The Wi-Fi 802.11 standard indicates the theoretical maximum speed of a WiFi network. Wi-Fi can support different levels of performance depending on the technology standard. The fastest standard currently supported by Wi-Fi is WiFi 6. This common name refers to the IEEE 802.11ax wireless standards, which were introduced in 2019. While the 802.11ax Standard is most common, this will change soon as more Wi-Fi6 devices are available.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers certifies Wi-Fi standards. Each Wi-Fi standard has a maximum theoretical network bandwidth. These theoretical maximums are not always met by Wi-Fi networks. There are many factors that affect the actual speed of Wi-Fi network connections.
Actual vs. Theoretical Network Speeds
The majority of standards are supported by Wi-Fi networks today.
A typical 802.11b network operates at 50 percent of its theoretical peak speed, which is around 5.5 Mbps. The 802.11a network and HTML02.11g networks typically run at 20 Mbps. 802.11n speeds at 600 Mbps are slower than wired Fast Ethernet at 100Mbps. However, the Ethernet connection is often faster than 802.11n in real-world usage. Wi-Fi performance is improving with every new generation.
There will be wide variations in the theoretical and actual speeds of Wi-Fi networks.
|802.11b||11 Mbps||5.5 Mbps|
|802.11a||54 Mbps||20 Mbps|
|802.11g||54 Mbps||20 Mbps|
|802.11n||600 Mbps||100 Mbps|
|802.11ac||1,300 Mbps||200 Mbps|
|802.11ax||10 Gbps||2 Gbps|
IEEE will likely finalize 802.11be (WiFi 7), the next wireless communications standard. However, 802.11ax is still more popular than 802.11ac.
Factors Limiting Wi-Fi Connection Speeds
Practical Wi-Fi performance is not as good as it could be. This can be due to network protocol overhead, radio interference, and physical obstructions along the line of sight.
Additionally, the performance of the network is affected by how bandwidth works and the limitations of the hardware.
Wi-Fi network connections operate at the fastest speed possible for both devices. These are often called endpoints. For example, an 802.11g laptop connecting to an 802.11n router will connect at a slower speed than the 802.11g notebook. To operate at a higher speed, both devices must support the exact same standard.
The Role of Internet Service Providers in Network Speed
The internet connection’s performance is often the most important factor in home network speeds. Although most residential networks allow file sharing at speeds up to 20 Mbps, Wi-Fi clients connect to the internet at lower speeds than the internet service providers.
Many internet service providers offer multiple tiers of internet services. You pay more for a faster connection.
Network Speed: An Increasingly Important Factor
As streaming video became more popular, high-speed connections became even more important. Although you may have a Netflix or Hulu subscription, if your internet connection is not fast enough, you will not be able to stream many movies.
Video streaming apps are the same. You will spend a lot of your TV-viewing time on apps for premium channels and commercial channels if you have an Apple TV or Roku. You will experience poor quality video and frequent buffering if your network is not fast enough.
Netflix recommends 1.5Mbps broadband speed, but Netflix recommends higher speeds to achieve higher quality.
How to test your network speed
An online speed test service may be offered by your internet service provider. Log in to your account and go to the connection speed page. To get an average benchmark, repeat the test at different times throughout the day.