- Replacing your router may not solve signal strength issues.
- Understanding Wi-Fi protocols can help determine if your router needs upgrading.
- Slow speeds may be due to your internet service plan, not your router.
- Check your network configuration before buying a new router.
- Older devices may not support newer wireless standards.
- Mapping out dead zones can help identify areas with poor signal strength.
What are some reasons to avoid a new wireless router? When faced with network issues, it can be tempting just to circumvent the problem entirely and get a new whole network device. However, this isn’t always the best course of action.
Now, that isn’t to say you shouldn’t replace your router. Routers, much like any piece of technology, are subject to advancements that can make upgrading them regularly a good practice. If you have recently replaced your router and you’re facing network issues, it might not be the router.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at six common network issues and why you might want to avoid replacing your router.
What Are Wireless Routers?
Wireless routers act as a middleman between your ISP’s modem and the rest of the wireless devices in your home. They take the converted digital signal from your modem and distribute it evenly to any number of devices.
There are a number of wireless standards based on the IEEE 802.11 protocol you’ll see in use with routers. If you’ve got a router that is still using 802.11b or 802.11g, it very well may be due for an upgrade. However, newer standards like 802.11ac or 802.11ax are still perfectly usable.
Why You Might Want to Buy a New One
For most users without networking knowledge, it can be easy to point to the router as the source of all their networking woes. This can certainly be true when discussing older Wi-Fi standards.
If you’ve got a 5 Gbps fiber plan and you’re still using 802.11n, then it very likely is your router causing an issue. That said, not all networking issues are directly related to the router.
Networking is a complicated subject, with many moving parts that allow it to function. The router is just one key component among a whole slew of components.
So, it could very well benefit you to beef up your networking knowledge just a bit before purchasing a new router.
Reasons to Avoid a New Wireless Router
Here are six reasons to avoid a new wireless router today.
Reason #1: It Won’t Help with Signal Strength
Wireless signals only have so much power to travel before degradation occurs. This can be further exacerbated by factors such as the size of your home or office, and the materials used in construction. Stone or cinder block construction, for example, isn’t conducive to good signal quality.
So, it can be tempting to get one of those tri-band routers with beamforming capabilities. However, if your home or office is filled with reflective materials or plentiful electromagnetic interference, you’ll experience the same issues.
Now, there are ways to mitigate and amplify the signal from your router. That said, it won’t be solely relying on the purchase of a new router. This is one of the reasons to avoid a new wireless router, you might benefit from mapping hot spots and dead zones in your home.
Reason #2: Understanding Your Wi-Fi Protocols
This might seem like one of the sillier reasons to avoid a new wireless router. However, if you aren’t familiar with Wi-Fi protocols, it can certainly help to at least get surface-level knowledge.
Wireless protocols are constantly changing, with newer and more capable ones becoming available every few years. That said, if you already have an 802.11ax router, you’re at the absolute top of what is offered in wireless networking currently.
Wi-Fi 7 is due soon, but that isn’t really a reason to go upgrading your router. As with any new technology, you might want to wait before deciding your router isn’t up to the task.
Reason #3: You Might Already Be Hitting the Maximum Speed of Your Internet Plan
One of the ideal scenarios for networking is complete saturation of the available bandwidth. ISPs have internet service plans that come in a variety of speeds. If you’ve already got a new wireless router but are noticing you aren’t hitting the speeds quoted on the box, it might be your service plan.
802.11ax has a maximum throughput of 9.6 gigabits per second, which certainly sounds impressive. That said, if you’re on a 500 Mbps plan from your local provider, that speed isn’t going to be seen.
Your router uses the maximum speed provided by your modem, which is then distributed to all connected devices in the home. If you’re hitting the theoretical maximum of your throughput, a new router isn’t going to help.
Reason #4: Speed Issues Might Be Related to Your Devices
This might seem like one of the more obvious reasons to avoid a new wireless router. Beyond just your router itself, each device in your home has a specific Wi-Fi protocol it supports. Now, this isn’t an issue in terms of connectivity, as even newer wireless standards are backward compatible.
However, if you notice an older laptop or iPad is having issues with speed when downloading or streaming, it is likely just the device itself. Before you go to purchase a new wireless router, check the manual and specs of your devices.
You might find that your old laptop only supports up to 802.11n, which is certainly a far cry from the capabilities of a Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 router.
Reason #5: It May Be an Improper Network Configuration
This is one of the more understandable reasons to avoid a new wireless router. Improperly configuring your router is relatively easy to do. Now, quick setup guides are out there for most use cases, and that’s great.
However, you might end up accidentally flipping an option that results in reduced speeds. Placing certain devices higher up in a demarcation zone, or DMZ, for example, can lead to prioritized bandwidth. Routers typically use something called QoS, or Quality of Service, to evenly distribute bandwidth.
In some instances, an improper network configuration can result in greatly skewed speeds on your devices. Before purchasing a new wireless router, double-check your network settings. If you have issues understanding certain options, there are readily available resources that can break down terms.
Reason #6: Understanding Dead Spots in Your Location
Understanding signal strength is a crucial component of setting up your wireless router. Any network engineer will be scouring the floor and checking for signal strength after the initial configuration of a wireless router.
Now, this might be something you have to do, as well. Dead spots arise quite readily when considering larger spaces or older homes. A wireless router only can transmit so far before signal degradation occurs. Dead zones can even occur in smaller homes and apartments.
You can map out the areas with the best signal using any free apps available for iOS and Android smartphones. It might be a time-consuming process, but it could save you some money and you’ll better understand how to address your network woes.
Alternatives to a New Wireless Router
Here are a few of our favorite alternatives to purchasing a new wireless router.
1. Mesh Network
- Phenomenal Wifi speeds minus the premium price tag
- Fast, reliable Gigabit Internet speeds
- Routes traffic to eliminate dead spots,drop-offs
- Setup your router in minutes
- Expert customers support via phone or email
A mesh network is effectively a new wireless router, but the capabilities are different. You still have access to the same sort of wireless network provided by a standard dual-band or tri-band router. However, you’ll have additional devices, or nodes, that can be placed around the home.
If you suffer signal loss, this can be a great way to extend your network coverage. Amazon’s Eero mesh system is an affordable and easy-to-configure option. The latest generation of the hardware gets access to Wi-Fi 6E speeds and features, so you’ll be set for some time.
As with any wireless network, you’ll want to scope out the signal map of your home before placing the mesh nodes. Mesh networks are a great solution for larger homes, where signal loss can occur when the coverage area for the 2.4GHz of any router begins to falter.
2. Wi-Fi Extenders
If purchasing a whole new network isn’t appealing, then a Wi-Fi extender is a solid option. The D-Link E15 Eagle Pro is an affordable option that only requires a free power outlet to function. Once installed, a Wi-Fi extender allows the signal to travel much further than originally intended.
The E15 Eagle Pro nominally supports an additional 2,600 feet while providing Wi-Fi 6 compatibility. If you have a router that is up to the task of providing that sort of speed, then this is a great option if you’re looking to extend your wireless network’s range.
Again, you’ll likely need to map out your home or office to see where signal loss is occurring. However, purchasing a couple of extenders like the E15 Eagle Pro is a viable option.
It’ll cost less initially than a whole mesh network, and there is some degree of flexibility in where you can extend the signal. Do keep in mind that if you’re purchasing four or more, you might want to just opt for the mesh network instead.
3. Wi-Fi Adapters for Your Laptop or Desktop
- Wi-Fi 6 Compatible
- Supports WPA3 security
- No drivers needed
- External antennae allow for great wireless reception
If you’ve got an older laptop or desktop, then the Wi-Fi card built into the device likely isn’t up to snuff. A new wireless adapter can bring your networking to modern standards. The ASUS AX1800 is a superb choice, if a bit unwieldy.
The AX1800 supports Wi-Fi 6 and features beamforming and MU-MIMO connectivity. A new wireless adapter is a much cheaper proposition than replacing your router or computer.
There are certainly other options out there with a lower profile, but if you don’t mind sacrificing a USB port, then the AX1800 is one of the best on the market currently.
Networking issues are never fun. However, most users can circumvent needing to purchase expensive network hardware by gaining a very basic understanding of the capabilities of their devices. Your wireless router could be the issue, but it could also just be down to any number of factors.
|Reasons to Avoid a New Wireless Router
|1. It won’t help with signal loss.
|2. You might be hitting the maximum performance of your Wi-Fi standard.
|3. Speed issues could be related to your internet service plan.
|4. You may have misconfigured your wireless network.
|5. All the devices in your home might not support the same wireless standard.
|6. Mapping out the dead zones in your home can help with understanding potential issues.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Casezy idea/Shutterstock.com.