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Why Might Wi-Fi Be Faster than 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?

In general, wired connections like ethernet are almost always faster than wireless.

What you’re seeing is a tad unusual. I have some ideas.

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  • Wired connections are almost always faster than wireless.
  • Older wired equipment can often be to blame.
  • Poor-quality or damaged cables can cause slowdowns.
  • Some Wi-Fi protocols do support higher speeds in ideal conditions.

Wi-Fi versus ethernet speed

Network connection plug RJ-45 Common Wi-Fi protocols have maximum speeds ranging from 54 to 600 megabits per second. However, maximum speeds are rarely realized. Why is My Wi-Fi Speed Slower than Ethernet? Why You Really Want that Wired Connection discusses the many reasons, but the single most important is wireless signal strength, which can be easily impacted by both distance and interference.

Ethernet speeds are most commonly 100 or 1000 megabits per second, and don’t suffer from the same problems that wireless connections do.

Wired ethernet should almost always be faster.

Old equipment

One thing to check right away is whether your ethernet equipment — routers, switches, hubs, and even the devices themselves — actually support the common speeds I’ve listed: 100mbps or higher.

In days gone by, it was common for the maximum ethernet speed to be 10 mbps. If you still have one of these old pieces of equipment lying around, it could be throttling your speed.1

Ten mbps is well below the speeds today’s Wi-Fi is capable of.

Cable issues

Cables can contribute to this scenario.

While we think of cables as either working or not, a low-quality or damaged cable can work, but still adversely affect network speed.

It’s an easy test and fix. Swap out the cables for newer, high-quality ones, and see if it helps.

It could be legit!

There’s always the possibility that the stars are aligning and your Wi-Fi connection really is faster than your ethernet. For example:

  • If your ethernet is limited to 100mbps by your wired hardware
  • And your Wi-Fi signal is exceptionally strong and clear (typically by the device being in close proximity to the access point)
  • And the Wi-Fi devices are using 802.11n, with speeds up to 600mbps, or perhaps even capable of using one of the newer 802.11 protocols such as “ac” or “ax”, theoretically capable of speeds over 6000 mbps

The net result might be your Wi-Fi out-performing your wired ethernet.

In my experience, however, my money is on the cable.

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Footnotes & References

1: It’s extremely rare, but it’s also possible that specific devices might be configured to use a slower speed than they are capable of. A computer with a 100 mbps network adapter can be configured to limit its speed to 10mbps. As I said, though, this is rare.

17 comments on “Why Might Wi-Fi Be Faster than 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.)

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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?”

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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???

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  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+.

    Reply
    • Unfortunately there is more to Powerline Ethernet than just plugging it in. Here might be a helpful article for you:
      http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/basics/lanwan-basics/31238-slow-homeplug-five-ways-to-boost-powerline-network-speed

      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.

      Reply
  9. Considering that (most) routers are now of the AC type & these usually have 4 Gigabit ports, one should now be using Cat6 cables for all connections. The cost is low, if on promo, less than going to a local store & purchasing ancient 5e cables at inflated pricing (or using the included one bundled with router).

    Also, to ensure best connection for modem to router & my VOIP device in the 1st Gigabit port on the router, am running short Cat7 cables. These are rated for the toughest environments (like high industrial noise or other signals) & this assures minimal interference. Of course, if I had an appointment with a tech, will plug in a 5e cable from modem to router to ensure they don’t reduce speed. When I changed all of my cables (as stated above) in 2013, it was like stepping up to the next speed tier at no charge (or the cost of the cables). Went from 15Mbps to over 25Mbps on all of my devices plugged in & Wi-Fi was faster as well. That was the issue, newer equipment bottlenecked by past gen cables.

    If anyone else runs into the issue with TV (although there’s few around today with a 10Mbps input), try a Cat6 cable. My HDMI output is 18Mbps & DisplayPort 1.2 is 32.4Mbps, 10Mbps would be useless operating speed. Really, Cat6 costs no more than Cat5e, I purchased a total of 7 (including the two Cat7 patch cords for router & VOIP) for less than $30 shipped. None has given any issues.

    The only other issue I can come up with is ISP speeds, although the latest infrastructure upgrades in most regions has resulted in increased speed. Back in 2013, as stated prior, the cables alone gave me over 10Mbps more in download speeds (upload increased by 2Mbps), local upgrades (over time) now has me at 70Mbps & am not paying a cent more. In fact, the modem had to be replaced because it was DOCSIS 2.0 & couldn’t handle the extra speed, I carried mine in for a free swap & was good to go inside of an hour. Even at my ‘low tier’ speed, the OOKLA test reported I should be able to have several devices in use at once & all having adequate speed.

    Even if no devices are attached to the router ports, going to a Cat6 cable from the modem should provide a measurable speed increase. Believe me, it was a blessing to jump from 15Mbps to over 25Mbps. May go all Cat7 once I need to replace the first of these cables, hopefully will be a long time to come.

    Reply

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