Wired and Wireless Connections
Wired and Wireless Connections
The previous article was about the hardware that makes up a router. In this article, we’ll get to know more about the wired and wireless connections.
Easily the most widespread and common way to get connected is by running wires between your systems but with advancements in wireless technologies and increase in usage of portable devices, the use of wires to connect a device to the router is going down in the average household. But it is still a preferred method for many especially running media servers or competitive gaming setups.
Cat5E and Cat6 are the ethernet cables easily available right now and for most Cat5E is adequate, with a single cable providing transfer speeds of up to 1 Gigabits per second for up to 100 meters. The Cat6 provides transfer speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second for up to 55 meters, anything beyond that will rapidly decay to only 1 Gigabit (the same as Cat5E). [8 Gigabits = 1 Gigabyte]. Cables provided by the ISP are usually Cat5E.
The ports on the router and your pc can also limit your network speeds. Many old PCs and inexpensive routers usually have a “10/100” LAN or ethernet port which means it is capable of maximum 100 Megabits per second transfer speed. [8 Megabits = 1 Megabyte]. Newer PCs usually come with “10/100/1000” Gigabit ethernet giving a maximum speed of 1 Gigabit per second. But if you don’t have gigabit ethernet ports on both the ends of the cable, the speeds will be bottlenecked. You can find which port your device has by going through the details on the product’s website.
It’s convenient, easy to use and frees you from cables. Many households even use just wireless for everything as most smart devices can connect to Wi-Fi. But it’s much more complicated than it seems.
Wireless Standards and Channels
The wireless standards and the network band play a major role in determining the range and speed of the wireless network. The most common wireless standard is the “802.11n” with the 2.4Ghz band. Which is good enough for most households as it provides decent coverage with speeds which are higher than what an average ISP provides.
The “802.11ac” is a newer wireless standard which only operates on the 5Ghz band so its range is less but is capable of more than double the maximum data speed when compared to 802.11n 2.4Ghz.
The two Bands basically are a range of signal frequency and they consist of multiple channels of various channel widths. Wider the channel, the more data it can transfer. Thus, Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred in one-unit time.
As the 2.4Ghz band is used by literally every router, the band is very congested. Usually, the router automatically changes the channel to the least congested one while booting but you can manually change it in the router settings. The 5Ghz band is much wider and free of congestion as not many routers use it. But that doesn’t mean a 5Ghz router can solve all your problems. Its range is less and not good at penetrating through walls and objects. A 2.4Ghz signal can travel much easily through walls and objects.
Other things like placement of the router, electronic interference, power of the wireless antenna, etc. also determine the range and speed. The farther away you are from the router the less speed you get.
You can use Acrylic Wifi(Windows), NetSpot(Mac/Windows), Wifi Analyzer(Android) to survey your and the surrounding wireless networks at various spots in your house so that you can optimize your network to have the maximum performance.
Wired vs Wireless
Both methods have their own pros and cons and should be used together to provide the best network experience. Many routers don’t have a Gigabit Ethernet port but support AC wireless. Here, wireless would provide you more speed than wired. But if you are too far away then the wireless speeds would be lower than the wired. There is no one best way to set the network as there are too many variables. You need to experiment, plan and use the mixture that provides the best experience for your scenario.
In the next article, we’ll talk about how to get the best wireless performance with your home network.
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