How a cheap router kills your home Wi-Fi speeds

Getting a fibre, VDSL, or LTE-A connection at home is on many South Africans’ wish lists.

I was fortunate enough to have a 100Mbps/50Mbps Openserve fibre line installed at home this week, and a speed test via an Ethernet connection confirmed the good news – 97Mbps down, 49Mbps up.

There was one problem, however – the only Wi-Fi router I had was the entry-level dual-band device my ISP shipped to me when I signed up for the fibre package.

With multiple devices needing to connect to my fibre via Wi-Fi, I was concerned there would be congestion – which would result in slow speeds.

A bigger concern was that the router would not penetrate my home’s walls – via 2.4GHz or 5GHz – and that the router’s placement in a small home office on the ground floor would see the upstairs rooms left uncovered.

The tests

To see how capable the router was, I put it to the test.

The router is an entry-level dual-band device which popular ISPs are currently shipping to customers when they sign up for fibre.

It costs around R950 from local retailers and $100 on Amazon.

A MacBook Pro and iPhone X were used to test how well the router worked in real-world conditions, and multiple tests were conducted using both devices.

Tests were conducted at 0m, 5m, 10m, and 15m from the router, with walls added to the connection’s path as the distance increased.

Tests were only conducted on the ground floor, as connectivity was non-existent upstairs.

The table below details the results of the tests, which shows that from distance as close as 10m – with one wall in the router’s path – connection speeds started to drop.

Wi-Fi Speeds
Distance from Router 2.4GHz Speed (Down/Up) 5GHz Speed (Down/Up)
MacBook Pro
0m 88.38Mbps / 39.93Mbps 96.25Mbps / 45.28Mbps
5m (1 wall) 84.02Mbps / 23.92Mbps 85.25Mbps / 46.80Mbps
10m (1 wall) 76.60Mbps / 15.32Mbps 97.11Mbps / 47.69Mbps
15m (2 walls) 0.19Mbps / 0.25Mbps 1.20Mbps / 3.09Mbps
iPhone X
0m 74.12Mbps / 38.57Mbps 95.59Mbps / 48.39Mbps
5m (1 wall) 72.93Mbps / 47.14Mbps 95.95Mbps / 42.38Mbps
10m (1 wall) 69.50Mbps / 19.52Mbps 95.30Mbps / 28.42Mbps
15m (2 walls) 0.80Mbps / 0.00Mbps Connection Failed

Now read: South African Wi-Fi Speed battle – Android vs iPhone

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How a cheap router kills your home Wi-Fi speeds