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  • John Bell

Tech Sense July 2022: Upgrade

Updated: Sep 27, 2023


This month I thought I would briefly cover a variety of topics, staring with updates you may want to consider for your home and personal equipment.

Internet Modem Upgrades

This past May I replaced the cable modem I use for Comcast/Xfinity Internet. Many years ago, I determined that I was better off purchasing my own network gear instead of paying $14 per month to rent inferior equipment from Comcast. This year Comcast increased my Internet service bandwidth at no extra cost to me, but I needed to replace my DOCCIS 3.0 cable mode to a newer DOCCIS 3.1 modem to take advantage of this. I am supposed to get 300 megabits per second but I am currently getting a consistent 250-260 mbps. Still better than the 200 mbps before the upgrade.

Wireless Upgrades

Last summer I updated an old wireless router from WIFI 4 (b, g, and n) to a WIFI 5 (ac) modem in a house with 150 mbps Internet. The old WIFI 4 router could handle WIFI speeds from 11 through 54, and 300 Mbps. This new router handles 450 Mbps over the 2.4 GHz channels and 1300 Mbps over 5 GHz. This makes new devices that can use the newer WIFI standards perform better. While the device I purchased could handle a combined data rate of 1750 Mbps in general WIFI 5 (ac) devices can handle raw data rates up to 3.5 Gbps. The newer WIFI 6 (ax) wireless routers are even faster with a maximum data rate of 9.6 Gbps. WIFI 7 will probably be released until next year, but there is no need for a rush since it will be a couple of years more unless devices that benefit will be common.

Wire Upgrades

I did this many years ago, but I see that many people are still running 100-megabit CAT5 cable in their houses. Most modern routers support a gigabit signal but will automatically drop down to 100 Megabit when it is detected. It is a good idea to run new CAT6 cable that can handle signals up to 10 Gbps. The faster speeds will support faster data transfer throughout the local area network (LAN) in the house even if your Internet is slower. My other Internet Service Provider (ISP) offers what they call Gigabit service both up and down. The reality is that it is closer to 800 Mbps down and about 900 up. You will need CAT6 cable to support those speeds on your LAN. You may wonder why I haven’t mentioned CAT5e. The reality is that CAT5e is already obsolete. CAT6 has been out for years and the 10 Gigabit devices are starting to appear now and have been in data centers for a long time.

Wireless Phone Upgrades

Ok, there are many things that may drive you to upgrading your mobile phone, but I am not going to talk about better cameras, newer operating systems, water-proofing, foldability, or other features that don’t really make a phone a communications tool. I am talking about 5G a new technology for wireless communications. The phone companies have been telling us for 10 years that 5G was going to change the world and make it a better place and making all sorts of outlandish promises for the technology. Well 5G is finally here now and while it is impossible for it to live up to all of the hype, it does the one thing we all really wanted, it speeds up Internet access for the devices we hold in our hands.

The 5G technology hasn’t changed anything about how I used my phone except, I wait less when downloading a map, I have a better signal when I talk to someone, I can listen to music and watch video without waiting for the signal pause to catch up. In other words, it makes my mobile phone work the way I expected it to work all along (unless I am out of coverage). The 5G technology is to the point that if you are upgrading your phone you should upgrade to a 5G phone.

Connecting the Upgrades

Remember that when you upgrade the modems, routers, and wires, some of the benefit will not be realized until you also upgrade the devices that connect. For example, an upgraded modem should be connected to a router using a cat6 cable and should be upgrade to a router that can handle at least a gigabit connection. Your network switches should be able to support at least a gigabit connection. Your wireless devices should be able to handle the faster speeds offered by the WIFI 5 and 6 standards to get the most benefit and a 5G phone will need to connect to a 5G phone network. Be aware that some of the MVNO phone companies do not currently have 5G support. Computers with older network cards and components may also need to be replaced or have the network card updated to benefit from faster WIFI or cabling.

Until Next Month

I hope this was an entertaining way to introduce some of those things that have changed over the past few years.

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