The Last 50 Feet – The Router

A critical part of everyone’s Internet access is a piece of networking gear our Internet Service Providers (ISP) normally give (or these days, rent) to us called the router. Often this is an all-in-one box that combines the modem, router and WiFi functions. The router function in this box plays the role of traffic cop; ensuring bad stuff does not get in, making sure that all your private traffic stays private and to some extent, managing the traffic. However, most routers out there today, even brand new ones, do a very bad job at managing the traffic in a way that ensures good Internet quality. Most just wave all the traffic through and let a pile-up happen further out on the network. It is these pile-ups that cause many of the problems we observe, from web pages that don’t load to streaming video that stalls, will not play all the way through or that constantly changes quality.

Part of the problem is that Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) communications technology, with its very limited upstream bandwidth (typically 0.6Mbps), can get quickly saturated with traffic. Even 2 Mbps cable is very susceptible to this as well. Think of a small one-lane bridge on a road that has three lanes leading to it, if a burst of traffic occurs, the traffic will pile up waiting to get across the bridge. If this congestion is not managed (by slowing the traffic down well ahead of the bridge), then the amount of cars that can cross the bridge per minute will decrease due to stop-and-go congestion. It is similar for your Internet traffic, all those requests for page elements on complex sites like Facebook or a news site can clog your limited upstream link, leading to pictures that don’t  download and long load times. Ironically, it’s not so much your download speed that impacts quality; it’s your limited upload speed.

It is the routers job to be a good traffic cop and prevent this congestion from happening, but most routers, especially the cheap ISP-provided ones, are really bad at this job. Even newer commercial routers that might have facilities to handle this still need to have the traffic management features turned on and set correctly, which even if you know about this is not straightforward, requiring multiple technical steps.

The good news is that if you do deploy a router that has effective traffic management, then many, if not all, of these Internet quality issues simply disappear and you can have usable Internet, even with limited DSL speeds. One can seamlessly stream movies, have uninterrupted Skype calls and load even the most complex web sites with such a router.

There is only one router on the market today that meets the goal of usable internet quality out of the box, the IQrouter is the first router that automatically adapts to your line both at initial setup and over time.

The bottom line is that even with limited Internet connection bandwidth, if it is well managed, it can actually deliver great usability. While more speed is always desirable, it is actually how effectively the traffic is managed that will determine how usable and satisfactory your Internet quality will be. An IQrouter is always watching your line to ensure you get the optimum internet quality.

To learn more about Internet Quality and how to easily achieve it out-of-the-box, please visit evenroute.com/InternetQuality.

Published on by Jonathan Foulkes.