Internet vs. WiFi (Which is Best for Your Smart Home?)

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You have two options for connecting to the internet: WiFi or Ethernet.

Which is better?

Ethernet vs WiFi

Although WiFi is more convenient than Ethernet almost all the time, Ethernet is more reliable , is more secure, and is generally faster. Configuration is key. WiFi connections are far faster and more secure than Ethernet. However, is the best choice for equipment and configuration.

This is the short and simple answer. There are many other factors that can influence the outcome.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is Ethernet and WiFi?

Ethernet (802.3), WiFi (802.11) and other communication protocols are used to connect devices in your home to the Internet.

A Local Area Network is a network that connects several devices to the internet within a narrow area. This is in contrast to a Wide Area Network, which covers a larger area like a school or hospital.

Ethernet and WiFi use a modem to connect with the internet. The modem gives you access to the Internet.

If you don’t have a combo modem-router, routers connect to your modem to allow multiple devices to access the internet. A firewall is also added to the security of your internet connection.

The big difference is in the way Ethernet and WiFi connect with the modem/router.

Ethernet is connected to the internet using a physical cable. The cable’s one end connects to your router, or modem-router combination. The other end connects to the Ethernet port of your computer, laptop, console, etc.

Your Ethernet cable could technically connect directly to your modem to access the internet. If you are only connecting one device to an Ethernet cable, then you don’t require a router. A router is highly recommended because of the firewall layer.

WiFi is, however, wireless. Wireless Fidelity is its name.

WiFi uses radio waves (radio frequencies) to transmit signals to other devices. You will need a modem as well as a router or combo. (Ethernet, however, is not required , but it is preferred because it is more secure).

The modem connects to the internet. In this instance, the router broadcasts the WiFi signal (or radiofrequency), which allows your devices to connect to it and eventually the internet.

The network of connected devices that you create WiFi using a router is called a Wireless Local Area Network (or WLAN).

Speed

Our knowledge of WiFi and Ethernet setups has increased. Which one is faster?

This is why we must quickly address the two main contributors to speed: bandwidth and latency.

WiFi is, however, wireless. Wireless Fidelity is its name.

WiFi uses radio waves (radio frequencies) to transmit signals to other devices. You will need a modem as well as a router or combo. (Ethernet, however, is not required , but it is preferred because it is more secure).

The modem connects to the internet. In this instance, the router broadcasts the WiFi signal (or radiofrequency), which allows your devices to connect to it and eventually the internet.

The network of connected devices that you create WiFi using a router is called a Wireless Local Area Network (or WLAN).

Speed

Now we know the key differences between WiFi and Ethernet. Which one is faster?

This is why we must quickly address the two main contributors to speed: bandwidth and latency.

Bandwidth is related to capacity. It is the internet’s data transfer speed. It is the data transfer rate of an internet connection.

Latency refers to delay . It refers to the time it takes to transmit data via the internet.

A pipe’s width and length can be referred to as bandwidth. Latency refers to how fast water can travel from one end to the other. Both latency and bandwidth have significant effects on internet speed.

A low bandwidth connection will be slower than a high latency connection (remember, lower latency is better, it means less delay).

Consider the checkout lines at grocery stores as an example. Low latency means that it takes shoppers 60 seconds to cross the checkout line. Five shoppers will check out faster if there are five checkout lanes (high bandwidth) than if only one check-out lane is open (low bandwidth).

To understand the speed of the internet, we must consider both bandwidth as well as latency.

Ethernet vs. WiFi Speed

Ethernet speed is faster than WiFi. It has a lower latency (less delay) and a higher bandwidth (more power) than WiFi.

This assumes that a solid network configuration exists.

Considerations for Ethernet configuration

Here are the top things to remember when configuring Ethernet.

  • Your internet plan
      • This is where it all begins. In nearly all cases, this is what causes slow internet speeds in your home. You don’t need equipment capable of handling 100 Mbps if your internet plan limits you to 25 Mbps. The majority of internet plans offer speeds between 25 Mbps and 2000+ Mbps. You can find out your internet speed if you are interested.
  • Your modem
      • Your internet speed will be limited if your modem is not up to the mark. Modems can be divided into speed tiers, so check which speed your modem supports. Make sure your modem supports DOCSIS. Most broadband internet providers require this.
  • Your router
      • Your router splits the signal from your modem so more than one device can use it. You’ll need to verify the speed of your router. Remember that your router splits the signal from the modem so the router’s speed will be affected as more devices are connected.
  • Your Ethernet cable
      • An Ethernet cable may appear to be just that: an Ethernet cable. This is not true. There are many types of Ethernet cables, identified by “Cat” and a version number. Each category has a maximum speed. Cat 5, Cat 6, Cat 7a, Cat 7, and Cat 7a are the most popular. Here is a breakdown of each:

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