidth. And even if it could, the adapter on your computer is only rated to Wireless N standards and not AC, so you won’t see the high speeds you’re paying for.”

Then she comes back and says:

“Okay Dave. So let’s say we get the 5 GHZ band into the office and get an AC adapter, will I see those high speeds?”

Then I hit her back with:

“Well my dear friend, you will definitely see higher speeds. But there’s also this thing called MIMI (multiple input and multiple output). Your devices only have 2, so the maximum speed you’ll ever get is 866 Mbps. But the 5 GHZ AC band is also very inefficient, so your actual data will still be much lets than that.”

So after some further discussion and consideration, we settled for getting her a mesh WiFi router. Running Ethernet though her whole house was not an option, and neither was using power-line adapters or Coax adapters. The Mesh WiFi did the job we expected. The 5GHZ signal was able to reach reliably to the back office. Also, we ran an ethernet cable from one of the WiFi nodes to her boyfriend’s computer. His speed was much better than it was before.

Problem solved right?

Well, just before I was about to leave, she says:

“Thanks so much Dave! Now hopefully it won’t be slow when we’re both on Zoom meetings.”

I froze. While a router did help her boyfriend’s connection issue, two people being on a Zoom conference call is a different issue.

I tested her upload speed and discovered the real issue. She’s only getting 3-8 Mbps upload (and it varies a lot depending on the time). That’s awful for video conferencing! If she’s doing a group video call on Zoom, and her boyfriend is doing the same, their Internet is going to come to a crawl. I forgot to test her latency but I assume that could also be another source of concern. And this isn’t an issue that a new router will fix. This needed to be fixed by switching to the only other ISP available in her area.

Further Reading

I found this article on understanding WiFi to be very informative in my search: https://www.duckware.com/tech/wifi-in-the-us.html#PHY