Ethernet cable in Wi-Fi router

Wi-Fi Vs. Ethernet - Which One is Better?

You can’t deny that we’re moving into a completely wireless world. That said, a wired connection might still outperform its wireless counterpart, and this is certainly true when it comes to internet speed and quality. As much as we enjoy Wi-Fi, a wired internet connection, also known as an Ethernet connector, is still the superior option when it comes to the technicalities. Theoretically, your Wi-Fi speed can reach up to 6.9 Gbps. In reality, however, it’ll be running at less than 1 Gbps. Comparing this to ethernet which peaks at 10 Gbps, an ethernet connection can be 10 times faster than Wi-Fi!¬†We’ve got everything you need to know about Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet.

How Does Wi-Fi Work?

Ever wondered how your devices wirelessly connect to the internet? For something that happens instantly, there’s actually a whole lot of work that goes on in the background to wirelessly bring you the internet.

Wi-Fi stands for Wireless Fidelity, and can also be referred to as Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). Your Wi-Fi router and your device’s Wi-Fi chip use radio waves to communicate. The radio waves used for Wi-Fi are a very high frequency, and so carry a lot of information.

Firstly, your device’s Wi-Fi chip converts your data into radio waves and transmits it with an antenna. Information in this radio wave is stored as 0s and 1s. Your Wi-Fi router receives this signal, decodes it into 1s and 0s, and sends this information to the internet via a wired Ethernet connection.

This process is followed in reverse with information from the internet being delivered to your device via radio waves and the 0s and 1s decoded so you can watch your movie or open your emails.

Each 1 or 0 in the radio wave is one “bit”, or a byte. The average fixed broadband download speed in Australia currently sits at 51.61 mega bites per second (Mbps) according to the Speedtest Global Index. That means your device’s Wi-Fi chip is decoding over 56 million 0s and 1s per second. Compared to global averages, our internet speed is slow, but that’s still a whole lot of information!

How Does Ethernet Work?

Ethernet cables connect devices, routers and switches to a local area network (LAN). It uses an ethernet cable, a crossover cable and a hub. While Wi-Fi radio waves can be blocked and interfered with as they travel through the air to your device, this is not true for a wired connection. This is why Ethernet connections provide you with a better internet connection.

Types of Ethernet Cables

Not all Ethernet cables are equal. Let’s learn more about the different types of Ethernet cables.

CAT5 Ethernet Cables

Category 5, or CAT5 cables, have been the primary Ethernet connection for many years. They have recently been superseded, however, by CAT5E cables. The “E” here stands for “enhanced”.

CAT5 Ethernet cables can handle up to 100 Mbps at 100 MHz bandwidth. This is often enough for domestic use for daily tasks where speed and connection quality are of concern.

CAT6 Ethernet Cables

Category 6, or CAT6 cables are a step up from CAT5. They can reach speeds up to 10 Gbps and have a greater bandwidth capacity at 250 MHz.

A thicker cable is required for this higher performance. CAT6 is a good option where your existing internet speed is not adequate and cross-talk is a problem.

Which One is Right For You?

There are pros and cons to both Wi-Fi and Ethernet. If one was far superior in all ways over the other, the other would have been made redundant long ago.

Wi-Fi Pros

Wi-Fi is more popular in domestic settings for several reasons:

  • No need for cables running across the floor from the router to a device
  • Alternatively, you don’t need an electrician to install Ethernet wall outlets
  • You can connect to your Wi-Fi from anywhere in your home within its range
  • Cost-effective installation
  • Wi-Fi speed is sufficient for most daily tasks – streaming movies, checking emails, etc.

Wi-Fi Cons

For all its benefits, Wi-Fi also comes with a number of downsides:

  • Can’t connect to Wi-Fi outside of its range
  • Wi-Fi speed is not as fast as Ethernet
  • Latency (time taken for traffic¬† to go from one device to its destination) is greater with Wi-Fi connections than Ethernet connections
  • If security is not set up correctly your Wi-Fi is vulnerable to hacker attacks

Ethernet Pros

Ethernet is technically superior to Wi-Fi on several fronts:

  • Faster internet speeds up to 10 Gbps
  • Lower latency
  • Minimises cross-talk between devices in the same network
  • Good data transfer quality
  • More cost-effective than other connection systems

Ethernet Cons

With all the benefits of Ethernet connections, there are a variety of cons that accompany it:

  • More costly installation if you use an electrician to install Ethernet outlets
  • If you connect an Ethernet cable to your router and run it to your device, cables will be running across your home
  • Limited to the cable length

In order to determine the best solution for your home, you will need to consider the pros and cons of Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Every home uses the internet differently and so will have a different solution.

Ready for a New Internet Connector?

If your family is into online gaming, or perhaps your Wi-Fi speed just isn’t cutting it, an Ethernet cable can help improve this for you. Metropolitan Electrical Contractors have fully qualified electricians who can install internet connectors in your home. Contact us today to find out more.


Published: 12 Aug, 2020

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