One of the most common concerns when you’re setting up your home wifi system is that you have enough capacity to keep everyone happy. This is especially true nowadays, with more and more devices being connected to our home wireless network.
Depending on what you’re doing, you may feel like an ethernet connection is preferential to a standard wireless connection. Whether it’s for gaming or for something else, there are a few reasons why you might want to switch over to ethernet from a wifi connection.
But when doing this, it’s a pretty common concern that someone using an ethernet cable will slow down the rest of the devices connected to the router wirelessly. It’s unfair if one person uses all of the wifi bandwidth for themselves, right?
Well, kind of, but not really. We’re going to look at whether using an ethernet cable can slow down the rest of the devices on your wireless network, and what you can do to avoid a slow wifi signal.
Does using ethernet slow down wireless?
The correct answer is that using an ethernet cable instead of using wifi won’t slow down the rest of the devices connected to your home network. In fact, the other devices should actually get faster, as there’s one less devices using the wireless network.
The thing is that if you’re using an ethernet cable, then it’s likely that you’re deciding to use this because you need stability. Often, people will decide to use an ethernet connection either for intensive gaming, or if you’re going to be streaming 4k video and films.
Now, doing these activities in general may slow down your overall network. This all depends on the bandwidth capabilities of your home internet, and how many devices you’re connecting to the network at the same time.
If you’re only a cheap broadband package, then you may only be getting 50Mbps as an average broadband speed (Virgin’s cheapest package offers 54Mbps). This should be more than sufficient if you’re living alone or there won’t be a lot of devices connected to your access point.
However, if someone’s playing the Playstation, whilst someone else is streaming Netflix, whilst you’re trying to video call on Skype, they’ve all got to share that bandwidth between them – ethernet cable or not. It’s really the amount of active devices connected and active using data that’ll slow down your wifi router.
But the idea that one device might use an unfair amount of data just because it’s connected to the router via an ethernet cable is untrue. It will help the internet speed and reliability of the device connected, but it shouldn’t affect your wifi connection.
So, if someone is streaming 4k content, then this may affect the other users that are on the wifi network. But, this would be the case whether they were connected via an ethernet cable or connected wirelessly, so this doesn’t make much difference.
And in fact, if you were to connect that device watching 4k content to your router via an ethernet connection, then this would actually be better for the devices connected wirelessly. This is simply just one less device that the others need to worry about.
Will too many devices connected to wifi affect ethernet?
Whilst many people focus on ethernet slowing down their wifi devices, it’s often overlooked that things might happen the other way around. For the most part, you won’t need to worry about other devices having an effect on the quality on your ethernet connection.
This is because generally you’re likely to have enough internet bandwidth for both of them, and everyone will be able to use the internet at their own will. Your connection speed should stay relatively high via ethernet, even if you’re connecting to the home network with your phone and iPad too.
But just like having too many devices on your wifi will affect other people’s wifi, it’s the same for an ethernet connection too. An ethernet isn’t suddenly immune to having 20 devices connected to your home router – it’s still using the same amount of bandwidth that’s available for your entire household.
So, the answer is that yes, too many devices connected to your home network can effect your ethernet connection. But, you’d probably have to have quite a few devices connected for it to have a big effect, or your internet may just have to be pretty slow.
How to ensure no-one hogs the wifi – QoS/Prioritisation
If you’re worried about someone else in the house hogging all of the wifi, then there is actually something that you can do to stop this from happening. You can play around with the settings to give certain devices preference over others.
In the majority of routers, this is referred to as Quality of Service, or sometimes simply as Prioritisation. The name is a bit of a giveaway to what it allows you to do.
With these settings, you can actually control which of the devices in your household will be first in line to receive wifi. You can typically do this as a perfect, or change the priority to “highest”, which will put your device first.
On some routers, you can even do this on a per application/program basis. It can be a good way to make sure that someone streaming Netflix in UHD isn’t making the rest of the household suffer with low wifi speeds.
This is not available on all routers however, and some of the free ones you get given (like the Hubs from Virgin Media) won’t be able to do this. You’d have to switch your Virgin hub to modem mode and get an additional router to do this.
Should I have QoS on or off?
People aren’t always sure whether to have QoS on or off. It can be difficult whether to know to have these settings on, or to just leave things the way they are.
In an ideal world, it would be better to have a discussion about when and who uses the internet at a certain time. Putting on QoS settings isn’t difficult, but it can put restrictions on your overall network as a whole.
You could also consider looking at upgrading your internet connection as well. If you do this, then you probably won’t need to worry about connecting to the internet as a certain time.
But if you work from home, then enabling these settings is definitely something you should look into. It will enable you to get a better signal whilst the kids are playing video games at the same time. And if you connect your computer or laptop up via an ethernet port, the connection will be even better.
In conclusion, it’s pretty clear to see that ethernet cables aren’t quite as evil as many people make them out to be. They’re actually a good thing in general for your home network, as we want as little amount of devices wirelessly connected to the router as possible.
In the past, older routers may have struggled to deliver both of these at the same time. But with modern routers, there shouldn’t be any problems running wireless and ethernet at the same time. So, you can use ethernet if you want the increase reliability of a wired connection.
2 thoughts on “Does using ethernet slow down wireless devices?”
Hey- this was really helpful. Thank you!
Thanks so much, Natalie! I know Steve worked really hard on this one 🙂