wifi-feature-image

How To Go Faster Than Your WiFi Can Go

When I switched from cable TV to streaming TV a problem arose that I didn’t have on cable. I was frequently getting those little circles with the arrow trying to catch its tail called “buffering”. Buffering is designed to store some of the streaming data before showing it to you. That’s why a slight delay when you start streaming. Buffering exists to give you an uninterrupted video stream. The usual reason for seeing the buffering is that your video streaming speed is not keeping up with the speed that is needed to continuously display the video.

If you think about the old days before streaming became popular, you might have done long downloads of movies to your hard drive before watching them. That was using your hard drive as a huge buffer so that the viewing is not interrupted.

The most common reasons for seeing buffering now are:

  1. The internet connection is too slow to stream videos in real time
  2. The speed that the TV is receiving video from the router is too slow to stream videos in real-time
  3. There are too many devices using the Internet at the same time

The Problem

In my case, when I went from cable to streaming I was now connecting the TV over WiFi that couldn’t quite keep up with the speed necessary. As you likely already know, today’s WiFi should be able to easily stream videos. Even though 4K video resolution uses five times more data than HD video, any consistent WiFi speed of 25 Mbps (Megabits per second) should be enough to prevent buffering. Like me, you likely have an Internet connection of 25 Mbps or faster.

My Internet connection is a guaranteed 100 Mbps, so what was my problem? The problem was the distance from my wireless router to my TV. As you get further from the wireless router the bandwidth capability of WiFi goes down significantly. The ideal way to solve this problem would be to run an Ethernet cable from my wireless router to my streaming box (a Roku device). That would give me the full-speed capability of the router without the speed loss of going through WiFi.

The Solution

Running an Ethernet cable from my wireless router to my streaming device was too difficult to seriously consider. What to do? To the rescue was Powerline Ethernet which instead of using an Ethernet cable uses the electrical wiring in your home for the connection between the router and streaming device.

I chose this TP-Link AV1000 device because it was plenty fast enough (1000 Mbps) and because it has a passthrough electrical outlet. Installation was a snap. It consisted of two devices, one plugged into an electrical outlet at the router and the other plugged into an electrical outlet at the TV. Then installation was just connecting a short Ethernet cable between the AV1000 and the TV and connecting a short Ethernet cable between the AV1000 and the router. Also, I installed the TP-Link Power Line Utility on my PC. There wasn’t much more to do. However, I had a serious problem where the AV1000 would spuriously shut down the connection. If this happens to you, it’s due to the Power Saving Mode defaulting to “ON”. I used the TP-Link Power Line Utility app to turn off the Power Saving Mode and it has worked flawlessly ever since. No more buffering.

Your feedback on this article is welcome. Please use the Comments section below to respond.

About The Author

29 thoughts on “How To Go Faster Than Your WiFi Can Go”

  1. Hi Earl,
    Thank You.
    I’ve used WiFi extenders with little success because they add another point of failure and can be difficult to place properly.
    Another option I didn’t mention is a mesh network which could work very well but can be significantly more expensive than Powerline.
    I also didn’t mention that the Powerline Ethernet hardware I chose is mid-level at 1000 Mbps. Other Powerline hardware options go to 2000 Mbps which should satisfy most home situations.
    Stu

  2. Stuart,

    Over 10 years ago, I tried the Powerlines to extend my WIFI to the back half of my house. They were not really fast enough. I’ve upgraded my routers a few times since then and I’m currently on a mesh system, so I don’t need them now. Also, these were pretty ancient Powerlines compared to the ones that are out there now.

    But, one thing to consider with Powerlines is that they should be on the same CIRCUIT BREAKER LINE (I think the technical term is PHASE). Here in the US, many circuit breaker panels have two lines/phases. On the most popular circuit panels, looking straight at the panel, the circuits would look something like:

    1 2
    3 4
    5 6
    7 8
    9 10
    11 12

    etc.

    1 2 5 6 9 10 etc. are on one line/phase, 3 4 7 8 11 12 etc. are on the second line/phase. So any two outlets on circuit branches 1 2 5 6 9 10 etc. should work but if you cross lines/phases (i.e. an outlet on circuit 2 and an outlet on circuit 4) the throughput would drop significantly…even if the two outlets were only a few feet from each other in the house.

    Unfortunately, I can not attach an image to the comments. I’ll pm you one, though.

    John

  3. Hi John,
    Thank you for commenting.

    I must say that, like all technology, 10 years is at least 2 lifetimes for most tech hardware. Unquestionably Powerline Ethernet has improved tremendously over the years. Although developed earlier, mesh networking didn’t really take off until 2015. So it’s not that old but is also greatly improved in recent years. However, for the ease of reaching multiple devices at multiple locations, mesh networks are the way to go. My situation was for reaching one device (a TV). So powerline made sense to me.

    Powerline Ethernet can be affected by the length of the circuit and by other devices. In other words, in agreement with what you wrote, it’s best to be on the same breaker (mine are not) but that isn’t always possible or necessary. That’s because, at 1000 Mbps, I would be happy even if I only got 100 Mbps throughput since all I really needed was 25+ Mbps for the TV. The “killer” for Powerline Ethernet is devices like surge suppressors. Powerline Ethernet works by sending high-frequency signals over the electric circuits in your home. These high frequencies are not affected by any of the 60 Hertz power in your home. However, surge suppressors are designed to stop power surges that can contain very high frequencies. So putting a surge suppressor between Powerline Ethernet devices is a real “no-no”. They need to be plugged directly into your wall outlets.

    Three-phase power typically means there are 3 separate lines and a neutral line. The voltage from each of the 3 separate lines is a 60 Hertz sine wave, but 120 degrees out of phase. The reason for this 3-phase power is that it is more efficient for motors and generators. Your electric utility delivers power to your home by generating it at a power station, transmitting it over transmission lines to substations, and then sending it over distribution lines to your home. Without exception, all electric power is generated and transmitted as 3-phase power. However, the distribution lines are almost always single-phase. The exception to that might be an industrial plant that needs 3-phase power for very large machinery. So the transformer for your home is receiving single-phase power. With typically 13,000 or 26,000 volts AC on one side of the transformer and three wires going from the output of the transformer to your meter and then into your home. Those three wires have one neutral and two hot legs. From either hot leg to the neutral is 120 volts AC and between the two hot legs is 240 volts AC. If you are still with me here, this is the important part. The neutral is typically where all the white wires in your circuit breaker box terminate. The black and possibly other colored wires go to each breaker. When a 240-volt AC device (think electric stove) needs to be wired it goes between the two hot wires in the breaker box. Everything is single-phase since there is no out-of-phase power at your home.
    Stu
    P.S. My graduate degree is in Electric Power Engineering and I’ve worked for several electric utilities.

    1. I’m just wondering. I have 2 Roku TVs in my house. 2 laptops. Bought a 3rd Roku and it will not connect to the internet. It keeps telling me I have the wrong password, which I know I do. My wife is in the hospital having major surgery and I want her to be able to watch tv from her bed. Any suggestions? [Removed email address for privacy reasons] Would appreciate all the help you could give me.

  4. Hey Stuart,
    My (ancient) Amazon Fire stick, if I remember correctly, only uses wifi. Buffering issues even though my 100mbps router is only 8 feet away. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Cliff,
      Yes, I have some suggestions for fixing your buffering problem. I first want to say that I have never used an Amazon Fire TV Stick. However, for the purpose of fixing your buffering problem, it should be similar to what I would do with my Roku streaming device:

      1. Make sure that no one else is using the network when you are getting the buffering. For example, someone else might be streaming on another TV or on a computer.

      2. If #1 above is not a problem, there are two areas of concern to check:
      A. The speed between the router and the Amazon Fire TV Stick could be slow.
      B. The speed between the Amazon Fire TV Stick and the TV could be slow.

      3. To test the speed from the router, first, make sure that the network isn’t being used. Then use a computer with a WiFi connection in the vicinity of the router using an online speed test. There are lots of speed tests available online. Here is one example: https://www.speedtest.net/ The higher the speed the better, but anything greater than 25 Mbps should prevent buffering.

      4. Assuming #3 above is fast enough, the problem is highly likely to be between the Amazon Fire TV Stick and the TV. This can be tested, but since I’m not familiar with how to do that for an Amazon Fire TV Stick, I found this website that describes how to do it:
      https://www.hellotech.com/guide/for/how-to-do-a-speed-test-on-firestick

      It’s my guess that your problem is with your “ancient” Amazon Fire TV Stick. If that’s true, replacing it should be easy and not too expensive. Whatever you do, please come back here and let me (and everyone else) know what you ended up doing.

      Thanks for your comment,
      Stu

      1. Hi Stu,
        Definitely not a speed issue. Checked as you suggested. Even with other devices on, I’m getting way greater than 25Mbps on all fronts.I guess it’s time to upgrade the fire stick Second generation.

      2. Purchased a fire stick tv stick 4k. Installed a few minutes ago. Stu, you were right! The old October 2019 fire stick was the problem of the buffering issues. Returning it to Amazon for recycling and credit.
        Thanks for your help!

    2. Cliff, I’d follow Stuart’s advice.

      In addition, I’ve been using Firesticks for a while and have owned the Firestick First Generation, Second Generation, Firestick Square, Third Generation, 4k, and the most recent 4K Max and can offer the following:
      .
      I’m not sure if this is in the older generations, but in the current versions, from the Firestick menu, go to settings, Network, highlight your wifi network and click the play button (looks like a sideways arrow and a vertical =), this will give your network connection status. You can run a speed test here. Also, if you select Advanced, it will give you more info (channel, addresses, signal strength, noise, SNR, etc).

      In addition, as Stuart suggested, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer 4K or 4K Max Firestick. They are significantly faster and more capable than those first generations and have better connections. Also, if you are located in the USA, Amazon usually has big discounts around Black Friday (probably $25 for 4K – $39 for $4k Max). Also, they offer a trade-in program (https://www.amazon.com/l/9187220011?sa-no-redirect=1) where they give you a little money for your old equipment, but more significantly, usually offer a 20-25% discount on your new purchase.

      1. Hi Stu,
        Definitely not a speed issue. Checked as you suggested. Even with other devices on, I’m getting way greater than 25Mbps on all fronts.I guess it’s time to upgrade the fire stick Second generation.

        John,
        Thanks for the link to purchase an upgrade with a return. Needless to say, I don’t need Ethernet at this time

        Thanks again all for the help.

      1. John,

        Those connectors require ethernet through micro usb port connectors which the early generation Firesticks do not have. Therefore, it will not help Cliff. Cliff would be better off following Stuart’s advice and upgrading his Firestick.

        John

        1. Cliff, glad the new stick is working out for you. Just to let you know, the original generation was released in 2014 not 2018. The 4K was released in late 2018 (although they added a newer remote in 2020 or 2021 with Alexa and 4 extra buttons on the bottom for Prime, Netflix, Hulu & Disney). The 4K Max was released in 2021.
          BTW, I’m curious, how much credit did they give on that old stick (I can’t imagine it was much)?
          John

        2. John,
          I got $5.00 credit already. Of course I need to return the old one – in good working order – by 12/21/2022 otherwise the credit is reversed.

          With tax (CA), my out the door price was $21.86

        3. John,
          Correction: It is 20% discount (which is $5.00) towards a new fire stick + $3.00 credit towards my Amazon account which can be used for anything.

        4. Clifford,
          Amazon used to offer the 20% based on the full price, not the sale price. I guess they changed that.
          John

  5. I had the same problem with Xfinity, BUT I already had Ethernet connection and I was using CAT 8 cables. I didn’t get satisfactory service till I exceeded 400Mbs D/L speed. Xfinity kept says how they ONLY promised a Maximum speed rate. SO, what are they telling us. They OVER SELL their bandwidth, and you are just SOL.

    By the way on a 4 year effort to get Streaming D/Ls they told me how it was my equipment even after I upgraded all of my equipment piece by piece to exceed their requirements. I spent around $400 trying to find out which one of my personal devices was failing and it was their problem all the time. Also, Don’t ever take your eyes off of their technicians when you allow them in your home. I had some expensive quad shielded cables in my set up and their guy WITHOUT my permission and when I had my head turned just for a minute, CUT the ends off my cables and put their cheap BULK purchased cable ends on so he could use a huge wrench to overtighten everything in my house.

  6. I had limited success using Powerline adapters to extend Ethernet from one floor to the next. However, a pair of ScreenBeam MoCA 2.5 adapters created a reliable 1 Gbps Ethernet connection using existing coax cables in my home.

    1. Hi Sam,
      I was not familiar with ScreenBeam MoCA 2.5 adapters, but after reading about them they appear to be quite impressive. A concern is that you either have to have a coaxial cable already in place or you will have to run the cable. If you are going to run cable, you might as well run Ethernet cable. Also, they are more “pricey” ($130 to $150 per pair) than the Powerline devices.

      The bottom line is that how to get from point A to point B in each person’s network is dependent on their particular situation. It’s great that we have all the options to make it happen.
      Thanks for your comment,
      Stu

  7. I have an Amazon Firestick that uses WIFI to receive transmitted video streams, etc., but it only connects to the TV via a USB cable connection. My wife wanted the AFS. Perhaps the Roku might have been a better choice if it could use an ethernet connection, but there are trade-offs involved.
    I have an ethernet cable I strung years ago under the floor running at least 35 feet from my home-office to where my TV is located. It allows me to get high speed Netflix videos/movies in my living room via the router and the ethernet jack on my TV.

    1. Hi Fraunt,
      If you decide to get a Roku so you can use your Ethernet cable, make sure you get the “Roku Ultra LT” or the “Roku Ultra” because they are the only Rokus with a dedicated Ethernet port.
      Thank you for your comment,
      Stu

  8. Hi Stuart!
    A quick electrical question. Do the TP-links HAVE to be plugged into a wall outlet or would a power strip serve the purpose. As you’re the EE I was wondering if the signal would denigrate by going through a strip. Thanks!

    1. Hi John,
      That’s a great question I probably should have addressed in the article. There is a blanket recommendation by TP-Link to plug directly into a wall outlet and NOT use a power strip because you don’t know what is inside your power strip. Anything other than wires or a simple switch between the power strip plug and any of the outlets could degrade the signal. For example, it could have circuitry to protect against electrical surges. That circuitry could be as simple as a capacitor or an inductor to elaborate circuitry to prevent over-voltages from a lightning strike. If you can open the power strip and verify it’s only wires with perhaps a simple switch, you should be able to plug the TP-Link device into the power strip without degrading the signal. If you can’t look inside the power strip, it’s better to be sure the signal isn’t degraded by plugging it into a wall outlet.

      As I mentioned in the article, one reason I chose the TP-Link AV1000 device was that it has a passthrough electrical outlet so I’m not losing an outlet when plugging it into a wall outlet. I have the option of plugging a powerstrip into the passthrough outlet of the AV1000.
      Stu

      1. Hi Stuart,
        Thank you for the very informative response! As a cyber guy I rely on logic thinking and that doesn’t always lend itself to science. My gut instinct told me pretty much what you alluded to. My various strips are surge protected from 2400 to 4600 joules and your electrical lesson makes total sense. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!
        John

        1. Hi John,
          I write these articles and reply to comments primarily for one reason, to help others with their computer-related concerns. I’m very happy that I could be of help to you.
          Stu

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

WHY NOT SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER?

Get great content like this delivered to your inbox!

It's free, convenient, and delivered right to your inbox! We do not spam and we will not share your address. Period!