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What is the actual real-life speed of wireless networks ?

There are many wireless standards in use today, and newer technologies can bond multiple channels/frequencies together to achieve higher throughput.

First, keep in mind that in data communications, speed is measured in kilobits (or megabits) per second, designated as kbps, or Mbps. You can check our bits/bytes conversion calculator for reference.

Below is a breakdown of the various 802.11 WiFi standards and their corresponding maximum speeds. Theoretical wireless speeds (combined upstream and downstream) are as follows:
802.11b - 11 Mbps (2.4GHz)
802.11a - 54 Mbps (5 GHz)
802.11g - 54 Mbps (2.4GHz)
802.11n - 600 Mbps (2.4GHz and 5 GHz) - 150Mbps typical for network adapters, 300Mbps, 450Mbps, and 600Mbps speeds when bonding channels with some routers
802.11ac - 1300+Mbps (5 GHz) - newer standard that uses wider channels, QAM and spatial streams for higher throughput

Actual wireless speeds vary significantly from the above theoretical maximum speeds due to:
distance - distance from the access point, as well as any physical obstructions, such as walls, signal-blocking or reflecting materials affect signal propagation and reduce speed
interference - other wireless networks and devices in the same frequency in the same area affect performance
shared bandwidth - available bandwidth is shared between all users on the same wireless network.

In addition, net IP layer throughput of WiFi is typically 60% of the air link rate due to WiFi being half-duplex with ACKs, and being CSMA/CA. The number of simultaneous connections, and even the type of wireless security can affect and slow down some older routers with inadequate processors/memory.

Below is a breakdown of actual real-life average speeds you can expect from wireless routers within a reasonable distance, with low interference and small number of simultaneous clients:
802.11b - 2-3 Mbps downstream, up to 5-6 Mbps with some vendor-specific extensions.
802.11g - ~20 Mbps downstream
802.11n - 40-50 Mbps typical, varying greatly depending on configuration, whether it is mixed or N-only network, the number of bonded channels, etc. Specifying a channel, and using 40MHz channels can help achieve 70-80Mbps with some newer routers. Up to 100 Mbps achievable with more expensive commercial equipment with 8x8 arrays, gigabit ports, etc.
802.11ac - 70-100+ Mbps typical, higher speeds (200+ Mbps) possible over short distances without many obstacles, with newer generation 802.11ac routers, and client adapters capable of multiple streams.

See also:
Is 5GHz Wireless better than 2.4GHz ?
Wireless Network Speed Tweaks

  User Reviews/Comments:
by minimaddad - 2015-11-26 16:43
I have a Virgin Media box and A Samsung with a Atheros AR5B225 adapter and get 100-104mbps wireless
by anonymous - 2016-02-19 08:05
So with my Apple Extreme (802.11 ac): in the same room as the router I''m getting speeds up to 285mps with consistent speeds of 273 mps. When I'm down stairs I am getting a continuous 145 mps.
by GodDan - 2016-04-03 16:34
I've been wonderingh why my wireless LAN has bee running so slow. The info in here explained why as well as good methods to speed it up. Too bad that one of them requires equipment upgrading. :( But, at least it won't be very expensive (yet). An adapter is a lot cheaper than an AC modem, for sure. And that would not have been an improvement with a G adapter that needs to go.

Thank you all for the tips.
by anonymous - 2016-04-06 04:46
250MB, wow that's 2Gbits of data per second. Networks are rated in bits not bytes per second! so in fact you are getting 31MBytes
by anonymous - 2016-07-15 12:53
WIRED down speed on trusty XP box 32
wireless down speed 29 per

Motorola SBG6580 leased ($10/mo.) from Time Warner Cable (supposedly integrated 802.11n, but I'm getting 802.11g; problems when 2.4GHz->5)
Modem specs claim potential 300+
TWC Plan "Extreme Internet" states 50 Mbps max

desktop Dell (i7 CPU, Dell Wireless 1801 802.11b/g/n)
6 inches distance
Tested 10:50 AM weekday (but summer so neighborhood kids may be home)
No one else on channel 1
by anonymous - 2016-09-28 02:36
I'm on Zhone 2426A modem/wifi which is rated 802.11n, connected to Intel dial band wireless -N 7260 laptop wifi card. Get 80-110 Mbps download and 30-65 Mbps upload speeds through speedtest local servers (2-3ms latency). Hope this helps.
by anonymous - 2016-09-30 11:45
high wifi speed within the same room are good, but it is less a pb in these case to put a cable.
But when the router is in another room without LAN cable in the building, cable is not an option, so it has to be wifi.
And with 20m distance, I am very far from the 450 Mbits promised by my router and receiver: with the room door open, I can get 30 Mbits, and when closed it sometimes drop to 15 Mbits. That sucks!

(and note for other comments: please don't mix MB / MiB (Byte) and Mb/Mbits (bit). Network speed is mostly specified in Mbps / Megabits per seconds. 100 Mbits => 100/8 =12.5 MiB.
by anonymous - 2016-10-10 23:58
Did anyone use 300 Mbps by TWC/Spectrum? Thanks.
by anon - 2016-10-29 21:28
I'm in San Diego (La Jolla) and I just switched from AT&T DSL (6/0.6) to Time Warner's Ultimate 300 (formerly 50). Using a 2013 13" MacBook Pro Retina and connecting wirelessly over the 802.11ac protocol to the latest AirPort Extreme base station, I have consistently received 400/20 mbps using dslreports speedtest. The bufferbloat is far lower than any other connection I've ever had: downstream 160 ms, upstream 50 ms.
by anonymous - 2016-11-11 22:52
You're getting 250Mbps not 250MB/s
by anonymous - 2016-12-09 20:21
I am in Orange County, CA with Time Warner/Spectrum.. I got 300 download test, what ever Mbps/MBPS.
by Erk - 2017-04-09 23:56
I have Spectrum 300mbps. When running speed test on Ethernet I get around 350mbps.

I have a NETGEAR nighthawk ac1900 router. On 2.4ghz wifi I get around 90-110mbps. On 5g I get 250-300mbps, but this drops off rapidly at a distance of about 20-30 feet.

Are these good wifi speeds considering what I am clocking on wired and with the hardware that I have?

I've been driving myself crazy tweaking settings thinking I'm not getting what I paid for.
by anonymous - 2017-08-16 01:43
Route/WiFi card certainly critical.

Found on a New laptop with Intel(R) Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 connecting to a Arris NVG589 (2.4Ghz b/g/n) the combo dropped down to 802.11b speeds of around 4Mb/s regardless of any configuration and firmware I could test.

In this case throwing a 5 year old USB WiFi stick on the new laptop gave me a more reasonable 40Mb/s .while connecting to a 3 year old Dlink 820L resulted in a useful throughput of 100Mb/s
by anonymous - 2017-08-28 18:37
They said, the older computer/laptop in network, they will slow down the internet speed. We should buy the new device (not laptop).
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