Blacksburg, Virginia, 06/10/2022
The Internet and I got to be friends almost 30 years ago and as I wrote in the article, Connecting Electronically Wasn’t Always So Easy, my Internet speeds and connectivity have struggled to keep up with my business needs.
In the fall of 2013, I was getting 22.51 Mbps down and 5.26 Mbps up. By 2020, the best cable service I could get managed 481 Mbps down and 22.8 Mbps up.
That might look fast but those highly asymmetric cable speeds just did not allow for easy, consistent video conferencing or the quick transfer of very large files to and from the cloud. Those two things define my business life.
Fortunately a move to a not so remote area and buying a new home in a subdivision with fiber (which I like to call a Fiberhood) changed everything. Having symmetrical fiber made a huge difference in what I can do from my home desk.
We got our symmetrical 500 Mbps service the day after we moved in the house. We never even bothered to sign up for cable at our new house but we have gotten very good at streaming very good at streaming so television has not been a problem. An inexpensive VOIP service gave us another phone line besides our smartphones.
However, technology marches on and as I got more bandwidth, I wondered if I would notice even faster speeds as we seem to be generating ever larger reports- a recent one was 139.6 MB. I happened to find out that my service provider (I am not on a network with any involvement from our company, WideOpen Networks) had lowered their pricing. I called and found out that I could could get symmetric Gig service for less than I had been paying for symmetric 500 Mbps service - which proves there is nothing like competition to drive down prices.
I quickly signed up for symmetric Gig service and within a couple of days I was disappointed with the speeds that I was getting. This is not my first time around the Internet block and I have a good idea of what speeds the networks that we build deliver. I had been getting close to 480 Mbps up and down with my 500 Mbps hard-wired connection via our Gig Ethernet switch. With my new Gig services, my hard-wired speeds were rarely above 680 Mbps up and down. I called customer service and got the suggestion that it was just overhead from my network. She told me switching to a different router would have little impact.
Luckily, I have a son who is a system administrator and network architect. I called him and he explained to me that the advice of a few years ago to buy your own router was outdated. He said new inexpensive chips allow fiber service providers to lease to customers excellent high-end routers that are more than capable of providing great speeds and reliability for home users.
I was initially skeptical since my very reliable Google router with mesh network was only two or three years old, but I did some research. I found out that my provider was using Calix Gigasphere routers which I knew were on the short list for ones that we are planning on offering for own WideOpen Networks’ customers.
That sealed the deal. I called up and arranged to get one of the Calix routers. A few days later the technician arrived and just as I hope our technicians are, he was even five minutes early. I had the name and password of my old WiFi network ready. That was important since we have twenty-five devices on our network, many of them wireless, ranging from my original Kindle Fire to our garage door opener. The technician unplugged the old Google router and plugged in the new Calix one. I downloaded the CommandIQ app from the Google Play store to my smartphone, created a new account, logged into it, gave the new WiFi network the exact same name and password as the old one. Next we tested the wired connection on one of my hard-wired computers. Even at noon the speeds were a huge improvement.
Then I did wireless tests that mostly involved me running the network speed test on the Calix CommandIQ app in every room. The wireless tested fine. Even better than the speeds, there seems to be no need for a mesh network. All our devices worked fine, including our LG television, the iPads, the Chromebooks, all our Macs, Windows computers, even my Linux computer and the WiFi on both our smartphones. I did not get locked out because I still able to open our WiFi-enabled garage door using my smartphone. Our speeds are now regularly in the high 800 Mbps even during busy times of the day. In the not so busy times, we hit over 900 Mbps.
You can go crazy running speed tests especially if you are trying to do it wirelessly with computers and have no idea what kind of WiFi connectivity that the computer has. I easily ran over half a dozen different speed tests and never got the same result twice. As my son likes to say, at speeds of anything over 500 Mbps per second, there is either something between you and the test server impacting performance or the server cannot handle higher data rates. In any case with a new router it is more than likely something beyond your network keeping your from hitting over 900 Mbps.
Good advice is sometimes hard to come by but I think that I am safe in saying that if you have fiber and your speeds are not where they should be, maybe it is time to look at one of the routers supported by your service provider. If they are good fiber provider, you will likely be pleased with the results and there will be no pointing fingers at equipment since it came from the service provider.
- David Sobotta, VP of Sales