I recently did some work and spent some money to upgrade my internet bandwidth. Everything worked out in the end, and I am pretty satisfied with the results. There were some hurdles along the way, so I thought I would pass along some lessons learned. This post is about “How to Upgrade Your Internet Bandwidth“.
You can use free tools like Speedtest from Okla to measure the performance from your ISP. You should run this test from a client device that has a wired Ethernet connection to your Wi-Fi router to take your Wi-Fi performance out of the test.
Why Was I doing This?
I live in Western Elbert County, about 30 miles southeast of Denver. Being this far outside a major city means that your internet service provider (ISP) choices are limited. The best choice available when we moved here seven years ago (and now) is Comcast/Xfinity.
One major weakness with cable company ISPs is that they usually offer extremely asymmetrical residential service plans with much higher download bandwidth compared to upload bandwidth. To be fair, this is not a huge issue for most families who download a LOT more content than they upload. But if you want to also upload a lot of large files, it is a frustrating problem.
In my case, I have a YouTube channel, where I have to upload fairly large 4K MP4 files. For quite some time, I had a Xfinity internet plan that offered 500 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up. Most of the time Xfinity would exceed the 500 Mbps limit, sometimes approaching 700 Mbps. This mainly depended on the day of the week and the time of day. Here is an example.
Xfinity recently started offering a 1200 Mbps plan that also gives you 40 Mbps of upload bandwidth. This spurred me to take the necessary steps to upgrade to that plan and also do what I needed to do to get the full benefit from that plan.
How to Upgrade Your Internet Bandwidth
This is actually pretty simple in concept, but more complicated in practice.
- Contact your ISP to upgrade your plan
- Sometimes you can do this yourself rather than talking to a customer service rep
- Get your ISP to upgrade your plan
- They usually have to do something on their end to make the new plan go into effect
- Possibly upgrade your cable modem and Wi-Fi router
- This depends on what equipment you currently have and whether you own it or rent it
- Renting your equipment from your ISP is expensive, but shifts more burden on them
- Your rented equipment won’t be as good as you could buy yourself
- Get your new cable modem “registered” with your ISP
- This involves giving them the make, model, and MAC address of the cable modem
- Many ISPs have phone apps that let you do this yourself
- This is what I had to use
- Get your new Wi-Fi router swapped out and working
- If you have a lot of Wi-Fi devices, this can be pretty tedious
What Equipment Will You Need?
If your ISP (the WAN) can supply you with more than 1000 Mbps of external bandwidth, you will need to make sure your internal network (the LAN) does not have any bottlenecks that are limited to less than 1000 Mbps of bandwidth.
For example, most existing new cable modems only have one 1 Gbps LAN port, that you would usually connect to a router or switch. My existing Arris SB8200 had two 1 Gbps LAN ports that you can supposedly aggregate, but that requires support from your ISP.
Most existing new Wi-Fi routers only have 1 Gbps LAN ports. My existing ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Wi-Fi router had one 1.0 Gbps WAN port, one 2.5 Gbps LAN port and four more 1.0 Gbps LAN ports.
This would obviously be a problem with my Xfinity 1200 Mbps internet plan. This is what happened to me with SpeedTest, with my existing cable modem and Wi-Fi router. My download bandwidth was throttled at 941.02 Mbps by both the cable modem LAN port and by the 1 Gbps WAN port of the Wi-Fi router.
Because of this, I needed to buy a new cable modem that had a 2.5 Gbps LAN port. There are several models available with that feature, but I decided to get a Motorola MB8611 cable modem. Doing that eliminated the first bottleneck.
I also needed a new Wi-Fi router to eliminate the second bottleneck for wired LAN connections. You have to have a WAN port with 2.5 Gbps or greater, along with at least one LAN port with 2.5 Gbps or greater bandwidth. Once again, there are several new consumer-level Wi-Fi routers from different vendors that support this.
I decided to buy an ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AXE16000 Wi-Fi router. This is an admittedly expensive router that has a number of very nice features. These include a 2.5 Gbps WAN port, two 10 Gbps LAN ports and four 1.0 Gbps LAN ports. There is also a lot of flexibility to reassign and aggregate these ports that give you some ability to handle even higher speed connections in the future.
In addition, you get a Wi-Fi 6E radio with the new 6 GHz band. This was important to me because I have several devices that have Wi-Fi 6E capability.
While I was at it, I demoted my old ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 and ASUS RT-AX82U Wi-Fi 6 routers to be nodes in an ASUS aiMesh wireless network. This is what I always do when I get a new main router.
Are We Done Yet?
Well, not really. If you really want/need more than about 950 Mbps of bandwidth to your wired devices, they may need some upgrades. Most desktop computers only have 1 Gbps LAN ports embedded on the motherboard. More recent vintage desktop machines often have a 2.5 Gbps LAN port or even a 10 Gbps LAN port. Fortunately, you can buy 2.5 Gbps PCIe AIC NICs for not too much money.
I’m not aware of any laptop machines that have greater than 1 Gbps LAN ports, but you can also buy 2.5 Gbps and 5.0 Gbps LAN to USB 3.0/3.1 adapters that work pretty well. The USB ports on your laptop will limit you to less than 5 Gbps in most cases.
You will also need one or more “multi-gig” switches so that you don’t have any 1 Gbps LAN switch bottlenecks between your ISP and your wired devices. This is also necessary if you have anything else on your LAN (such as a NAS or file server) that needs more bandwidth.
The Final Result
So, after all of this thrashing around, I can get nearly 1,400 Mbps of download bandwidth from my ISP to most of the machines on my wired network. I’ve essentially doubled my external bandwidth. My two primary workstations get 10 Gbps to my two NAS devices.
Amazon Affilate Links
Here are a few items that might be useful if you want to have a multi-gig network at home.
- ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX-16000 Router
- ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX6000 Router
- TRENDnet TEG-S350 Switch
- QNAP QSW-1105-5T 5-Port Unmanaged 2.5GbE Switch
- TRENDnet 10-Port 2.5GBASE-T Web Smart Switch
- NETGEAR 5-Port 10G Multi-Gigabit Ethernet Unmanaged Switch (XS505M)
- TRENDnet 2.5Base-T PCIe Network Adapter, TEG-25GECTX
- Plugable 2.5G USB C and USB to Ethernet Adapter
- ASUS AX5700 WiFi 6 Gaming Router (RT-AX86U)
- Motorola MB8611 DOCSIS 3.1 Multi-Gig Cable Modem
- NETGEAR Nighthawk 12-Stream WiFi 6E Router (RAXE500)
- QNAP TS-h973AX-8G 9-Bay QuTS Hero NAS with 10GbE/2.5GbE Connectivity
Obviously, there are other ways to accomplish this sort of goal. I could have just rented a combination modem/Wi-Fi router from Xfinity. Another option would be to use more “pro-sumer” type equipment such as Ubiquiti. Many people like to buy used 10 Gbps enterprise-grade switches.
If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerry. Thanks for reading!