Can a Switch Slow Down the Internet?

Here’s whether a switch slows down the internet.

A switch can be one of the reasons for slow internet.

So if you want to know how a switch can slow down your internet and how to fix it, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump right in!

Can a Switch Slow Down the Internet?

A Switch Can Slow Down Your Internet

When we choose an ISP (Internet Service Provider), we always start by comparing them based on the guarantee’s download and upload speeds. 

Internet speed can be very important to us for multiple reasons. We want to do all sorts of things online:

  • Surfing the net and social media
  • Streaming movies and TV shows
  • Watch those “how to” videos
  • Learning
  • Reading

Some people also work from home, which can require a fast and stable Internet connection.

Woman working from home and playing with her cute cats.

So, what does internet speed depend on? Is it better when we connect our laptops and computers via Ethernet cable, or does it work the same way when we connect via Wi-Fi?

Internet Speed Issues

It is terribly frustrating when we can’t get the job done because we are having trouble with our Internet connection. Now, you might think that it’s because of the bandwidth.

Bandwidth is the capacity of information that goes through a connection in a certain amount of time. It’s not equivalent to Internet speed. It’s basically how much information you can receive every second.

Internet speed refers to how fast you receive the information, i.e., how fast you can download files, how quickly your YouTube videos render, etc.

Apart from issues with bandwidth and speed, there are other reasons why your Internet connection might be slow.

Wi-Fi Speed Issues

If we experience slow speeds over a Wi-Fi connection, there are several reasons why this might be happening.

The first and most logical one is that we have a slow internet speed due to our ISP. If that’s the case, then we should consider switching to a better provider. 

Simply do a speed test on a device connected via Ethernet cable, and you’ll know whether your ISP is delivering on the speeds promised in the contract.

The second reason might be that you’re using a low-quality wireless router, which doesn’t support your Internet connection’s full velocity. In that case, it’s time for an upgrade.

The third reason might be that your wireless router is in a bad spot. Wi-Fi works by spreading radio waves across a certain area. 

Radio waves come in different frequencies, so a higher frequency such as 5 GHz has difficulty penetrating walls and solid objects.

Try repositioning your router for a better signal and faster internet.

The fourth reason is that there is just an overload. The connection is overloaded with numerous devices, and they’re all siphoning the speed. The more users, the slower it gets.

Plus, background apps on all devices constantly draw the speed from your wireless network even if you aren’t using the device. This can be a serious issue. So you might want to either disconnect some devices or turn off some background apps.

Cable Speed Issues

Statistically speaking, Wi-Fi is much slower than cable, but you can also experience speed issues via cable connections. 

Although cable connections are generally considered more stable and reliable, they aren’t without their problems.

The first reason why a cable connection might cause slow speeds is that there is a problem with the modem or the Ethernet switch.

If there’s a problem with the modem, you can upgrade it to a better one or simply update the software the modem is using. Before doing this, you might want to check whether your devices and any background apps that continuously use the internet are updated.

The second reason might be the length of the cable. If the cable is very long, naturally the Internet speed will be slower on the device because data transmission has to travel a long way to get to the endpoint.

Usually, this doesn’t cause too much speed loss. The difference can be insignificant, but it can also affect the way you work in some cases. 

For example, if you’re having a video conference or a conference call through your laptop or computer, you can expect to have some interference during the calls.

The third reason for a slow Internet speed is any damage to the cable. If this happens, it’s recommended you replace the cable for full functionality.

Ethernet Switch and Internet Speed

We often confuse Ethernet switches with Ethernet hubs because they look similar.

Network switch with white cables.

They have a certain number of ports (the things you plug your Ethernet cable into) and one that is reserved for input, typically the cable that connects it to the modem for Internet access. 

So, the difference is that a hub takes everything that comes in through the input, and sends it through all the ports. This is where data packets (the information that goes through the cables) collide and can cause issues.

Network quality gets much worse due to this simple fault in the hardware of an Ethernet hub. Unfortunately, a switch and a hub look almost identical, so this can be very frustrating.

An Ethernet switch is, simply put, like a smart device. There are no collision problems because the switch manages all incoming and outgoing data packets. As a result, fewer problems occur with switches. That’s why hubs are becoming obsolete.

Ethernet Switch Speed Issues

So, like with any other piece of machinery or software, it’s typical that sometimes we experience issues with Ethernet switches. These issues can often manifest as slow Internet speeds.

Woman with glasses frowning at her laptop.

There are three possible reasons for a slow Internet connection when it comes to Ethernet switches. 

The first one being that the hardware, the Ethernet switch is failing. It happens with all hardware at some point.

It might be the most expensive top-quality hardware (device) that you buy, but after a while, it can simply get worn out. You know what the next step is—troubleshooting. 

Test it on multiple devices. Test the speed on these devices. Then, determine if it is indeed the switch that is failing.

The second reason might be that we have an old Ethernet switch, one that cannot support our current bandwidth or speed because it just wasn’t built for it. With Internet connection speeds on the rise, it can be hard to keep up with the hardware.

However, most of the routers that come from your ISP support the network bandwidth and speed, and you can easily connect multiple devices to them. There will be no drawbacks unless…

You guessed it, the network is overloaded! This is the third reason we might have issues with Internet speeds. 

Again, it’s an identical issue to the one that can occur in a Wi-Fi network—your ISP might simply be “in over their heads,” as they say. It might be lacking the infrastructure to connect your entire neighborhood and guarantee top speeds all the time.

The more people use the devices connected to the internet, the more bandwidth splits. 

While we did make a difference between bandwidth and Internet speed, the volume of data packets also impacts the speed, to a certain degree. This is what happens when everyone in the neighborhood is home, streaming their favorite shows, playing games, and browsing YouTube all at the same time.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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