Is There a Device Limit?

Friday, 19 August, 2016

Wi-Fi is not limitless – all computers, mobile phones, games consoles and other internet enabled devices share a finite capacity of resources. If you run two taps in your house at the same time, the water pressure will drop and you won’t be able to use the shower. Internet bandwidth works in a similar way. If there are too many devices connected to your network, it will slow down. So, how many is too many?

Your home network functions with a single wireless access point, otherwise known as your router. Each access point has limits on the number of connections and amount of network load it can take. This differs from router to router but most home networks will support around 250 connected devices. This is only the theoretical limit and there are several other reasons your home network may slow down.

The network speed is not only determined by the number of devices connected at any one time. The speed rating of an access point represents the maximum bandwidth supported. A Wi-Fi router rated at 300mbps will support ten devices at 30mpbs or 100 at 3mbps. A router will automatically shift bandwidth to the users that need it. This means you don’t need to clear inactive devices from the network to speed it up.

On your network, every device will share a single internet connection. As more devices join the network, speed will degrade. On most home networks just a handful of devices streaming HD video, downloading images from the web or playing online games will cause a significant slowdown. It would therefore be impossible to have 250 devices connected and all running at substantial speeds. Access points will also overheat when working at extreme loads for extended periods.

Wi-Fi is a radio signal – a high concentration of users can generate wireless interference. This will further degrade the connection and slow download speeds. If you do notice your home network speed slowing down, limit the number of devices connected at any one time. Many Linksys routers have a default setting with a 50 device limit. Alternatively, installing a second router or access point can help distribute the network load.

Has this helped you understand how your Wi-Fi network works? If you have any more questions, drop them in the comments and we will do our best to answer them.