How to Set the Bandwidth on a Router for Netflix
By Andrew Aarons
Netflix and its competitors have transformed the home video market -- or maybe it’s safer to say they’ve flattened it. With the prevalence of high-speed Internet connections, streaming video services have brought movies and TV shows directly into your home on your home network. But when Netflix is slow to load and when buffering and streaming stalls, there are a few things you can do -- including adjusting your router settings -- to speed things up.
Understand Your Limits
Your home network is only as fast as its slowest component. Wireless network speeds are rated by letters (b, g, and n, in order of speed from slowest to fastest), and any “b” device -- the router, your computer -- may simply be too slow to stream a high-quality video. Additionally, if your Internet provider caps the speed of your downloads, your ability to stream high-quality video is limited. However, if you have a wireless n router and a wireless n card in your streaming device and a fast Internet connection, you might be able to tweak your router to speed up streams.
How Bandwidth Works
It’s true that your router manages each device on its network separately and differently, but how much control you have depends on your specific router. Each router’s settings are adjusted differently, and not all routers give you the ability to fine-tune devices. Your router splits its available bandwidth between every device that accesses it by default. In the event that you can't fine-tune your router's bandwidth settings, you can free up more bandwidth for Netflix simply by turning off the Wi-Fi on every other device that accesses it.
Your router may have particular settings that give video streaming priority bandwidth -- but not all routers have this option. When logged in to your router, look for “QoS” (for quality of service) and see if the router has a preprogrammed “video” option. If so, then set that mode to “highest.” This way, when the router detects that you’re streaming video, it will give the device -- your computer, tablet or game console -- priority over other devices. Enable a setting called “WMM” (or wireless media mode) to further boost bandwidth during streaming.
Dual-band wireless routers operate on two different frequencies at once -- a 2.4GHz frequency and a 5GHz frequency. The lower of the two tends to share the airwaves with wireless phones in your home, and can sometimes lag for Internet and file-transfers. The higher frequency is dedicated to your transfers, which can include streaming. If you have a dual-band router, configure it as two separate networks: the 2.4GHz network for email and basic Web surfing and the 5GHz network for streaming videos. Then, before accessing Netflix, join the 5GHz network.
Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.