2018 Update | Is Ethernet Cabling Still Better Than WIFI?

Is Ethernet Cabling Still Better Than WiFi?

2018 Update | Is Ethernet Cabling Still Better Than WIFI?

Let’s not kid ourselves. Wifi is awesome.

No matter how big an ethernet buff you are, the convenience of wifi connectivity is hard to beat.

You can stream, talk, and check email from your laptop or tablet anywhere within the range of a wireless access point. All that being said, wired ethernet can still give WIFI a run for its money.

The benefits of Cat5e and Cat6 are palpable. Say what you will about those pesky cables, but thanks to recent advances, wired Ethernet goes places that WIFI can only dream of.

This wasn’t the case a decade ago, when many thought Ethernet had gone the way of the flip phone.

Though WIFI has begun its own data and power journey, substantial delivery is still a ways in the future. Ethernet can give you both right now, and not just for computing devices. Low power lighting, camera systems, phone systems, and manufacturing sensor installations are just some of the technologies that often rely upon Ethernet connectivity.

Wired ethernet also saves a fortune on installation fees because you only need to drop one cable to power up. No need to hire an electrician to install an extra plug in some remote location.

But let’s take a closer look at how exactly, ethernet can still outperform wifi capabilities. We’ll hone in on 4 key areas:

  • Data speed
  • Signal quality
  • Network expandability
  • Device adaptability

Let’s begin.

1. Ethernet Data Delivery Is Fast and Getting Faster

Ethernet vs WiFi Speeds

The current IEEE 802.3bz standards for Ethernet are 2.5 Gbps for 2.5GBASE-T and 5 Gbps for 5GBASE-T. It won’t be long until standard speeds will reach up to 10Gbps on a Cat6 cable. Cat5e can deliver speeds of 1 Gbps.

To be fair, WIFI has sped up as well. The IEEE 802.11ac maxes-out at speeds of 866.7 Mbps; the IEEE 802.11n manages a much humbler 150 Mbps. Nothing to scoff at certainly, but high speed and high definition formats over multiple devices around an office or home will deliver consistently better quality over Ethernet.

One of the applications where faster speeds benefit end users is video gaming. Ask any reasonably competitive gamer if they’re willing to play over a wifi connection and you’re sure to get a resounding “never.”

Another place where this difference is pronounced is with large file downloads. Both places can be highly frustrating when slow data speeds bog you down.

2. Signal Quality

It’s no mystery that interference can make it hard to get and stay on a wireless network. As more devices come online due to the exploding Internet of Things (IoT), this may even become more of a challenge in the near future.

Not so with Ethernet. Cable connections tend to be more robust. If you have the right cabling solution—Cat6 or higher—then you have all the insulation you’ll need to prevent crosstalk from interfering with your signal.

How does interference work?

Signal Quality- Interference

Everything electrical in the cable or radio frequency that isn’t the actual signal, is noise. These waves can throw your signal out of whack. Noise can come from inside and outside the cable or radio frequency band.

Controlling noise is important because uncontrolled noise may overwhelm the data signal.

Twisted-pair cables balance signals. Signals travel essentially the same path in both directions creating a balanced electrical field. Electrical unbalance means noise. This can happen for any number of reasons, from mismatched conductors to signals bleeding over from adjacent cables.

Unbalance can also be caused externally by things like microwaves in the case of WIFI.

3. Network Expandability

In case you’re new to Ethernet, the thing that makes it so attractive to customers is how easy and inexpensive it is to install.

Let’s say you have a one-off surveillance camera or LED light installation in a remote location, Ethernet allows you to do an installation without having the cost of an additional power outlet to install.

If you do have a outlet in that area, you can keep it open for other uses because when you connect a device to the network, you’re sending both power and data over the same drop.

Of course, you can also add additional access points for WIFI networks. Ironically though, you’ll want to connect them to the network using Ethernet for the same reasons just stated.

PoE extenders allow you to extend boost signals beyond the reach of the 100m cable standard. Network extender kits allow you to add other networks with the same ease. And VDSL2 SFP Modems allow you to connect Ethernet and Coax instantly, so regardless of the types of networks you need to connect, you can have things up and running in minutes on wired ethernet networks.

VX-Pi1000EX Application DiagramWIFI definitely has expandability options, but the devices that it currently supports are narrower in range. At this time, you’re thinking more about mobile devices in public areas than hard-working LANs within a campus or even a home.

4. Device Adaptability

WIFI is great for mobile phones, tablets, laptops and even in some cases desktop computers.

You can’t deny the convenience factor.

But Ethernet is still where you really see a huge range of device demands satisfied. PoE networks can power and control:

  1. Desktops
  2. Access points
  3. LED lighting
  4. Monitoring systems
  5. Surveillance cameras
  6. VoIP phone systems
  7. VDSL and DSLAM installations

And these installations can happen in the home, across a campus or data center, and even on the floor of a manufacturing plant. Remote cameras have even round their way to the top of suspension bridges and highways.

It’s the combination of power and data delivery allows broad flexible application of Ethernet technology. It simplifies installation and keeps costs down.

Stay Tuned

For the reasons stated above, and perhaps a handful of others, ethernet cabling is still the way to go for network flexibility and stability. The good news for WIFI buffs is that it’s currently experiencing a bit of a renaissance on the wireless power delivery front.

Keep your eyes peeled for that one to hit consumer devices, it’s going to be a real game changer when engineers work out the remaining kinks.

The truth is, ethernet cables and WIFI technology have a symbiotic relationship. But their rivalry will continue to be an interesting one to watch as we make our way into 2018.

If you have any questions on how you can best deploy either technology, our analysts will be happy to answer your questions.

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Comments (30)

  • Todd E. Boyett Reply

    I have prefer Ethernet cable to my clients and in my opinion Wi-Fi is obviously more convenient than wired Ethernet cables, but Ethernet still offers significant advantages..

    May 24, 2018 at 2:26 pm
  • Mark Hitomi Reply

    Rita, great writeup. One important point IMO you left out is that wireless is often shared with many other devices per access point. If every device is heading to the Internet then this may not be the main bottleneck, but other significant factors such as distance can prioritize the bandwidth ahead of other devices on Wifi. The playing field for devices is far more level and thus consistent with wired.

    July 9, 2018 at 7:26 pm
    • Rita Mailheau Reply

      Hi Mark,
      And thank you for the compliment. It means a lot. Thanks, too, for the point about distance factoring into shared wireless. I think if we’re honest, most of us realize that wireless is only going to continue getting better.

      Sure appreciate your readership. Take care. 🙂

      July 11, 2018 at 8:40 am
  • Jason Long Reply

    Security. WiFi will always fall short of Ethernet when it comes to security.

    September 18, 2018 at 7:43 am
  • Monika@10301 Reply

    Yeah! It is better than the Wi-fi. Sometimes it may happen that due to bad weather there might be signal interruption in wireless but you will not face the same in the cabling.

    September 18, 2018 at 11:49 pm
  • YeoBen Reply

    Also, ethernet is healthier as wifi emits more EMF (radiation)

    October 2, 2018 at 11:22 pm
    • Philip Reply

      EMF is non ionising radiation, there is no evidence of health risks inside the ICNIRP guidelines, and even above the levels as listed in ICNIRP there is limited correlation until you are at many times the maximum permissible levels.

      December 5, 2018 at 3:40 am
  • Clint Reply

    Ethernet will always have an adavantage in regards to security in my opinion. Thanks for the article.

    October 7, 2018 at 5:02 pm
  • Don Lamarre Reply

    Hi Rita. Thanks for the article. One thing confuses me dramatically: my Wifi router indicates “speeds up to 1300Mbps in the 5GHz band”. On the other hand, it says that it “provides wired devices with blazingly fast 10/100/1000Mbps connections”. Well, 1000Mbps (the maximum wired speed) is lower than 1300Mbs. Is it not? So Wifi is faster than Ethernet?
    Another thing that I don’t understand: my router is itself connected to the cable modem… with an Ethernet cable — which I assume is also limited to 1000Mbps speeds. I am unable to explain this logically. What am I missing?
    Thank you,
    Don

    October 15, 2018 at 8:16 pm
    • Rita Mailheau Reply

      Hi Don. Thanks for the comment. My guess is that your wifi is in a house and not a noisier environment like an apartment building. While WiFi can reach speeds of 1.3Gbps, the practicality is that in many deployments 1G is often the max. But don’t think I’m not with you on this. I think each of us wants better WiFi. My husband streams HOW TO videos on his Android every day. The .11 technology is actually developing a lot faster.

      https://www.versatek.com/blog/george-zimmerman-ethernet-alliance/

      While the release dates have not been solidified, Ethernet 2.5 and 5 are going to reach the market, and ironically to this argument, will actually enable broader wireless without the need for recabling of Cat5e and Cat6. The 802.3 and 802.11 IEEE standards groups are actually trying to work in tandem.

      Will wireless shoot past Ethernet? We shall see. Stay tuned. And thanks for your comments.

      October 16, 2018 at 2:56 am
      • Rita Mailheau Reply

        Hi Charlotte,

        Switching to another internet provider will not resolve the issue if you have not secured your WiFi access with WPA or WPA2 password encryption. If your WiFi access does not require a password to connect, you will be leaving an unsecured method of getting into your home network.

        You will want to configure your wireless connection to use a password with a minimum of 8 characters with at least one capital letter and one special character.

        Switching to Ethernet connection would be great if you can disable the wireless radio on your router. Keep in mind that you can prevent all intrusions from the outside internet but it will only take one computer that has been infected by a virus, malware, spyware or any software to open up the doors to your network.

        A good anti-virus software and firewall will make or break the difference in your home network.

        Hope these tips help! Let us know if you have any questions!

        November 12, 2018 at 10:03 am
    • Leon Reply

      Wifi is half-duplex. So the best you can get with 1300Mbps one way about half of that one way. Wired is full duplex. You get 1000Bbps each way on a gigabit Ethernet. Wired is faster than wifi even ignoring interference.

      December 21, 2018 at 9:04 am
      • frank trippi Reply

        not true your wifi is as good as your weakest link i got cox 300mbps download service my wifi gets 300mbps when i do a speed test if i plug the pc directly using lan its the same 300mbps …the destination device must have the same speed rating as the source (wifi modem/router) to get that speed its capable of………just because you have a wifi laptop doesnt mean nothing you have no clue which wireless adapter is in it…….

        January 2, 2019 at 12:18 pm
        • Leon Reply

          Frank: We were comparing maximum speeds achievable by Wifi or Ethernet. You are missing the point. Read Don Lamarre’s original comment I was responding to.

          February 9, 2019 at 3:46 pm
  • Raul Mejia Reply

    Great read! I literally went out today and purchased Cat06 cables for all my entertainment center equipment (TV, 3 gaming consoles and Nvidia Shield). Why have these stationary items on an inferior connection for the sake of not using cables?

    October 22, 2018 at 7:48 pm
  • Mark Cramer-Roberts Reply

    Nice blog, Such a really great information.

    November 12, 2018 at 11:07 pm
  • Howard Reply

    I presume if my internet HUB” is upstairs, I would need an Ethernet plug receptor installed in my telephone/wall jack in the music room, to get a direct connection?
    Thanks
    Howard

    November 22, 2018 at 10:12 am
    • Versa Technology Reply

      Hi Howard,
      Correct, you will need a Ethernet cable run from your switch or hub out to a wall jack located your music room if you do not want to go wireless.

      November 26, 2018 at 1:37 pm
  • Jon Reply

    Help!
    Would it be better to use anEthernet cable to connect my 4K TV directly into one of my Google WiFi pods or just rely on the wifi signal alone without the cable?

    December 17, 2018 at 4:50 am
  • frank trippi Reply

    i have cox and have the 300 download 30 upload my pc is wireless …i get the same speed using wifi or direct connect…..my wifi router/modem is a c7000 night hawk ac1900..my pc has a asus pc68 ac1900 wireless card ..many people dont realize just because you get a ac1900 modem doesnt mean youll get the speed your systems speed is good as your weakest link ..just because you have a laptop with wireless capabilities doesnt mean youll get the full speed its capable of… your wireless adaptor must have the same speed capable device just like your source (wifi router/modem)… you cant expect a ac1200 usb adaptor in your pc gets the same as a ac1900 adaptor …..if your source (wifi modem/router) is a ac1900 then your wireless adaptor must be the same ac1900 to get that speed..ac1900 means 600mbps on 2.4 channel and 1300mbps on 5ghz channel 2 channels = dual band i pay for 300mbps service which i get easily on wifi at 300mbps………

    January 2, 2019 at 12:03 pm
  • Flatrate Network Cabling Reply

    Ethernet vs. WiFi. Ethernet uses cables, it tends to work slightly faster than a wireless connection. Wireless connections are a bit slower, but provide the convenience of using it within range.

    January 7, 2019 at 2:47 pm
  • Chuck Norris Reply

    I have Spectrum for my TV and cable internet… My income is created from trading primarily futures and some stocks. With $10-40k+ wrapped into 1-4 trades all at once the worst fear in my life is the internet “crashing/losing connection”! I constantly am testing/tweaking my network to make sure I have the best signal/connection possible and I also have a 4G WiFi hotspot dedicated for emergencies if the cable internet goes out.

    With that being said, I have found the best results are from the Spectrum “provided or charged for a small fee) Arris 2.4G + 5G router. My 5G connection is set only to commiucate with “N” devices “no B or G” with no option for “A” as other routers I have bought then tested. My office is ~40 feet away from the router with 5 walls between my MacBook Pro and the router. I use a “J5 Create JUE130 USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet Adapter” running a triple boot OSX Mojave, Windows 10 and Kali Linux. I’ve ran this exact setup for 4+ years and again constantly trying/buying new products to see if anything works more reliable and/or faster than my current set up…

    My 2013 MacBook Pro retina model has a HIGHER download/upload speed on WIFI connected to my Spectrum provided Arris Router on the 5G side pulling on average using multiple different speed testing sites/programs averaging 630 Mbps down with 94 up ON Wifi! With WiFi disabled using a gigabyte Ethernet connection I on average 280 Mbps down with 117 up!

    Difference is the ping and packet loss on WiFi is much greater although the “AVERAGE” speeds are faster looking at a graph you will see the connection spikes then drops VERY MUCH which it does not on a straight ETHERNET connection.

    TLDR: Unless your relying on your internet connection for VERY IMPORTANT/EXPENSIVE processes than WiFi nowadays is MORE THAN ADEQUATE (considering your hardware…) versus using Ethernet connections! Ethernet will still provide you with a more quality and secure overall connection HOWEVER from streaming HD movies to even playing multiplayer games online your WiFi will not be the weak link in the chain it will be the server or hardware/software not on your side of the connection. Do yourself a favor and live WIRE FREE!

    February 5, 2019 at 5:15 am
  • Brian Hastings Reply

    Great post! Thanks for sharing the knowledge and keep up the good work.

    April 10, 2019 at 5:54 am
  • netgear n600 Reply

    I think nowadays the best is the WiFi set up.

    April 24, 2019 at 4:40 am
  • Aditi Reply

    Your article is very beautiful and filled with information. This is better than WiFi. But due to bad weather there may be signal disruption in wireless. So please request to provide this solution. Thank you so much for sharing this good information.

    April 30, 2019 at 5:02 am
  • Prakash Patel Reply

    Hello Rita – Great article! I work at a virtual school with 150 staff members. Currently, we are hardwired to every station. Next year we are moving to a new site and looking to go all wireless. This also includes using a virtual phone terminal and removing all desk phones. Beyond speed and cost, what other concerns do you foresee going to wireless? Are there security venerabilities?

    Thank you,
    Prakash

    May 1, 2019 at 12:48 pm
  • Ian Reply

    I have a question. I recently moved to an apartment located on the second floor. The landlord only allows the router to be in the basement. So i got Verizon Fios, which ive been told is the fastest Internet. Okay so I got an wifi extender for the apartment which is connected to the router by a coaxial cable. Now I connected my tv to the extender via wifi but i feel the speed and sometimes the connection itself stops or slows down. So im not sure if I should connect the tv to the extender via an ethernet cable. Can someone help me out?

    May 2, 2019 at 7:56 pm
  • Lon Reply

    So are your saying that all Cat 6 cable now is always shielded cable and not unshielded, or that CAT 6 is so fast that even with the noise of to many cables being run together over a fluorescent lights that cause noise, the signal strength does not get reduced enough to be worse than wireless because it is faster in the first place?

    What about the fact that 90% of my customers now have their docking station plugged into their IP phone at 100 Mbps and their Wireless connects at 330 Mbps? Are you telling me the 100 Mbps wired connection is going to be faster more than 50% of the time than the wireless 330?

    May 9, 2019 at 10:30 am
  • luis hernandez Reply

    the wireless fantasy …

    when a wireless equipment say 150Mbps, this is air speed . The very very best speed measure with no data transmission involved. Theory, not real life.
    it is not throughput or data transfer speed.

    we have made hundred of test in the company (we manufacture and sell network equipment) and some times a 54MBPS (to say something) wireless equipment, in a almost perfect scenario , has a tough time to effectively transfer 20Mbps. Not because it is broken ,but wireless has a lot of overhead and protocols to follow. This applies to faster and newer equipment standards . We haven’t added to the equation that speed decreases exponentially with distance, walls, interference, other equipment, intercanal interference (you don’t usually live at a isolated cannon in Utah) and many other guys can be sharing your same frequency and so … So wireless IT IS WONDERFUL , but do not dream on magical solutions based on air.

    July 4, 2019 at 10:29 am
  • canon t7i review Reply

    I would say ye, at least when I share my photos

    August 23, 2019 at 2:46 am

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