If your Skype or Second Life sessions start breaking up, or your iTunes stream gets clogged whenever your teenager starts playing World of Warcraft, you may be able to improve matters without buying a new router. Most routers sold in the past couple of years have a quality-of-service (QoS) feature, though you may need to update your router firmware to activate it.
To illustrate, we'll use the configuration program for Linksys routers; it has a QoS tab under 'Applications & Gaming' (first make sure that WMM Support is enabled; see image 1, below). By the way, "WMM" stands for "Wi-Fi Multimedia."
Next, turn on Internet Access Priority for your voice and media apps: Select each app from the drop-down list (see image 2, below); choose High, Medium, Normal, or Low as the priority; and click the Add button (see image 3, below). You may want to give BitTorrent and other download services a low priority and give your VoIP service a high priority, for example.
Note that the Linksys utility lets you set the priority for specific voice devices, such as VoIP phones that connect directly to your network, as well. Not all routers can prioritize particular applications or devices; but at the very least, you should turn QoS or WMM on, which automatically attempts to optimize media traffic. This setting is off by default on many routers.
Set your wi-fi router to give priority to multimedia bits by enabling this option in its setup program.
Determine the priority of your network apps one by one via the Internet Access Priority list.
Give your voice and media applications higher priority than such download services as BitTorrent.