Wi-Fi is all the rage, and with good reason, technology has improved since the early days. Today's Wi-Fi is flexible, fast and easy to set up, which begs the question, Is there still a place for Ethernet?
Well the short answer is yes! Absolutely! But why?
Four basic reasons why an Ethernet connection is superior to Wi-Fi:
There is no doubt Wi-Fi is far quicker these days, the theory behind Wi-Fi is a bit complicated but it is theoretically possible to achieve speeds of 1300Mb/s or 1.3G/s. However the reality is that most household speeds are a long way from that. If you take the relatively new Sky Q router for example Expert Reviews tested that and found it could transfer data at around 320Mb/s. Don't get me wrong that is quick, but it's no where near the speeds you can achieve through Ethernet; a CAT6 network it is around is closer to 10G/s.
2. Speed again (but for different reasons)
One of the issues with Wi-Fi is that the more devices that are connected to a router the slower the speed of each device. This is because each device has to take turns in talking to the router, and in some cases you have greedy devices that want to take more than their fair share of time.
Decent modern routers use a technology called MU-MIMU which means multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output, (more info here). If you are thinking of buying a router look for this specification. Alternatively use Ethernet as then you are coming in on another route altogether . To make an analogy: imagine your driving and the cars are piling up at traffic lights on the A4, and suddenly you discoverer the M4 is completely empty! Zoom! (apologies to any non-Brits wondering what I'm talking about).
3. Lack of interference
Modern houses are buzzing with devices which can potentially interfere with a Wi-Fi signal, for example microwaves, cordless phones, baby monitors and so on. In addition to this Wi-Fi can struggle to pass through significant physical barriers, such as thick walls. This can lead to unreliable or weak signal, which can be extremely frustrating. Ethernet will not suffer in the same way, care must be taking when installing it to avoid power lines and other potential interference, but a well installed network will remain interference free.
When you send something via Wi-Fi it is not so much a precise arrow of information but rather a net, this makes it relatively easy to intercept. For the most part this will not be an issue in your home because the net is mostly contained within your property, however there is still a chance someone outside your home could intercept your signal and break into your network. This not possible on a Ethernet network, the interception would have to be a physical link to your network, this would obviously be much more difficult to achieve.
So there you have it, the benefits are pretty clear. It's all about speed and reliability with Ethernet. So with all these positives, are there any negatives? Of course!
Four downsides of Ethernet:
1. Fixed point of connection
You are limited by the cable, if you can't get a cable there then you can't connect.
2. Limited device compatibility
Can you connect your i Phone to Ethernet? No, you can't. This is the case with most hand held devices.
3. Additional equipment
If you are installing a cable network for your home you will likely need to purchase at least one switch. This is a point for all your cables to connect to. Switches are very cheap but it is still an additional expense.
4. Bother of installation
A cable network needs to be installed properly, otherwise you will have cables dragging across your home. Home Network Solutions Berks can do this for you to get a professional finish with minimal disruption.
So there you have it the benefits and limitations of Ethernet explained. Should you have an Ethernet network installed? Well I'm biased, but I would say it was well worth it, in the future more an more devices will be entering our home and all of them will put additional strain on a purely Wi-Fi network. For best results I would recommend a combination of Ethernet and Wi-Fi to get the best of both worlds. What I haven't covered in this article are Powerline adapters, these can be a great alternative for Ethernet. Look out for a blog on Powerlines Adapters in the next few weeks.
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