Not being able to find a Wi-Fi connection is enough to annoy anyone these days. But worse than that, having a slow Wi-Fi connection is sure to raise anybody’s blood pressure. Even in the age of wireless technology, cables and wires are an essential part of making any machine work right. When a smartphone, computer, or any other device is connected wirelessly, the modem/router that wireless signal comes from is still using Ethernet cables. These cables may be providing the Internet signal indirectly, but they are still an integral part of the process.
There are different categories out there and the type used will determine how fast electronics can operate online. If a page is loading slow, a better quality Ethernet cable can potentially make those connections go faster. It also helps to know how much data the average online task uses. Something simple like downloading a picture should go fast on any Ethernet cable whereas more data-heavy tasks like streaming videos can put strain on weaker connections.
These factors ring true for both wired and wireless connections, although from a technical standpoint those can be two very different things. Speaking of things that are different, being in a building that supports fiber optic cable over Ethernet can also make a huge difference. Understanding the basics of these concepts can ensure you understand what steps can be taken to make your Internet faster.
Ethernet vs. Wi-Fi
You probably have a modem and router in your home, but what exactly is the difference between them? Each device plays a critical role in getting Internet access to computers, smartphones, and anything else you have with online access. “Modem” and “router” are often used as interchangeable terms, but they are not the same thing.
The purpose of a modem is to bring the Internet into your home by connecting to a wall jack. The type of Internet signal that an Internet Service Provider (ISP) sends out is different from the type used by computers and other household electronics. A modem translates that raw signal into a format that your electronics can use.
There are different types of modems out there depending on what type of Internet service you pay for. If you have cable Internet, you need a cable Internet modem. If you are on a DSL connection, you need a DSL modem. And if you have fiber Internet, you need an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) modem.
Each modem has RJ45 ports on the back for ethernet cables. The port that plugs into the wall jack will usually be a different color so users can easily tell it apart. The other port(s) can run ethernet cables to computers or other hardware, including routers. A standalone modem only transmits signals over ethernet lines. If you are trying to set up WiFi, you will also need a router to go with the modem.
Most people use the Internet every single day. Everyone who does would likely agree that the Internet is a great tool so long as it works. We have all been in a situation where an email will not send, a page will not load, or a video pixelates and has to stop and buffer. But with the right precautions, you can keep those slow loading scenarios to a minimum.
The first step here is to understand the different categories of ethernet cables. The second is to remember that there is one, single cable connecting your modem or router to a wall outlet. All the data on your network, whether it is on a hardline or wireless, is passing through that one cable. If you have just one or two devices connected, like a desktop computer plus a cell phone, using a regular Cat5e cable should be fine. But when three, four, or more people all start using the Internet at the same time, issues can start to pop up for everyone.
Each type of ethernet cable has a maximum data speed. When more than one device is used, that speed is split between them. Two or more devices are going to put more strain on your equipment than just one. As more and more Internet connections are used simultaneously, it gets harder for a lower-quality cable to keep up. Upgrading to a newer, faster cable can fix this problem so long as you have a decent data plan with your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
The other key factor is what each user is doing. There are many activities the Internet can be used for and each one can have different data consumption rates. The more data an activity uses, the higher the odds of problems occurring when a network starts to get bogged down. Knowing the data usage rates of common activities can help when planning which type of ethernet cable to use for an upgrade.