Does Ethernet Cable Affect Wifi Speed?

Have you noticed you’re spending more and more time waiting for websites and media to load over a wifi connection? There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to stream a movie and having it stop to buffer every few minutes.

I ran into a similar issue and decided to do some research into what might be causing my wifi to slow down, and what I can do to speed up my connection. I found a few helpful solutions that might help you.

One of the go-to ways to fix wifi speed is to simply use a wired ethernet cable connected directly from the router or modem to your device.

But you might be wondering:

Does Ethernet Cable Affect Wifi Speed?

An ethernet cable will always be faster and more reliable than wifi. However, the speed difference will depend on a number of factors such as the router, the number of wireless devices connected, level of internet activity, and available bandwidth, to name a few.

The short version is a wired internet connection will always be faster than wireless because the cable can support much more bandwidth and it’s more reliable. I’ll explain the basic concept of how wired and wifi speeds are different and then we’ll move on to what you can do about it.

Wifi:

If you use a modern router with a decent internet connection, the wifi speed should be decent. Most wifi adapters can support between 150 and 300 Mbps. The problem with wifi is the further you are from the router, the slower your connection.

For example, if your laptop is a few rooms away from the router, the wifi speed will slow down, and so on. Besides that, there are other factors that can affect the quality of a wifi network, such as outside interference, packet loss, and other devices on the network eating up bandwidth.

That last one is the most important.

Wifi Shares and Limits Bandwidth:

The most noticeable wifi speed change will occur when lots of devices are on the same network, trying to do multiple resource-heavy activities at the same time. The reason the speed decreases is because the router shares bandwidth with all wireless connected devices.

In some cases, you can change the amount of bandwidth that’s shared on the wireless network from inside the router settings, but most of the time, it’s assigned by default. In other words, the wifi speed will be limited. If one device uses a lot of bandwidth, the overall shared speed will decrease.

You don’t usually notice this limit because most of the tasks we need wifi for are fairly simple, and don’t require much bandwidth, such as loading websites, browsing articles, and whatnot.

But if you try something more resource-heavy such as downloading a game or movie, from more than one device on the wireless network, you’ll notice that everyone’s speed will slow down.

That’s because one device is using most of the available bandwidth, and the remaining bandwidth is split between the other devices.

Ethernet Connection:

Where does ethernet come in? To start, most ethernet cables can support at least a 1Gbps connection, or even higher, making the physical connection many times faster than wifi adapters.

On a wired connection, the connection speed is static, it doesn’t change, and you can always expect to get the maximum speeds possible. It’s also less likely to be interrupted by outside signals, making it much more reliable than wifi.

What’s interesting about a wired connection is the cable’s speed is not managed, and the speed limit is your broadband subscription limit.

For example, if you have a 100 Mbps plan, on a wired connection, the download speed should be the same. Basically, it is connected directly to the source, instead of being managed by the router.

Will Using an Ethernet Cable Slow Down Wifi Speed?

Maybe you’re concerned that moving from wifi to a wired connection will slow down the speed for other devices on the wifi network. Since the ethernet is on a separate channel, it won’t slow down the wifi speed at all. In fact, it might actually improve the wifi speed because you’re taking one device off the network thus improving the shared bandwidth for everyone.

The router doesn’t share ethernet bandwidth with any other devices, it’s a dedicated channel for that one device. So now that you have a general idea of how these technologies work, let’s look at some practical scenarios.

Gaming: Does Using Ethernet Cable Cause Lag?

No. An ethernet cable provides a faster and more stable connection on your end. The amount of lag that you receive will depend on the quality of your internet provider and the distance from you to the game’s server.

If you’re getting a noticeable lag on wifi, I recommend switching to an ethernet connection. If the lag is still noticeable, the problem is most likely on your ISP’s end. You should also bear in mind that some countries don’t have any local game servers, so they’ll connect you to the nearest one, which won’t always offer the best performance.

Lag in multiplayer games is a hot and complicated subject, and there are many factors, most of which are out of your control that can create lag spikes.

Streaming: Ethernet or Wifi?

An ethernet connection is always recommended for streaming video games because it’s not only faster than wifi but more stable too. While streaming with wifi is possible (depending on your router’s speed) unknown variables can slow down the connection and force the stream to reduce image quality or create lag spikes, which can be bothersome to your viewers.

If your only option is to stream with wifi, then I suggest lowering the stream quality settings and invest in a high-end 5 GHz router, so you can get the best wireless speed possible. Another idea would be to buy an inexpensive ethernet cable and run it along your wall to your gaming room. It’s not the most elegant solution but it can improve the quality of your streams.

To summarize, regardless of what you want to do online, an ethernet connection will always be faster and more reliable than wifi and it won’t affect wifi speed.

About Sergio

This is Sergio 👋. Writing in my spare time about geeky stuff 👨‍💻. Trying to keep up with the ever-evolving world of home tech, will it be gaming, computer hardware or home cinema set up 📀. Then writing about it here. I hope you're enjoying your stay 😀.

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