Is WiFi 5 slow?

WiFi 5, also known as 802.11ac, was first released in 2013. At the time, it represented a major leap in WiFi technology and speeds compared to previous standards. However, with newer standards like WiFi 6 (802.11ax) now available, some wonder if WiFi 5 is starting to show its age.

Is WiFi 5 slow?

So is WiFi 5 slow by today’s standards? Not exactly, but the short answer is – it depends. WiFi 5 is still significantly faster than early WiFi versions like 802.11g and 802.11n. However, WiFi 6 offers better peak speeds, capacity, efficiency, and latency compared to WiFi 5.

WiFi 5 Speeds

WiFi 5 dual-band routers can deliver maximum theoretical throughput speeds up to 1.3Gbps. However, real-world speeds are typically 30-50% lower due to interference, distance from the router, and other environmental factors.

With WiFi 5, bandwidth is shared across all connected devices. So if you have multiple devices accessing the network simultaneously, congestion can occur which affects speeds.

Typical real-world WiFi 5 speeds when connected nearby to the router in optimal conditions are:

  • 300-450 Mbps on the 5GHz band
  • 150-200 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band

These are still very respectable speeds for most internet activities like:

  • Web browsing
  • Email
  • Streaming HD video
  • Music streaming
  • Video calls
  • General purpose internet usage

However, WiFi 5 may start to struggle with advanced applications like:

  • 8K video streaming
  • Virtual reality gaming
  • Advanced smart home ecosystems
  • Larger family households with many connected devices

In these use cases, the additional capacity and performance of WiFi 6 may be required to deliver adequate experiences, especially with multiple users.

WiFi 6 Improvements

WiFi 6 improves on WiFi 5 technology in a few key areas:

  • Faster top speeds – WiFi 6 supports maximum theoretical speeds over 2Gbps on the 5GHz band. Real-world speeds can routinely exceed 500-1000Mbps.
  • Higher capacity – More data can be transmitted simultaneously across greater numbers of devices. Support for MU-MIMO and OFDMA technologies allow better allocation of bandwidth.
  • Lower latency – Important for time sensitive applications like gaming, VR, autonomous devices. Typical latency is around 10-15ms vs 30-50ms on WiFi 5.
  • Improved efficiency – Packets can be sent more efficiently, using less airtime. This means faster average speeds across all connected devices. Battery powered devices see improved battery life.

For applications like basic internet usage, WiFi 5 remains very capable. But advanced uses will benefit from upgrading to WiFi 6 routers to achieve faster speeds, lower latency, and increased capacity.

If you are running performance sensitive applications over WiFi – like gaming, HD/4K video streaming, VR, many smart home devices –  then WiFi 6 is recommended to ensure you have enough throughput and capacity.

Tips to Optimize WiFi 5 Performance

Even if you can’t upgrade routers now, there are still tweaks to optimize your WiFi 5 network:

Update firmware and drivers – Make sure all router and device drivers are updated to the latest version. Firmware updates often improve performance and security.

Change WiFi channels – If you live in a densely populated area with many WiFi signals, interference could slow your speeds. Try switching router channels to less congested options.

Optimal router placement – Position your WiFi 5 router centrally in your home or office for best coverage. Keep the area around the router clear of obstructions that can block signals.

5GHz band – Use the 5GHz band instead of 2.4GHz when available for faster connectivity. The shorter range means less interference with neighbors. High bandwidth apps like video streaming work best on 5GHz.

Wired connections – For stationary devices, use ethernet cables instead of WiFi where possible. This removes them from the shared wireless capacity and saves bandwidth for mobile devices. Game consoles and streaming TV devices will benefit most from wired connections.

Following best practices for home WiFi networks allows you to maximize performance from 802.11ac. But upgrading to WiFi 6 remains the best option for future-proofing advanced usage.

Key Takeaways

  • WiFi 5 offers excellent internet speeds – typically 300-450Mbps on 5GHz and 150-200Mbps on 2.4GHz when near the router. This remains fast enough for most online activities.
  • Newer WiFi 6 routers provide faster peak speeds over 2Gbps. They also offer higher capacity, lower latency, and improved efficiency when many devices access the network.
  • WiFi 5 can struggle with very advanced applications like 8K video streaming, VR gaming, many simultaneous smart home and internet-connected devices. WiFi 6 helps ensure adequate performance.
  • Tweaks like updating firmware, changing channels, optimal router placement and using 5GHz band where possible can optimize WiFi 5 network speeds. Ethernet backhaul helps too.
  • For future-proofing, upgrading to the latest WiFi 6 routers is recommended for busy, high performance networks. But WiFi 5 remains highly capable for more basic internet usage.


WiFi 5 remains a strong wireless networking technology in 2023 despite being over a decade old. It offers speeds that easily meet general internet demands. However, newer WiFi 6 devices provide an advantage for advanced applications with their faster maximum speeds, higher capacity, lower latency and better efficiency.

Upgrading routers can be expensive so it is not essential for those with basic usage. But optimal placement and setup of your WiFi 5 network ensures you still achieve the best wireless performance possible. As demands increase over time, a router hardware refresh to WiFi 6 may eventually be required.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What speed is WiFi 5?
    WiFi 5 supports maximum theoretical speeds up to 1.3Gbps. But real-world speeds when connected nearby to a WiFi 5 router under optimal conditions are typically 300-450Mbps on 5GHz and 150-200Mbps on 2.4GHz.

  2. Is WiFi 5 slower than WiFi 6?
    WiFi 6 has faster maximum speeds over 2Gbps. It also provides greater capacity, lower latency, and more efficiency with multiple devices accessing the network. So in technology terms, yes WiFi 6 is faster.

  3. Is 300 Mbps WiFi 5 good?
    Yes, average speeds of 300Mbps+ on WiFi 5 are excellent for the majority of online activities including HD video streaming, web browsing, social media, and more. For advanced tasks like 8K video or VR gaming, WiFi 6 may be required.

  4. Does WiFi 5 support gigabit internet?
    Yes, WiFi 5 routers can provide gigabit internet speeds. Maximum theoretical throughput on WiFi 5 is 1.3Gbps. Real world speeds over a gigabit service under ideal conditions can reach 700-900Mbps when a device connects nearby on 5GHz.

  5. Should I upgrade from WiFi 5?
    It depends. For normal internet usage, WiFi 5 likely remains adequate. But those using bandwidth intensive applications or many simultaneous connected devices should consider upgrading to WiFi 6 for the fastest speeds, highest capacity and lowest latency.

  6. Is WiFi 7 better than WiFi 6E?
    WiFi 7 builds on 6E technology and aims to double speeds over WiFi 6. Maximum theoretical rates are said to reach 36 Gbps. WiFi 7 is still in early days so performance in the real-world remains to be seen when hardware is released.

  7. Will WiFi 5 devices work on WiFi 6?
    Yes, WiFi 6 routers maintain backward compatibility with WiFi 5 devices. But to enjoy the faster speeds and advanced WiFi 6 features, both the router AND connected devices need WiFi 6 support.

  8. Does WiFi 5 support beamforming?
    Yes, beamforming helps direct the WiFi signal towards a client device instead of broadcasting evenly in all directions. This allows more reliable connections at longer ranges – useful for large homes. Most modern WiFi 5 routers support beamforming.

  9. Why is WiFi 5 slower than Ethernet?
    Ethernet cables provide dedicated connection between devices of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps). WiFi relies on shared airwaves so bandwidth is split across devices – meaning slower speeds. There is also greater risk of interference on wireless networks.

  10. Do WiFi extenders reduce speed?
    Yes, connecting to WiFi via an extender will provide slower speeds than connecting directly to the main router. Extenders have to receive and rebroadcast the signal causing latency and throughput drops. But they do help improve coverage in areas far from the router.

  11. How far does WiFi 5 travel?
    Indoors, WiFi 5 typically provides adequate coverage throughout medium sized homes or offices – up to 250-350 square meters depending on obstructions. The denser the walls/objects, the poorer the range from any wireless router.

  12. Do Bluetooth devices affect WiFi 5?
    2.4 GHz Bluetooth devices can generate interference on the 2.4GHz WiFi band and result in some speed reduction or latency. If you experience inconsistent WiFi speeds/connectivity, try turning Bluetooth gadgets off to test if the situation improves.

  13. Does microwave interference affect WiFi 5?
    Yes, microwave ovens also operate around the 2.4GHz frequency, meaning they can impact WiFi signals when running. Keep your router and microwave as far apart as possible. And avoid microwave use when you are downloading files or video calling via WiFi 5.

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