Until a few years ago, choosing between ethernet and Wi-Fi was quite simple. ethernet offered much faster speeds, but the drawback was that it required cabling, which severely restricted where you could position your computer in relation to the router. Once you decided on a spot for your computer, you were stuck there and couldn’t easily move around.
On the flip side, Wi-Fi was a bit slower, but it offered the convenience of being usable within a range of about 150 feet from the router. Wi-Fi hotspots were prevalent in various locations, and they worked well with a broader range of devices, including phones and tablets.
So, the decision used to be a trade-off between speed and convenience. As a result, both technologies were often seen as complementary rather than in direct competition. However, Wi-Fi has continued to evolve, becoming faster and more reliable over time, which has led to ethernet being pushed further into the background.
Ethernet is indeed faster than Wi-Fi. The common Cat6A Ethernet cables are rated for speeds of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) and consistently deliver that performance. On the other hand, even the fastest Wi-Fi standard, Wi-Fi 6E, can only reach speeds of a few gigabits per second. Ethernet connections also have the advantage of being less susceptible to interference and having lower latency compared to the best Wi-Fi networks. If you prioritise reliability and speed, ethernet cables are unbeatable.
Although ethernet is faster, the real-world differences between ethernet and Wi-Fi speeds are not as significant as you might think. Wi-Fi has improved significantly with the introduction of new standards like Wi-Fi 6, offering a maximum speed of around 9.6 gigabits per second. While this is a theoretical maximum shared among all wireless devices (and actual speeds may be lower), Wi-Fi has become good enough to handle most of our daily tasks.
It’s essential to understand that the maximum speed mentioned for Wi-Fi networks refers to the total bandwidth shared among all devices on the network, not the speed for each individual connection. While you can reasonably expect to experience transfer speeds of a few gigabits using Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E, you won’t achieve 9.6 gigabits for any single device on the network.
On the contrary, with ethernet cables and devices rated at 10 Gbps, you can confidently expect to attain that speed for every connected device. Each device linked through ethernet should be able to use the full 10 Gbps bandwidth without any compromise.
Wi-Fi is more susceptible to interference compared to a wired connection. Various factors, such as the layout of your home, obstacles blocking the signal, interference from electrical devices, and your neighbour’s Wi-Fi networks, all contribute to making Wi-Fi less reliable in general.
When it comes to security, there is a significant contrast between Wi-Fi and ethernet.
In an ethernet network, data can only be accessed by devices physically connected to the network. The data remains secure within the wired connection, making interception practically impossible.
On the other hand, Wi-Fi broadcasts data through the airwaves, making it susceptible to interception if the network is open or unsecured. In public places, using an open Wi-Fi network can expose all the data you send and receive, including sensitive personal information and login details.
Fortunately, most Wi-Fi networks are secured and use encryption to protect data. However, the level of security varies depending on the encryption method employed. WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is the least secure and should be avoided whenever possible. On the other hand, WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 3) offers the highest level of security and is the preferred choice if your router supports it. WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) is also a good option for securing your Wi-Fi network.
Making the Right Choice for Your Connectivity Needs
For the majority of people and typical usage scenarios, there’s really no reason not to opt for Wi-Fi. With reasonably modern hardware, you can achieve good speeds and reliable performance, and the convenience of a wireless connection far outweighs any remaining advantages of a wired one. The only compelling reason to choose a wired connection is if you’re a serious gamer and your console or PC doesn’t consistently get a fast and low-latency connection.
Additionally, you don’t have to limit yourself to one option or the other. Wireless routers typically come equipped with ethernet ports, allowing you to make a device-by-device decision on whether to go wired or wireless depending on your specific needs and preferences. So if you work from home and want to ensure your connection is foolproof for this reason you can connect your laptop or PC to via an ethernet cable and still have your other devices using the wireless connection your router provides.
What to discuss your WiFi problems with a Specialist?