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Ethernet vs. WiFi: Which is Right for You?


It’s an age-old debate: ethernet vs. WiFi. Everyone wants to know, “is WiFi faster than ethernet” and vice versa.

Both options have pros and cons, which is why knowing the difference between ethernet and WiFi regarding application and usage is important. With WiFi being more convenient nowadays but ethernet being faster, deciding between the two options can be a challenging one.


This article will compare “ethernet vs. WiFi,” detailing the benefits and limitations of each.

What is Ethernet and WiFi?

In an effort to understand the ethernet and WiFi, let’s take a closer look at both.

What is Ethernet?

Ethernet is the traditional way to connect to the internet. It works by using cables join a local area network, known as LAN, or a wide area network, known as WAN. This connection allows devices to communicate with each other via a protocol. This protocol is a set of standard rules for the network, otherwise known as common network language.


As Ethernet is a cable-type connection, the reliability and security provided by the physical cable make it more difficult for people to hijack the connection. When ethernet came out in the 1980s, the speeds were 10mbps (megabits), but by the 1990s, they were already around 100mbps. Today, ethernet speeds can reach up to 1,000 Mbps and 10 Gbps (gigabits).

What is WiFi?

WiFi is a radio signal that connects devices like cell phones, laptops, and computers to the internet without the need for a physical cable. When it comes to the debate of WiFi vs ethernet for streaming, many people will choose WiFi as it removes messy cabling and other connectivity issues.


With WiFi now in its 6th generation, it is referred to as “WiFi 6”. Many people aren’t aware, however, that WiFi isn’t an acronym for anything. It is simply a name that a marketing company made to control the wireless connection market, similar to how we call all types of zippers the same name; however, Zipper used to be a brand name.

Differences Between WiFi And Ethernet

Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages. With that in mind, we have outlinged the difference between the speed of WiFi vs ethernet speed and many more factors you should consider including security, latency, and limitations.

Speed

When discussing WiFi vs ethernet for speed, ethernet is considered the faster option. There are some instances where this may not be true; however, the standard answer is that ethernet is faster.


Is WiFi 6 faster than ethernet? While it can be, it depends on the type of ethernet cable; the issue with WiFi is that walls and objects can cause the radio waves to slow down compared to a physical cable. As a result, in the battle of ethernet vs. WiFi speed, data transfer with an ethernet cable will be faster.

Security

When it comes to security between ethernet vs WiFi, ethernet wins hands down. As it is a physical connection, the device needs a direct connection to the modem compared to WiFi. With WiFi, your information is transmitted from your device through the WiFi link and can be hijacked while you are connected to that WiFi device.


This is also true if you are in range of WiFi. Anyone can hijack your information if they know how or have the password to your account. In public spaces with free WiFi, it is wise not to use any essential apps like banking or anything to do with personal information if you are using an unverified WiFi connection.

Latency

When you use ethernet cables, high latency is rare. In fact, you can expect between 0.2ms and 0.3ms. However, with WiFi, latency can be around 3ms to 5ms. When you compare WiFi 6 vs. ethernet, though, you can see that latency is improving. With WiFi 6, latency is only around 1ms. It’s not as good as ethernet but it’s making excellent progress.

Limitations of each

WiFi and ethernet both have their limitations. For WiFi, one of the limitations is the range of connection. Radio signals only have a finite area they can reach, so to increase the range, you have to use WiFi extenders and program them to the modem.


For ethernet, you face limited flexibility, given cables are involved. Due to the additional wires, you must be mindful of where you set up your desk or workspace to accommodate them. Also, ethernet isn’t an appropriate option for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Since ethernet is stationary, you can’t move around much when connected to your network. It’s only convenient for devices like desktops.

Reliability

Once again, ethernet performs better. As ethernet is a physical connection, it is more reliable. WiFi is more susceptible to disconnection from electrical outages, cross talk, and objects blocking the signal.

Interference

As previously mentioned, objects can block WiFi, and weather can affect the WiFi connection. While rain causes the most significant weather interference, fog, mist, snow, and even hot, humid weather can affect the WiFi connection, too. With ethernet, cable interference can come from electromagnetic or electric sources. Keep in mind, cross-talk from other cables can happen if the cable isn’t wired correctly.

Pros and Cons of each connection type

So, should you choose WiFi or ethernet? To make that decision, you need to choose which benefits you must have and which you can do without.

Pros and Cons of WiFi

Pros:

  • Increased convenience. With WiFi, connecting to the internet is easy. All you need is a device that picks up WiFi, such as a smartphone or laptop. Also, because it is wireless, you have complete control over your freedom of movement. You’re free to move about without being tethered to a cable.

  • Cheaper costs. WiFi can prove to be the cheaper option as you don’t need to buy ethernet cables (or eplace them when they are broken) to secure an internet connection. In addition, if you’re a business, the cost of WiFi can reduce start-up costs.

  • Scalability. If your company needs to scale quickly, WiFi makes it easy to expand connectivity to all necessary devices. As there are no cables, hard-to-reach areas in a building can use WiFi to connect.


Cons:

  • Security of WiFi connection is not always great, as previously mentioned. People can easily hijack the connection and steal information if you’re not careful. In addition, some of the more common encryption methods are known to be hacked.

  • The speed of WiFi is catching up to ethernet, especially with WiFi 6. Currently, though, ethernet is the faster option due its physical cable.

  • The range of WiFi can be an annoyance for users. To deal with this issue, you need to either buy a WiFi extender or move closer to your WiFi router. As you get further away from the router, speed may decline, too, as more interference can occur the further away you are to the WiFi modem.

Pros and Cons of Ethernet

Pro:

  • Data transfer speed. Most modern ethernet cables , such as cat6 which operates at 10Gbps, use a direct hardline like an ethernet cable to ensure faster data transfer speeds. The transfer is better because the cable is not susceptible to noise(static) like WiFi. As a result, ethernet cables are the best choice if your business needs fast transfers or constant high speeds.

  • Reliability. The reliability of an ethernet cable remains solid along as there is no interference from weather or objects. If interruptions from using radio waves do occur, the connection is less likely to be interrupted when using an ethernet cable

  • Efficiency. With a cable like Cat6, the efficiency of electrical usage is superior, which helios keep overhead costs down.

  • Costs. Speaking of costs, the price of ethernet cables are pretty low, so set-up and maintenance cost is easy on the budget.

  • Security. When using a cable connection, it is more difficult to hijack a physical date ciompared to WiFi.

Cons:

  • Scaleability. Scaling an ethernet network can be quite expensive. For example, if you need to lay additional cables that cross a long distance, costs will rise. It is also time-consuming to lay ethernet cables, and the workforce used to perform this labor can be costly, too.

  • Connectivity. With ethernet, connections are limited as one cable can only connect one device. As a result, the price will increase as more cables are installed. Keep in mind, if your modem only has a certain number of ports, you may have to buy a port extension if you want to connect more lines.

  • Installation. If the installation of the cables isn't done correctly, they may break. It is advised to use a professional to install them. This is another cost increase. As faster cables are being designed and manufactured, the cost will be high and time-consuming if you want to upgrade all your old cables to new lines.

  • Mobility. Mobility is impossible with an ethernet cable as it is a fixed line—not wireless. It is not advised to move the cables as they will pull on the plugs, which can cause damage, which means the line will need to be replaced.

Ethernet vs. WiFi: Which is Right for You?

As you can see, each connection type has many pros and cons. As a result, choosing the right one for your business can prove challenging. Signal Solutions is here to help.


With 33 years of expertise, we can correctly identify your connectivity requirements. We specialize in cabling, AV installation, surveillance, riser management, andmare wireless experts. Trust us with all of your connectivity needs.


We work with clients like Amazon, Six Flags Theme Parks, and the CIM Group. Contacting Signal Solutions to see how you can be our newest partner.


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