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Understanding Internet Speed
Understanding Internet Speed

The concept of internet "speed" is complicated. Learn how different factors affect the performance of your internet devices.

Written by Matthew Nowell
Updated over a week ago

Understanding Internet Speed

The concept of internet “speed” is complicated. Learn how different factors affect the performance of your internet devices.

External Factors Can Affect Speed

Your service tier is the bandwidth that Race provides to your router. For example, if you have a 1Gbps (Gigafy Me) internet plan, your router has a 1 Gigabit per second connection to the outside world. Devices connected to your router can collectively send and/or receive up to 1000 Megabits of data during any given second. Once that data is outside of your personal network, it can travel many paths before returning to you, any of which can have a delay and contribute to less-than-optimal internet performance. The quality of your internet experience, including speed tests, can be affected by problems with networks and servers in other places. Many perceived speed issues are a problem with something outside of the Race network.

Other Networks/Websites

Websites and servers you interact with may not provide their services at the same speeds as your service tier. Things to consider as you browse the internet:

  • Websites may not have the same network speeds as you.

  • Website server capacity can impact your internet speeds. If many users are accessing the same server at the same time, response times may increase and cause delays on the user end. Visiting sites during their peak hours may also result in slower speeds.

  • Website owners may use other ISPs to deliver content back to you. These network serving arrangements can also impact your internet speeds.

Speed Versus Bandwidth

The terms speed and bandwidth are often confused. Bandwidth describes the maximum rate at which a particular internet access service can transmit data. This rate is measured in bits per second with metric prefixes: 1 Kbps = 1 thousand bits (1 Kilobit) per second, 1 Mbps = 1 million bits (1 Megabit) per second, 1 Gbps = 1 billion bits (1 Gigabit) per second. So, for instance, a 100 Mbps internet connection can send and/or receive up to 100 million bits of data per second.

Speed is the amount of bandwidth being used by a particular device for a particular application at a given moment. Speed tests will generally attempt to pull as much bandwidth as possible to measure the maximum speed available to that device. In most circumstances, speeds are NOT the same as available bandwidth. Things like WiFi interference, other devices connected to the network, and device limitations will almost always mean that a speed test will not register the same value as the total bandwidth available to your service tier. This does not mean that you are receiving less bandwidth than you pay for or that your device is performing more slowly than it should.

Fiber internet is an ultra-fast broadband technology. Bandwidth is symmetrical, meaning that you have the same amount available for download (receiving data) and upload (sending data). Traditional internet services provided much lower upload bandwidth, but many modern users require large amounts of bandwidth in both directions.

Service Tier

Bandwidth Provided

Basic Broadband +

(not available in all markets)

25 Mbps

Gigafy Me

1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps)

Gigafy +

(not available in all markets)

10 Gbps (10,000 Mbps)

Other Factors That Impact Internet Speed

Inside the Home

Many factors inside your home can affect the rate at which you send or receive internet data. These include:

  • Distance between the router and your device

  • Radio interference from other WiFi devices

  • Electromagnetic interference from non-WiFi devices like appliances, baby monitors, garage door openers, Bluetooth, etc.

  • Environmental interference: walls, furniture, plumbing, etc.

  • Number of devices connected to the router

  • Type of connection used: Ethernet or WiFi

  • WiFi band: 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz

Connection Types

You can access your internet through a wired Ethernet connection or a WiFi connection.

Wired connections use Ethernet cables to connect your device directly to one of the Ethernet ports on your router. These connections provide the best performance, consistently. You will need a Cat5e or better Ethernet cable. Race recommends Cat6 or Cat6a. For 10Gbps internet, you will need Cat6a or Cat7 Ethernet cables, which are shielded and provide better transmission speeds than standard Cat6. Some older Ethernet cables, ports, switches, etc. may not be capable of supporting speeds of 1Gbps to a single device. This includes Ethernet wiring in some older buildings.

Bandwidth is shared among all devices connected to your router, so more devices connecting at the same time may result in slower speeds.

Wireless (WiFi) connections let you move throughout your home but can be slower and slightly less stable than wired connections. WiFi speeds depend on the technology both in your device and in your router. Race provides a carrier-class router with the newest WiFi protocols available to ensure that your devices can achieve optimal performance.

You will get the best WiFi connection when close to your router, with few other devices running, using new devices with current WiFi technology. Older devices use older WiFi protocols, which run at slower speeds. Race routers are reverse compatible, so you can connect your older devices, but your speeds will be limited by the capability of the device.

WiFi operates on two different radio frequency bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz frequency has better range and is better able to penetrate physical barriers like walls and furniture, but the frequency can only carry about 100 Mbps of data. This means that devices connected to the 2.4 GHz WiFi band will be able to get a good signal further from the router, but average speeds on those devices will be about 25 – 75 Mbps. The 5 GHz band can provide speeds on average about 10 times higher than the 2.4 GHz band, but it only has about half the range.

Because the 2.4 GHz band is older technology, there are a large number of devices that use it. Because of this, and because it has less bandwidth capacity, it is much more prone to radio and EM interference than the 5 GHz band. In general, if your device is capable of connecting to 5 GHz WiFi and you are able to do so, the 5 GHz band will give you better performance than the 2.4 GHz band. If you are getting poor signal on the 5 GHz band, the 2.4 GHz band will allow you to connect at slower speeds.

Device Considerations

Internet devices come in all shapes and sizes. Each device has a maximum internet speed, but that speed might not be as fast as your service tier. For example, if your older laptop or tablet only supports 300 Mbps communication and you have a 1Gbps internet service, your device will never be able to reach the more than 300 Mbps.

When a device connects to your network, it uses a portion of your available bandwidth. Several devices sharing your internet connection can affect the speed each device experiences. Increasing available bandwidth will not always increase the speed of any individual device, but it will ensure that each device is able to operate at its maximum speed without hindering any other devices on the network.

Additional Considerations

As noted, many factors can affect service speeds and test results. In addition, data transmission involves some overhead. In general, about 6%-9% of your total available bandwidth is dedicated to data transmission overhead. This means that a perfect speed test under ideal conditions will still not show 100% of your available bandwidth.

To see maximum speed test results, you must have an appropriate wired connection between the Ethernet port of the Optical Network Terminal and a device capable of receiving the maximum speed. In any other configurations, including a wired connection between your device and the router, the bandwidth will be distributed to all connected devices and no single device will be able to show speeds approaching the bandwidth limit.

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