Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Brief Lesson In Networking: Gigabit Ethernet*

Reader asks why upgrading to Gigabit Ethernet didn’t improve their Web surfing speed.

(Folks, I am networking a new office today and do not have time to write a new article. This article demonstrates some fundamental concepts of “networking” computers together, as well as “Internet speed”.)

Q:I recently purchased a Linksys WRT 310 wireless router that has four Gigabit ports. My Dell desktop is a XPS which I was told was “Top of the Line” has a built-in gigabit port. I even purchased new cables to make sure my network was going to be “gigabit”. I hooked it all up and I don’t see any improvement in my internet. The salesman told me that “gigabit” was the fastest.. so how come I’m not surfing faster? Did I do something wrong or do I need to buy a different brand? Thanx.”

A: No, you (most likely) didn’t do anything “wrong”, and you don’t need to buy a different router.

Let me, first of all, cover a few “basics” (see also, Wired or Wireless?*)
Kilo = 1,000 = thousand
Mega = 1,000,000 = million
Giga = 1,000,000,000 = billion

And then let me ask you to look at a simple network diagram.

In this diagram, the Internet is represented by the “cloud” (thus.. “cloud computing”) and I made it appropriately dark and stormy. The Internet connection is represented as the yellow zigzag — this can be a phone line (dial-up, DSL, IDSN) or cable, or satellite, or WiFi.
The blue arrows are the Ethernet cabling of your network (aka “LAN”) which is now Gigabit.

For sake of argument, I made the Internet connection a cable High-speed connection, and I made the download speed a Premium-grade 12 Mbps .. 12 “megabits” per second. Note that I said “download speed”. Unless you order a special line into your home/office, your “Internet speed” is always your download speed. And, your “upload” speeds are always significantly slower.. as represented by the 486 kilobits per second.

The lines (cables) you changed are the blue arrow lines. And so, yes, you have billion-bit lines there (Gigabit). You have multiplied by a thousand the theoretical rate at which computers A, B, and C can “talk” to the router and to each other. You did not change how the modem and the cloud are talking. That is still 12 Megabits down/point 486 (.486) Megabytes up.

Your Internet speed is controlled by two things: one, your service “level” (3 Mbps is more expensive than 1.5, and 6 Mbps is even more expensive, etc.) and two, the technology that can come into your home — dial-up, DSL, ISDN, Satellite, cable, wireless, and fibre-optic.

Because your desktop can “talk” to the router at a higher rate of bits, you might notice a very slight improvement in surfing speed.. but, if you want faster Internet, you have to upgrade either your service level, or/and the method it comes in on (change the yellow zigzag) .. For example, upgrading from dial-up to cable.

The advantage to Gigabit Ethernet comes in when transferring data across the LAN.. say, from computer A to computer B. Such as if you are backing up the files on A over to B, or “streaming” videos from C to A and B.

The Linksys is a good router (though I read that it runs hot, so you want to keep it in an open, well-ventilated area) and all-Gigabit on your LAN is a “good thing”.
I think you were simply expecting the wrong results from your upgrade.

Today’s free link: Curious as to what speed your ISP is really providing? Click here, and pick the “server location” nearest to you. You’ll see both your upload and download speeds. Flash required.

Orig post: 3/8/09

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Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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May 26, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, Internet, networking | , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments