Why Might WiFi Be Faster than Wired Ethernet?

Hi, Leo. Is it normal for WiFi to be consistently faster by more than 50% than Ethernet for my LG TV? All my other devices on my LAN favor the Ethernet speed. If it’s normal for certain devices (for example, this LG TV), why? Because it doesn’t agree with the norm?

It is a tad unusual and I can’t really say why specifically in your case, but I do have some ideas.

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WiFi speeds

First, let’s review exactly what kind of speeds you’re talking about here.

WiFi wireless internet (802.11g – the standard that most of the wireless access points have these days) allows for speeds up to 54 Mbps – 54 million bits per second. 802.11n supposedly supports up to 600 Mbps, although it’s rarely seen.

On the other hand, wired Ethernet comes in roughly three flavors: 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, or 1000 Mbps (also known as a gigabit per second). Wifi, or more correctly “Wi-Fi™“, is a wireless radio signalling protocol that defines a way for data – typically ethernet data packets – to be transmitted wirelessly between devices.

As a result, there are a couple of things that could be at play here. It’s possible that the television has a 10 Mb Ethernet port. In other words, your wireless could be doing better than 10 Mb because it could be going up to say 54 Mb, but your TV is still stuck with a 10 Mb Ethernet connection. That’s a potential hardware limitation of the actual Ethernet adapter that they have placed in that TV.

It is also possible that the connection at the other end of the cable – the router or switch – is 10 Mb. But because you have other devices that are not showing this kind of slowdown, my guess is you’re plugging them all into the same device, and that device can handle faster speeds.

Issues with the cable

Network connection plug RJ-45The actual cable being used could also contribute to this scenario. The cable could be low quality, it could have a kink in it, or any number of things that could adversely affect the speed of the signals that travel across it.

That’s easy to fix. See if you can find a new or better cable and check if that doesn’t improve the speed.

Now, it’s also possible that this is a configuration issue. I have a hard time even explaining where to look, but it’s possible that your TV is configured to use its wired Ethernet connection at a slower speed than it’s actually capable of. That’s something you’ll have to investigate.

Wired or wireless TV

Finally, I just noticed that it’s unclear whether your TV is wired or wireless. If the TV itself is wireless, then you run into all sorts of interesting problems with interference. In other words, the wireless signal could be getting slowed down by traveling through different types of interference.

Because you’re asking about cable and Ethernet speed, my guess is that you actually have it connected by cable and all of my prior comments apply. In that case, it’s a wireless thing and something that you should note.

Ultimately, it’s really difficult to diagnose. The very first thing that I would try is to grab another cable and see if the quality of the cable isn’t what’s slowing this particular connection down.

14 comments on “Why Might WiFi Be Faster than Wired Ethernet?”

  1. I have also seen “non-obvious” problems caused by bad Ethernet cables. For example, one of the Cat-5 cables we used when wiring the office apparently has a problem of some sort (it’s now buried in the walls, so we can’t get to it) which causes the symptom that 100Mbps connections get slower throughput than 10Mbps connections. (We learned to simply force whatever computer was connected to that port to use the slower speed. We’ve since switched the office to almost all wireless, so it’s irrelevant at this point.) Without getting some expensive network test equipment, our best guess was that running at 100Mbps caused so many transmission errors, that it had to keep retrying, whereas 10Mbps had no errors, resulting in better throughput.

    So, yes, if the TV is wired, try a different “wire”. (Preferrably a “known good” one, borrowed from a different device which is running full-speed.)

  2. You didn’t mention it, but the person could also check the documentation that came with the TV. It should show the speed of the CAT/LAN connection. As an alternative, the person could check the specs on the manufacturer’s website. However, unless this is an old TV, it’s not likely the manufacturer would have used such a slow NIC. Still, I would have recommended that be checked first; then the actual cable.

    The person could also try connecting the cable to a different router port to see if that made any change. I’ve also run into that type of problem.

    If neither of these identify/solve the problem, the person should contact the manufacturer. It could be a defect in the TV.

  3. Sorry, Leo,
    Didn’t want to take up too much space when I sent the query, so here are some details. The LG tv has both wireless and ethernet connections and I’ve tried both. Using Speedtest.net, their speeds are typically 17 – 20 mbps for ethernet and 31 – 35mbps, wireless. My optic fibre plan is for 100 mbps. I’ve no complains about the speed, but was curious as to why the relative speeds of the 2 types of connections should be reversed. I tried different cables earlier on but there wasn’t any difference.
    Thanks to Ken B and Old Man for your comments. The specs shown on LG’s site for this tv (2012 model) seem to show 300 mbps for 802.11n, but I didn’t see anything on the ethernet port specs. Furthermore, there was a qualification that different markets could have different specs. Leo is probably right in that the ethernet component installed in the tv is the limiting factor in the relatively lower speed.

    • I have bumped at the same very issue, having drilled the walls and fished a cat5 in order to connect my LG G2 TV to the cable modem/router by an ethernet wire. Called LG and they had no idea what can cause my ethernet connection to clock at 10 Mbps while the very same ethernet cable plugged into a laptop tops above 50 Mbps. When switched to wifi, the same TV clocks at about 30 Mbps. Upload speeds are lower too through the wire, but not as much different as the downloads.

      I does smell like LG TV’s ethernet speed limit is internally limited at 10 Mbps somehow. Ridiculous.

  4. Regarding cable quality, can someone shed some light on how to find a good quality Ethernet cable–on Amazon.com for example? Would you say anything under $5 is a gamble or can you get a quality cable (about 2ft. long) for that price? Currently, I’m using a cable in my cable modem to connect to my computer, but I’m also interested in using one to connect my TV to my cable modem.

    I’m guessing I need a Cat 5 cable, but I’m seeing a lot of unfamiliar terms: 24 AWG, patch cable, EIA/TIA verified, UTP, 568B Category 5E, 350 Mhz, PVC jacket
    …what should I look for when purchasing an Ethernet cable for “average use?”

  5. When taliking about speed to the internet lets say a home user or a small business, your bottleneck is the connection of your internet say 25mbs download ok you have 100mbs to your switch ethernet hard wire or say 54mbs wireless you should get close to your 25mbs download rate on your hard wired connection full duplex mode, you will get half that on your wireless connection 12.5mbs or below with your wireless connection because most people will be operating in half duplex mode with the wireless.

  6. i have the same problem all my wireless equipment has very high speed test results as i am 100 meg connection however all the wireless devices connected wired to ethernet ports 100 meg give me very poor results very strange. virgin media have been out and they haven’t got a clue. just blaming my laptop even though my tv and tablet are also faster wireless but the wired connections are lot slower i tried several different cables still the same. Try the same wired and wireless test using my laptop in safe mode and i’m still getting slow very poor wired results and high wireless results all preformed using ookla speedtest.net any ideas???

  7. Why is my Wired internet speed slower than my wireless internet speed?

    with wired on my laptop , i get 16mbs
    with wired on my pc, i cant get to speedtest and cannot access yotuube facebook etc, but some other website works

    with wireless my laptop, i get 36mbs
    with wireless on my pc, i get the same

    i updated my driver to latest one and still doesnt work, i wonder what is happening to my pc

  8. I have a gigabit linksys router tied into a 200mbs powerline adapter that goes downstairs to a gigabit switch plugged into a laptop. When I test the speeds wirelessly for the laptop, I’m getting 25mbs, when I use Ethernet I’m get 12.5mps. I’m monitoring this through windows task manager. I have a 50mbs internet connection and use testmy.net for non-flash based test speeds. The cables I’m using are new. I will try to switch out, but would there be anything else to look for? I’ve always been told hardwired is better, but not in this case. I’m sure the Laptop NIC is 10/100, but I should at least be getting 54mbs+.

    • Unfortunately there is more to Powerline Ethernet than just plugging it in. Here might be a helpful article for you:

      Using Powerline Ethernet isn’t the same as running straight Ethernet and is subject to a range of potential problems and interference. One of the first things they all say is that they must be plugged directly into the wall socket. No surge protectors, etc. Even those multi outlet taps you plug into a standard two outlet can cause problems, especially if they have built-in surge protection.

      These complications are some of the reasons I just opted to go with a Wireless AC router network for increased performance.

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