Three Reasons You Can’t Ignore Wireless Networking

I read a recent post by Lifehacker Editor Adam Dachis. In it, he suggests we should all use wires whenever possible within our home networks. He claims you’ll see stronger internal performance on a wired network and enjoy faster Web browsing speeds if your connection to your ISP is at least 25 megabits per second.

Adam’s completely right: Gigabit networking provides a more consistent, faster connection than the best Wireless-N devices you can buy off the shelf.

But don’t assume a totally wireless network is foolhardy just yet. Here are three solid reasons why a wireless network is every bit as good — if not stronger — than its wired counterpart.

1.Wireless networking can be more affordable and more manageable

Envision a single router sitting in a home entertainment setup. Want to network four wired devices together? That’ll be four network cables — a small price to pay given the short connection distance required. Now imagine you’re trying to connect devices in your home office to this living room network. You’ve just committed to more Ethernet cables and more time snaking wires unobtrusively through your house. Yes, you could install a Gigabit switch in your home office and just run one long cable. But that’s one more networking device (and more cables) to pick up — an unnecessary burden if your systems already support wireless networking.

2. Gigabit networking needs device support

Fast Ethernet devices just can’t deliver gigabit network speeds. Sure, you can use Fast Ethernet and gigabit Ethernet devices within the same network without any kind of connection issue. Your slower devices just won’t be able to connect to the gigabit devices at their faster speeds (up to a maximum of 10 times the speeds of Fast Ethernet connections). But don’t think that gigabit devices will automatically hit 1,000Mbps transfers just because. Gigabit-friendly devices are bound by their internal hardware. A desktop or laptop computer can’t transmit data any faster than its hard drive can read it, for example. So I ask: What good is a 125Mbps connection that you might never be able to fill? Do you really need all of that speed? Doesn’t the convenience of a “slower” wireless connection outweigh the gigabit bandwidth you aren’t even using?

3. Same ol’ Internet

Research performed by octoScope in 2007, comparing draft-Wireless-N performance across two-antenna MIMO routers, showed that it took a distance of around 175 feet for D-Link’s DIR-625 router to drop to a transfer speed of 20Mbps, or right around the maximum transfer speed you enjoy from your cable Internet service provider. Yes, wireless performance decreases with distance. However, until you reach a certain level of signal loss — which might never even occur depending on your wireless setup — you’re not going to see a drop in your Web browsing or file transfer speeds. And the concept of point number 2 applies here as well: You might pay for a certain connection speed from your ISP, but that doesn’t mean the Web server you’re downloading files from is going to give you that fast of a transfer speed.

Is wired networking awesome? Yes. Would I rush to use it within my home network to cover every possible challenge? No. You need to mix and match wired and wireless networking to create the best possible network setup for your situation. These two technologies complement each other. They aren’t intended to be direct competitors.

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