Home Wi-Fi service providers

Wi-Fi is not a separate service from your internet provider, but rather a wireless means to connect your devices. Though you won’t come across standalone Wi-Fi to buy, all major internet providers offer Wi-Fi service. Wireless internet may come with additional fees or equipment requirements, but depending on your wireless internet provider, you may be able to use your own equipment and save on rental costs.

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What is Wi-Fi and how does it work?

Wireless internet or “Wi-Fi” begins when your internet provider sends an internet signal to your home, where your activated modem receives it and turns it into usable internet service. You can connect to the internet directly from the modem using a wired Ethernet connection or you can plug a wireless router into the modem for Wi-Fi usability. You can also plug in an Ethernet cord to the router for both a wired and wireless experience around your home.

The next step involves the internet router converting internet service from the modem into signals Wi-Fi devices use to connect to the internet. It’s not as fast or secure as a wired connection, but Wi-Fi is a super convenient way to get the internet on multiple devices around your home. You can interact with the internet signal within certain Wi-Fi ranges imposed by your router. Some will use more long-range routers to increase their span of wireless internet.

Over the past two decades, Wi-Fi has become an essential part of how we use the internet. As we have come to rely more heavily on Wi-Fi the technology behind it has continued to improve, and most, if not all, internet providers have integrated Wi-Fi capabilities into their service. Learn more about Wi-Fi providers, products and features with our guide.

What providers offer home Wi-Fi service?

Wi-Fi is not its own specific service to buy, so you won’t find “Wi-Fi” or “non-Wi-Fi” plans from your provider. Your internet plan represents the connection and speeds to the modem, Wi-Fi is just a wireless extension of that connection.  

Most 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 Wi-Fi equipment and avoid the fee for renting or purchasing a router through them.

Best home Wi-Fi providers of 2020

Compare Wi-Fi service providers

**Rate requires paperless billing. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply. Offer Details. Speed may not be available in your area. Maximum download/upload speed of up to 940 Mbps via a wired connection.

Can I buy Wi-Fi without an internet provider?

You can buy Wi-Fi equipment needed for a wireless internet connection, but Wi-Fi is not available to purchase in place of internet service. To buy Wi-Fi service, you’ll need to choose a wireless internet provider and select an internet plan. Then, using a router either rented from your provider or purchased separately, you can set up a wireless connection. 

Expect Wi-Fi service to add around $10 or more to your monthly internet bill. Fees for wireless internet equipment can range from $5 to $15/mo., depending on your provider. Additionally, you may want to equip your Wi-Fi network with Wi-Fi extenders, online security and advanced tech support, all of which can add to the cost of internet.

When shopping for a wireless internet provider, be sure to consider Wi-Fi equipment and service fees. And if you enjoy using Wi-Fi on the go, consider providers such as AT&T, Spectrum and Xfinity that have large Wi-Fi hotspot networks.

Wi-Fi plans with unlimited data

We use Wi-Fi connections to stream videos and music on mobile devices, conveniently connect laptops and link IoT devices to our home network. Essentially, we use Wi-Fi for just about everything, which means your Wi-Fi service can use up a lot of data. 

Going over a data limit can result in added fees or slowed internet speeds. If you plan on using your Wi-Fi service for lots of streaming, gaming and downloading, you may want to consider an unlimited Wi-Fi plan. Here are some of the best unlimited Wi-Fi plans.

Internet providers with unlimited Wi-Fi plans

AT&T’s Fiber plans come with unlimited data, but their DSL plans come with a 1 TB/mo. data allowance. If you want unlimited data, you can opt for unlimited data for around $30/mo. extra, or get unlimited Wi-Fi data when you bundle with a qualifying AT&T service. Xfinity also offers unlimited data for an added monthly cost, around $50/mo. extra.

What equipment do I need for Wi-Fi?

As magical as Wi-Fi seems, 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.
  • RouterAlong 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 ultimate router guide for everything you need to know about routers.
  • 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)These devices can 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 Wi-Fi 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. 

Pros and cons of using your own Wi-Fi equipment

Pros

  • Save money on your monthly bill
  • Choose the equipment you want
  • No equipment to return 

Cons

  • Higher upfront costs
  • Limited tech support
  • Must find a compatible router

If you would rather use your own equipment, click on your provider below to view a list of compatible modems and routers.

What’s a good Wi-Fi plan speed?

One thing to note about Wi-Fi is that it is inherently slower than a wired connection, 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’re currently using a Wi-Fi connection, take our speed test to see how your speeds compare to your plan’s advertised speeds. Once you have an idea of what speeds you are getting over Wi-Fi, check our recommendations of what you can do with those speeds below.

Low Wi-Fi speeds – 1-24 Mbps

Low Wi-Fi speeds are common with internet plans with advertised speeds ranging from 1 to 50 Mbps.These speeds are best used for light internet activity, such as checking email and browsing the web, but may be suitable for some streaming as well.

Recommended for connecting 1-3 devices

  • Email
  • Basic web and social media browsing
  • Streaming video in standard definition on one device
  • Casual web browsing

Mid-range Wi-Fi speeds – 25-100 Mbps

Expect average Wi-Fi speeds in the 25 to 100 Mbps range from internet plans advertising 50-200 Mbps. These speeds are better for streaming and gaming over a Wi-Fi connection, but may not be sufficient for bandwidth-hogging activities such as streaming and gaming on multiple devices at once.  

Recommended for connecting 3-7 devices

  • Online shopping on three or more devices
  • Streaming video in high definition on multiple devices
  • Online gaming with one to two devices
  • Large file downloads

Fast Wi-Fi speeds – 100+ Mbps

You’ll find the fastest Wi-Fi speeds from cable and fiber internet providers who can offer internet plans with max speeds of 300 to 1,000 Mbps. With these internet speeds, you can reasonably expect your Wi-Fi speeds to fall around 100 Mbps or higher, which is plenty of speed for streaming, gaming and more on multiple devices.

Recommended for connecting 8+ devices

  • Streaming video in 4K Ultra HD on multiple devices
  • Working from home
  • Families with multiple connected devices
  • Downloading large files and HD movies
  • Video chatting and screen sharing

Download times for various Wi-Fi speeds

How can I improve my home Wi-Fi connection?

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.  
  • Make sure the router and signal are free of obstructions – Walls, aquariums and other obstructions can block or at least weaken signals. Your neighbor’s Wi-Fi and even your microwave can also cause Wi-Fi interference.
  • Move closer to the router – Routers have a limited range of how far they can extend Wi-Fi signals, so the further you are from the router, the weaker your connection is likely to be.
  • 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.
  • Reset the router – Sometimes turning the router off and back on is all you need to do to restore the connection.
  • Check for Wi-Fi leeches – It’s possible unknown users are tapping into your network without your knowledge, slowing your network. Learn how to detect and fix a hacked router.
  • 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. The points communicate with one another wirelessly so if one point goes down, a connection is rerouted through another point, providing the fastest and more efficient data routing available. 
  • Use an ethernet cable – Another Wi-Fi alternative is to use an ethernet cable. The Ethernet cable usually plugs your router to your modem, then your router to your device. You can also plug your device to your modem directly. Although less convenient, this option tends to be a faster, more reliable, efficient and secure option than using a wireless connection. 

For more tips and tricks to get faster Wi-Fi, check out our guide on how to boost your Wi-Fi.


Wi-Fi FAQs

Is Wi-Fi free?

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.

It’s a good idea to set your router up in a central location in your home. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure your router is free of obstructions, such as walls and furniture, that may block Wi-Fi signals. To help ensure a quality signal and whole-home coverage, you can also install Wi-Fi signal extenders.

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.

To get Wi-Fi in your home, you will first need to choose an internet provider. You will then need to rent or buy the proper equipment in order to be able to connect your devices to Wi-Fi. You will need a modem and wireless router; however, there are products that are a modem and router all-in-one. The modem is used to connect your home network to the wider internet and the router is then used to convert that internet into a wireless signal that all of your devices can connect to.


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David Anders

Written by:

David Anders

Senior Writer, Broadband Content

David joined the Allconnect team in 2017, specializing in broadband and TV content. As a Senior Writer, David is passionate about making sure our broadband content provides vital information to consumers and hel… Read more

Trey Paul

Edited by:

Trey Paul

Editor, Head of Content

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