Why is My WiFi So Slow? Part 2: The Anatomy of Internet Throughput

Before we get into the weeds of what impacts WiFi throughput in future blogisodes of “Why is My WiFi So Slow,” I want to first break down what throughput is in relation to the internet and WiFi.

Part 1 of this blogisode series defines throughput as how fast data is flowing through a connection at a time. Regarding WiFi internet throughput, we typically measure how fast internet data is flowing from your home WiFi router to your client device (laptop, phone, etc) with the point of measurement being recorded at the client device.

Did you notice that I wrote “from your WiFi router to your client device?” This series focuses on WiFi throughput. However, I do want to point out that throughput from your home modem to a client device via an ethernet line (hard line) will always show different results than when measuring over WiFi.

If I were to write a blogisode on throughput over WiFi vs. over an ethernet cable (which I am not planning on doing) the TL;DR would be: throughput over WiFi will always be slower than throughput over a hard line connection.

But back to why my wifi is so slow.

How is throughput typically measured?

Throughput is commonly measured using 3 variables: download speed, upload speed, and latency. Now, let’s dissect what each variable means, how it is measured, why it is important, and what some general recommendations are.

Download Speed

Download speed is the measure of how fast data is being pulled from a server down to your client device.

Units of Measure:

  • gigabits per second (Gbps)
  • megabits per second (Mbps)
  • kilobits per second (Kbps)

Why is download speed important?

Download speed is important because your device is asking for information and the faster your device is able to get the information it needs, the quicker the device is able to provide you with the information you want to see. As the demand for real-time information increases, the necessity for increased bandwidth and higher download speeds also rises.

What is recommended for download speeds?

That’s going to depend on what you are doing. With today’s usage demands, we recommend download performance greater than 3 Mbps. In general, this will provide the download speeds required for basic web surfing, email, online gaming, (non-high definition) video streaming, and video chat. Please keep in mind, these recommendations are for a minimum actual performance at your device. The higher the download/upload rates are and the lower the latency that can be achieved, the better your experience will be.

Upload Speed

Upload speed is the measure of how fast your device is sending data to a server or to another device. You probably have noticed that your upload speeds are typically much slower than your download speeds. This is mainly due to how the internet is used. The majority of your internet usage is comprised of downloading content over uploading content; therefore, ISPs will give higher priority to download traffic than upload traffic, which is why you see the differences in rates.

Measurement Units:

  • gigabits per second (Gbps)
  • megabits per second (Mbps)
  • kilobits per second (Kbps)

Why is upload speed important?

Upload speed is important when you are broadcasting content from your client device, such as with video chat. With video chat, your device needs to upload content fast enough so that the receiver on the other end can view the video stream with enough quality and real-timeliness to have an effective experience. Also, users are tending to upload more content to the cloud these days, which necessitates more upstream activities from clients than in the past - no one wants to wait forever for their selfie to upload to Instagram!

What is recommended for upload speeds?

Again, this all depends on what you are doing… With today’s usage demands, we recommend upload performance greater than 1 Mbps. In general, this will satisfy what is required for general web surfing, email, online gaming, and (non-high definition) video streaming. 1 Mbps is also the minimum you will want for effective video chat action.


Latency is the time it takes your device to receive a response after having sent a request. In other words, if I say “Hi” to you and you say “Hi” back to me, then latency is the time it took starting from me saying hi and ending when I hear you say hi back to me. The lower the latency, the quicker we can communicate. On a side-geek-note, how amazing is it that I can ping a server that is in Paris, France from where I work in Boise, Idaho and the latency time is 45 ms? If a blink of an eye takes roughly 300 ms, then that means a ping could go to France and back nearly 7 times before I finish blinking… wow.

Measurement Units:

  • milliseconds (ms)

Why is latency speed important?

The more real-time interaction that you want with your internet usage, the lower the latency needs to be. Latency is an important factor in both video chatting and online gaming.

What is recommended for latency speeds?

One final time… This is going to depend on what you are doing… With today’s usage demands, we recommend latency performance lower than 100 ms. In general, this will handle most internet usage types. For improved gaming and chatting experiences, shoot for 20 ms or below (though you will still likely be fine as long as you are under 100 ms).

What’s coming up next in “Why is My WiFi So Slow?” Great question! Now that the foundation has been set, the upcoming blogisodes will focus on WiFi technology and outside factors that can lead you down the road to slllooowwww WiiiiFfffiiiiii…

In the meantime… Want to see what your speeds look like? Check out Speedtest by Ookla - a popular website where you can perform throughput tests.

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