Guide to Router Selection for your 1 Gig Internet - Do I need a modem?

Selecting the proper router is the most important factor in determining the speed and quality of your home network and Internet connection.

The router is the device that creates your Wi-Fi signal in your home. It is responsible for creating the network in your home and connecting all of your devices to the Internet.  The speed and quality of your router will directly effect the speed and quality of your home network so making the right choice is vital to your online experience.

Wi-Fi Alphabet Soup

Wi-Fi was created over 10 years ago but has continually evolved and improved over time. The first standard was called 802.11B and had a maximum speed of only around 5 Mbs.  We refer to each new version of Wi-Fi by a letter (i.e., B,G,N,AC) Speed and quality has increased with each new release.  The latest and greatest is 802.11AC - or referring to it as "AC WiFi" is fine.  Next was "G" and then "N" - G has a maximum of around 20 Mbs while N maxes out at around 200 Mbs. 

If you own a router older than 6 months or were provided one by AT&T or Comcast, you probably use G or N - they are slower, but that is fine for slow Cable or DSL Internet.

Nearly any router will work with your LightSpeed connection, but an older router will create a bottleneck in your internet speed and quality. To acheive the full potential from your 1 Gig connection we recommend you upgrade to the latest AC technology. 

AC routers have the horsepower necessary to achieve 400 to 900 Mb/s of real-world  throughput without breaking a sweat. There is no requirement to upgrade,  but it is highly recommended for the best online experience.

Get the right "AC"

Things get even more confusing because not all AC Wi-Fi is created equally. AC routers have a number after the "AC" designation that refers to their capacity. Ratings usually start at AC1200 and go up to about AC3700.  Generally speaking, the higher the number the better the router, the better the experience.

We recommend a minimum of AC-1900 for our customers. All of our leased routers are at least AC1900 or better. 

The following is a list of routers we have tested and recommend:

AC1900 routers are available for $180-200 retail. As an alternative to purchasing a router, we offer a lease option available in most service areas.

At this time, we advise against any router from TP-Link. They are usually less expensive, but in our experience, they are not reliable. If you call us with a problem with a TP-Link router we will recommend you purchase a new router. Just avoid TP-Link and avoid the potential headache.  

Device Compatibility

The best router in the world will not speed up an old computer that does not have Gigabit capability. Keep in mind your older devices may not support the latest AC Wi-Fi standards. Connecting older devices to new routers will, however, insure you are getting the absolute most out of your older devices - And as you upgrade or replace these devices over time you will already be prepared for the latest capabilities.

Hard-Wired Devices

Devices that absolutely unconditionally need the highest possible speeds should be hard-wired to your router with Ethernet cabling. This is not necessary for most devices, but we recommend hard-wiring the following devices: 

  • Network storage devices (NAS)
  • Smart TV's
  • Gaming PC's

A Note About Smart TV's

There is a very well publicized problem with Smart TV's having low quality Wi-Fi hardware. There is no doubt you will want to take advantage of your LightSpeed connection to download lots of movies at Ultra-HD quality - And we encourage it! However, some Smart TV's have trouble achieving very high speeds and suffer disconnection issues. This issue is not isolated to LightSpeed customers, but will occur on any ISP. If you experience this issue, we recommend installing your router in close proximity to your Smart TV or installing a hard-line Ethernet cable to insure the best possible experience.  

The Impact of Advanced Features on Network Capacity

Routers have many other capabilities other than connecting you with the Internet. They can be used to backup mobile devices, provide real-time parental control features, connecting printers to the cloud, streaming music to your home stereo, or securely connect you to office networks and many other popular features. For the best online experience we encourage you to use your router to its fullest potential.

Keep in mind, however, as you enable and use these features, it may require more horsepower from your router. It is like bogging down your computer by running too many programs on your home computer at the same time - running too many advanced features at the same time can slow down your Internet service by putting a higher load on the router's CPU. So for customers who need to combine multiple advanced features, we recommend higher end routers (AC2300 or better).  

Coverage, Speed/Coverage Tradeoff, and Interference 

There is a trade-off between higher speeds of AC technology and coverage. As the speed goes up, the distance the signal can travel is reduced (intentionally). Signals on older routers go much further, but at slower speeds.  New routers may not transmit as far as old routers, but the benefit is the ability to acheive Gigabit speeds. 

The reason for this is because older routers use 2G signals, which have much higher power but are more susceptible to interference. 2G signals could often reach to your neighbors house or even further. That may seem great at first but considering there are only 3 unique "channels" available in 2G (and everyone in your neighborhood needs to share these 3 channels)  this can cause a serious problem when you try to transmit at high speeds.

Interference isn't much of an issue at low speeds, but as you start to approach ~100 Mbs you will feel the pains of interference. There are just not enough "clean" 2G channels available. This is the number one reason we recommend upgrading to a new router.   

5G is the solution. Newer N routers and all AC routers use 5G transmitters. With 5G, there are 23 clean channels available and because the signals don't transmit as far, there is practically no issue with interference. It almost sounds perfect but keep in mind the signals are by design not traveling as far so planning coverage and placement of your router is important.

The AC routers we recommend are all "dual mode" which means they run 2G and 5G at the same time. If you lose 5G coverage, your device will automatically connect to the 2G radio - but at low speeds. We call this the Speed/Coverage trade-off. 

Some people with larger homes may want more 5G coverage. To accomplish this we recommend multiple AC routers placed in strategic locations to optimize coverage. Running multiple routers requires careful planning. Most homes will not require multiple routers, but it is an option we can offer for uncompromising speed and coverage.

We advise against using repeaters or network extenders as these devices can cause more problems than they solve. We are available to assist with complex home network setups, including optimization and planning for multiple routers. 

 

We no longer recommend Apple AirPort Extreme because this product is no longer supported by Apple and listed as end-of-life. AirPort Extreme does not properly support IPV6, so it should be avoided.

 

Summary

If you are a home-networking novice, or just want a professional to setup and maintain your home network for you, we highly recommend you lease a router from LightSpeed. If you lease a router from us, we will supply you with a device that is fully support and maintained.  Our technicians will professionally install the router in an optimal location and spend time with you optimizing your devices and home network. The lease option is intended to insure the best possible on-going experience with our service.

If you are a techie or want to purchase/maintain your own router, our technicians will still be happy to setup and install your new router so long as it is available at the time of install. Buy an AC1900 router from a major supplier such as ASUS or Netgear.  Keep in mind the router you purchase will have the greatest impact on your online experience.

If you have questions or need help making a decision, please email us at help@golightspeed.com any time. We're happy to help!

 

* Equipment needed for LightSpeed connection - Router only. No modem.

* Do I need a modem? No. Modems do not work with Lightspeed. We install a device called an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) instead of a modem. The ONT is included with the basic installation for no additional cost. 

* What kind of modem do I need? No modem is needed. Just a router as described above.

 

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9 Comments

  • 0
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    Albert Yarrington

    Informative article for an "old school" techie like myself who first learned a T-1 1.5Mb was impressive bandwidth(back in the early 2000s).  I was looking for the information on firewalls, though, and didn't see it...did I miss something? :)

  • 0
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    Jason Schreiber

    The concept of a stand along firewall is antiquated. Such a thing doesn't really exist any longer. All routers described int his article are also "firewall" features. 

  • 0
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    Albert Yarrington

    Thanks for your reply....by the way, are those ac routers backward compatible, so bgn clients can connect to them at correspondingly reduced speeds?  Every client in my house is b,g,or n, is why I ask....

  • 0
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    Jason Schreiber

    Yup. All routers can be configured to be backward compatible. However, please be aware that your b,g and n devices will not operate at very high speeds. "b" devices will max around 4-5 Mb. "g" devices about 15-25Mb. "n" devices are around 110 Mb. FYI.

  • 0
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    Albert Yarrington

    thanks....now to decide whether or not to rent the router vs. buying one.... One point is - I'll need to be able to configure port forwarding and a reserved lan address on it for our voip adapter....would I have that level of access if I rented one from LS?

  • 0
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    Jason Schreiber

    Yes, you sure do! 

  • 0
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    Scott Zeilstra

    Just curious, Jason, what other people may be getting via wireLESS connection with the recommended routers? I understand hard wired will approach the gigabit speeds, but currently getting around 380/300 sitting right next to the ASUS. Thoughts?

  • 0
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    Jason Schreiber

    Depends on your device and signal strength. My 2013 Macbook Air gets 600 Mb/s on AC.

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    Kevin Stoner

    I grabbed a Linksys WRT AC3200 with MU-MIMO Tri-Stream while it was on sale. I know we have a love-hate relationship with Linksys, but I am seeing rave reviews for this router. Hopefully when I get it installed next week, I can start prodding the ports and making sure I am running it efficiently.

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