Home Wi-Fi service is available with all ISPs
So, what is Wi-Fi? It is actually the technology that allows your devices to wirelessly connect to the internet through a modem and router. Wi-Fi is not its own specific service to buy, so you won’t find “Wi-Fi” or “non-Wi-Fi” internet plans from your provider. Your internet plan represents the connection and speeds to the modem, Wi-Fi service is just a wireless extension of that connection.
Most internet providers present Wi-Fi as an add-on to their internet service, typically with an extra monthly fee for Wi-Fi equipment. Some may let you use your own equipment and avoid the fee for renting or purchasing a router through them.
Shop the best home Wi-Fi providers
Best for Wi-Fi hotspot coverage
Plans starting at $30.00/mo*
With Xfinity, customers have access to millions of hotspots around the country. Once connected to one by signing into an Xfinity account, you can automatically connect to Wi-Fi whenever you are out of your home and in an Xfinity service area so there is no need to waste your cellphone data.
Best for whole-home Wi-Fi equipment
Plans starting at $49.99/mo*
Cox offers the Panoramic Wifi Gateway. The next-generation modem-router combination delivers whole-home coverage and comes with tools for managing in-home Wi-Fi networks. Panoramic Wifi also comes with advanced security for network protection, a mobile app and Elite Gamer to reduce gaming lag.
Best for low-cost internet
Plans starting at $55.00/mo.*
AT&T’s standalone internet plans start at $55/mo. with no additional equipment fees. If your address is only serviceable for DSL, your plan will come with the fastest speeds available.
Best for low Wi-Fi equipment costs
Plans starting at $49.99/mo.*
Spectrum’s equipment costs are low compared to other providers. Spectrum charges $5/mo. for router rental — the modem is free — most providers charge around $10-15/mo.
Best for matching download and upload speeds
Plans starting at $49.99/mo.*
Verizon Fios is one of the few providers that offer matching download and upload speeds. With competitively-priced speed tiers of 200, 400 and 940/880 Mbps, Verizon Fios high-speed internet plan options can provide service to any size home.
Best for minimal equipment
Plans starting at $30.00/mo.*
Optimum has a 2-in-1 gateway router, the Altice One, with a built-in TV box for your cable services. In one interface, you can use streaming apps, your DVR recordings and the available cable TV lineup.
Best Home Wi-Fi providers of 2022
- Xfinity – Wi-Fi hotspot coverage: Xfinity has millions of Wi-Fi hotspot locations nationwide.
- Cox – Whole-home Wi-Fi equipment: The Panoramic Wi-Fi device ensures a strong signal throughout your home.
- AT&T – Low-cost internet: AT&T’s Fiber 300 plan starts at a low $55.00/mo.*
- Spectrum – Low Wi-Fi equipment costs: Your Spectrum modem is included and router rental is only an additional $5/mo.
- Verizon – Matching download and upload speeds: Verizon’s fiber network supports equal or near-equal upload and download speeds.
- Optimum – Minimal equipment: Altice One combines your modem, router, TV box and streaming hub all in one.
*Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. As of 09/27/22.
Home Wi-Fi provider quick comparison
|Provider||Plan price range*||Plan download speeds||Monthly Wi-Fi equipment costs||Unlimited data starting price*|
|Xfinity||$30.00 – $299.95/mo.||50 – 6,000 Mbps||$14.00 – $25.00||—|
|Cox||$49.99 – $99.99/mo.||100 – 1000 Mbps||$13.00||—|
|AT&T||$55.00 – $180.00/mo.||10 – 4,700 Mbps||$0.00||$55.00/mo.|
|Spectrum||$49.99 – $89.99/mo.||300 – 1,000 Mbps**||$5.00||$49.99/mo.|
|Verizon Fios||$49.99 – $89.99/mo.||300 – 940 Mbps||$0.00||$49.99/mo.|
|Optimum||$30.00 – $65.00/mo.||300 – 940 Mbps||$13.50||$30.00/mo.|
|CenturyLink||$30.00 – $70.00/mo.***||100 – 940 Mbps***||$15.00||$30.00/mo.|
|Frontier||$54.99 – $154.99/mo.||Varies||$0.00||$54.99/mo.|
|HughesNet||$64.99 – $149.99/mo.||25 – 25 Mbps||$14.99||$64.99/mo.|
|Mediacom||$19.99 – $59.99/mo.||100 – 1,000 Mbps||$13.00||—|
|T-Mobile||$50.00/mo.||25 – 100 Mbps||$0.00||$50.00/mo.|
|Windstream||$19.99 – $69.00/mo.||25 – 1,000 Mbps||$6.99||$19.99/mo.|
*Price per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. Last updated 09/27/22.
**Wireless speeds may vary
Equipment needed to set up Wi-Fi in your house
As magical as a Wi-Fi home connection may seem, it doesn’t just happen on its own. In addition to your internet connection, you’ll need at the very least a modem and router to enjoy Wi-Fi.
- Modem – This device receives the internet connection from your provider and uses Ethernet cables to connect with other devices.
- Router – Along with your modem, this is the most important Wi-Fi device as it’s the one that turns your internet into wireless signals. There are many different router options and ways to set it up. Look to our list of best Wi-Fi routers for everything you need to know.
- Wireless network adapter – This device connects your desktop PC to a Wi-Fi network. This is not required for newer PCs, laptops and smart devices as they have built-in Wi-Fi receivers.
- Wi-Fi extenders (optional) – Wi-Fi extenders help boost your Wi-Fi signal so you get a stronger signal throughout your home.
Everything you need is likely available from your provider
Like the cable boxes from your TV provider, modems and routers are commonly available from the provider and are specific to their service. Many providers offer a “gateway” device, which serves as the modem and router in a single unit. Wi-Fi equipment fees, functionality and add-ons such as Wi-Fi extenders will vary by provider.
Is it better to buy your own equipment?
Some wireless internet providers, including CenturyLink, Verizon and Xfinity, give you the option to use your own products and save the monthly equipment fees. Buying your own equipment not only saves you money, but it can also get you access to the highest quality Wi-Fi equipment on the market.
If you rent your equipment through your ISP, you likely won’t get the most advanced Wi-Fi technology. Verizon and Spectrum’s gateways, for example, only go up to 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) standards. In contrast, many of the newer models available are on Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e technology. This technology can offer faster speeds and more bandwidth than Wi-Fi 5.
The only downside to buying instead of renting your equipment is that you will not have access to the same quality tech support as you would when renting your router with your Wi-Fi company. If you would rather use your own equipment, click on your provider below to view a list of compatible modems and routers.
How to set up your home Wi-Fi connection
So you just signed up for internet service and want to ditch the wires? The good news is that setting up a Wi-Fi connection should only take about ten minutes. All you need is a modem (typically supplied by your internet provider), a router (sometimes included as part of combination modem/router) and an active internet connection. Your internet provider should give you instructions to follow on setup, but you can also follow these steps to configure any wireless network:
- Find a good location for your router. Where you put your router has a huge impact on your Wi-Fi speeds, and once you set it up you probably won’t want to relocate it again. Find an elevated spot in a central location in your home, and away from concrete or brick walls, microwaves or other electronic equipment (TVs are okay).
- Connect the router to the modem with an Ethernet cable. This will go in the WAN (wide-area network) port on the back of your router and the Ethernet port on your modem. You can skip this step if you’re using a combination modem/router device. You’ll also need to plug the router in to a power outlet at this point.
- Configure your Wi-Fi router. This can usually be done in a couple different ways. Most new wireless routers provide a quick-start guide with their own app, which helps simplify the process. You can also use the router’s dedicated configuration page to complete setup, which is a URL listed in the router’s documentation.
- Set up your username and password. Your wireless router will come with a default login, but it’s often something simple like “admin.” You’ll want to change both the username and password as soon as possible.
- Connect devices. Now that your Wi-Fi network is set up, you can start getting your devices online. Open up Wi-Fi settings on your device, find the Wi-Fi name you just created and log in using your new password.
Tips for improving your Wi-Fi signal
There are many things that can slow your Wi-Fi speeds, such as connecting multiple devices or even running the microwave, which means there are many things you can do to help improve your connection.
- Place your router in a central location – Considering the physics of Wi-Fi, the best place for your router is in a central location, preferably high on a shelf where your router is free of as many obstructions as possible. You can also physically move closer to your router if you don’t want to change your router’s location.
- Disconnect devices not in use – The average household has more than 10 connected devices and each one eats into available bandwidth. If you need a faster connection, try disconnecting some of the devices that are not currently in use.
- Reboot the router – Sometimes turning the router off and back on is all you need to do to restore the connection.
- Try a mesh network – One Wi-Fi alternative to improve your internet connection is to use a mesh network. A mesh network is when there is a group of devices around your house that act as a single Wi-Fi network. Each device is called a point and the purpose of having multiple points is to provide better coverage for more areas of the house.
- Use a Wi-Fi extender – A Wi-Fi extender connects to your router to extend your Wi-Fi connection to the parts of your home that are currently dead zones.
For more tips and tricks to get faster Wi-Fi, check out our guide on how to boost your Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi will be slower than your internet plan’s advertised speeds
One thing to note about Wi-Fi home connection is that it is inherently slower when you’re connected through an Ethernet cord, by up to 50% or more. So if your wireless internet provider advertises speeds up to 100 Mbps, you can expect at best speeds of 50 Mbps or lower when using Wi-Fi.
If you aren’t interested in signing up for home internet, you do have options:
- Mobile hotspot: Your smartphone is an excellent way to get online through its Wi-Fi tethering option. Before you cancel your ISP contract, though, there are some things to consider before you rely wholly on your phone for a connection. One is speed, if you are a gamer or a high-volume video viewer, you may have some buffering issues. You should also consider the cost if you are on a restrictive cellular plan.
- MiFi: This portable router acts as a hotspot for your phone, tablet or computer. You can connect to Wi-Fi without worrying about using your cellular data. There are several data plans specifically available for a MiFi device.
Some internet providers do offer Wi-Fi service at no additional cost. Others may charge an added fee of $5/mo. or higher for Wi-Fi service, plus an additional fee for Wi-Fi equipment rental. If you’re looking for free Wi-Fi on the go, many internet providers and businesses offer free Wi-Fi hotspots.
It is common for wireless internet service to be slower than a wired, or LAN, connection. There are many factors that can affect Wi-Fi speeds, such as proximity to the router, the number of connected devices and the quality of the router itself. Even running your microwave can affect Wi-Fi speeds. If your home Wi-Fi internet speeds are slower than you’d like, here are a few tips for boosting your Wi-Fi connection.
Wi-Fi is not a service by itself, but rather a feature of your internet service. You need an internet service provider to get internet to your home via a modem and a router to transmit that signal throughout your home. Some ISPs include Wi-Fi service and necessary equipment at no extra charge.
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Written by:Ari Howard
Associate Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content
Ari is an Associate Writer for the Allconnect team. She primarily writes about broadband news and studies, particularly relating to internet access, digital safety, broadband-related technology and the digital d… Read more
Edited by:Shannon Ullman
Editor, Broadband Content
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