Wi-Fi Speeds 30 Percent Slower Than Wired in Homes: Report

By David Needle

March 10, 2011

Epitiro study concludes that consumers lose an average of 30 percent of download speed and face an increase in latency of 10 to 20 percent when using Wi-Fi connections in the home.

Consumers may enjoy the mobility Wi-Fi connectivity affords, but performance can be significantly less than wired broadband connections in the home, according to a new study released this week by Epitiro.

"Our data shows that connectivity over Wi-Fi degrades broadband performance considerably in typical circumstances," JP Curley, CTO of Epitiro, said in the report. "Consumers who are experiencing performance issues with Wi-Fi should take steps to improve their home environment or connect directly via wired Ethernet."

Epitiro's research -- based on reports from 14,001 users in the UK, USA, Italy and Spain -- states consumers lose an average of 30 percent of download speed and face an increase in latency of 10-20 percent when using Wi-Fi connections in the home. Such applications as on-line gaming, VoIP telephony and video streaming are potentially impacted using Wi-Fi and downloading large files such as MP3s, videos and programs will take longer.

Why the disparity in wired versus Wi-Fi performance? Epitiro notes that many Wi-Fi routers share the same default communication channel, which can cause interference in urban areas, leading to dropped connections or slow service. Epitiro said an easy fix to that issue is switching to a different channel.

But the research firm also noted that other, long-recognized, issues can degrade Wi-Fi performance, including physical barriers such as walls, doors and furniture; as well as interference from other devices in the same frequency range including baby monitors, television remote controls, microwave ovens, garage door openers and cordless phones.

Analyst Ben Bajarin said he's not sure the findings are all that significant.

"We've known about the interference issues for a long time. Also, how many computers are on an access point, the distance from the router and if you have an older router are all factor than can impact performance," Bajarin, analyst with tech consulting firm Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com. "So you should definitely check those things. But the bottom line is people aren't going to wire their entire home, they want the portability that Wi-Fi affords even if there's a little tradeoff in performance."

Epitiro's Curley said another factor is Quality of Experience (QoE) and that consumers should select ISPs based on their ability to provide reliable service. The research firm used its own Quality of Experience Analysis Solution to test Wi-Fi and wired broadband performance. Epitiro offers a free "isposure" test application designed to let consumers monitor broadband performance.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.



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