Nearly everyone has a Wi-Fi router for their home. However, with the soaring number of wireless devices connecting to it, slow internet speeds and poor network performance are issues encountered with increasing frequency. Since that’s the case, many might wonder, “how many devices can a home router handle while still providing a good online experience?”
In the lab, a TP-Link SOHO wireless router can support more than 64 clients simultaneously. But in a real world scenario, to ensure a stable network environment, we recommend you and your family connect about 25 devices to a standard Wi-Fi 5 router. For a tri-band router, like Archer C4000, the number of available connected devices goes up to 50.
Note: The recommended number of connected devices may vary by the hardware specification, software version, the router’s wireless standard, and other environmental factors like subscription bandwidth, physical obstruction, and signal interference.
Why the deviation?
When it comes to real experience, the best situation is the Wi-Fi capacity should both meet the demands for speed and stability. But the problem is wireless capacity can be affected by the number of users, occupied bandwidth, and the data rates of connected devices. This is because the wireless transmission is a shared channel transmission. The more users or running applications there are, the fewer channel resources can be distributed. In addition, internet performance deteriorates amid interference among connected devices.
A typical example is that we can always get stable Wi-Fi signals during off-peak hours while the situation is totally different when other devices start their connection to stream videos on Netflix or install games from Steam. In this case, bandwidth is heavily hogged by some devices, leading to poor Wi-Fi capacity for the whole network.
Of course, in most cases it's won’t be that extreme. A dual-band Wi-Fi 5 router (like Archer C7 or Archer C80) is sufficient to meet the needs of a family of 3–5 people.
But if you are always dealing with overcrowded networks—which may be caused by numerous connected devices or frequent large file downloads—consider improving the Wi-Fi capacity.
How? Well, here are a few tips.
- Get rid of Wi-Fi squatters
Check on your router’s settings to find out if there are unexpected devices using your Wi-Fi. Make sure that the bandwidth is effectively (and exclusively) used by the people you want connected.
- Use frequency bands efficiently
Having more frequency bands, i.e., having a dual-band or tri-band router, means your router has more channel resources to allocate. Furthermore, a router with more radio frequencies has better compatibility to respond to connection requests. It can sort and allocate devices into different networks, avoiding overload on a single network (especially on a 2.4 Ghz network). Though it won’t increase the internet speed of any device, it does help ensure the network stability.
- Add more Wi-Fi access points
Installing extra routers/access points or switches to a mesh network can ease the network load. Wi-Fi capacity is relatively less susceptible to interference with these kinds of devices.
Note: The total amount of available clients is determined by the main router, albeit with the extended networks.
This method can take advantage of your old and idle router without any extra cost. The networks would have a balanced and steady structure. However, do note that it is more difficult to manage.
- Buy a router with more RAM and a powerful processor
Keep in mind that hardware also has limitations.
The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the key for a router to handle all the data for bandwidth-intensive activities, like streaming, gaming, and downloading. It the CPU isn’t up to snuff, multi-tasking between devices is going to be tough, so it’s important your router has strong processing capabilities. RAM is also of critical importance. More RAM means more threads, determining how many simultaneous connections your router can support at a given time. For a router with advanced features or firmware, CPU and RAM are very useful.
- Ask for more bandwidth from the ISP
Imagine data as various vehicles. Bandwidth is the road that allows data to travel through. The more bandwidth (imagine more lanes) means higher possible data throughput. If there are applications constantly being used at the same time, you will definitely need more bandwidth to ensure everyone in your family can have a good experience.
If you’re having trouble on this front, you might consider asking for more subscription bandwidth from your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Since it would cost extra, we recommend clarifying your family’s bandwidth needs to your ISP and choosing the most cost-efficient solution.
Next time when you encounter network congestion, check if the Wi-Fi capacity is limiting your network speed, and see if you can improve it with some of the measures we’ve mentioned.