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Last Updated: 3/16/2011 12:10:22 AM
Original Creation Date: 3/12/2005 12:10:22 AM
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Wired vs. Wireless

By Erik Rodriguez

This article describes various aspects and the pros and cons of using wired/wireless devices.


Wireless devices have been gaining popularity in recent years. Cellular phones and other wireless communication devices have driven demand for new wireless technology. While traditional wired solutions provide a sense or reliability, convenience has become a large part of consumers needs. We now have everything from blackberry units, to wi-fi enabled phones. However, marketing and media has played a large role in the consumers perspective of wireless devices. The information below is factual, and provides a non-biased evaluation of current wired and wireless technology.

Wired Technology

Wired technology has been around for ages. It first became popular in the early 1900's with the introduction of the telephone network. The use of wired connections spawned the creation of other technologies like multiplexing and SONET. Remember that using physical wires means that electronic signals are being transmitted over a metal conductor. Currently, this is the most reliable way to transmitting/receiving data or voice on the planet. The Internet itself, transmits a large amount of data through fiber optic cabling but also employs a large amount of T1/T3 lines that run over standard copper wiring. For purposes of this article, "wired" refers to copper wiring and does not include fiber optic technologies. The table below portrays the pros and cons of wired technology.

Pro's Con's
Reliable - Not affected by other wireless signals (portable/cellular phones, microwaves, etc) Affected by moisture and other weather conditions
Price (wire is cheap!) Can be affected by noise generated by machinery and magnetics
High Life Expectancy Length of wire runs limited
High Speed
QoS (Quality of Service)


For the most part, wired technology is very reliable. The telephone system operates using wired technology and provides a 99.999% uptime. This is also known as the the "five 9s of reliability." Although wire is susceptible to interference by loud machinery (A/C units, electric motors, etc) various solutions, such as shielded cable can be used to solve these problems. Shielded or armored wiring is used to protect against weather and other types of negative externalities. Compared to wireless solutions, wired is very cheap. The equipment is generally cheaper, as well as the cost of maintenance. Generally, copper wiring has a very long life expectancy. The QoS is excellent because wired connections eliminates the need for establishing an end-to-end connection every time. Speed is also a huge advantage of using wired connections. Using a group of wires (like a telephone or Ethernet cable) allows each conductor to handle a certain amount of information. Think of it like an automotive transmission. The more gears you have, the great control you have over the speed of the automobile.


On the negative side, wired connections are not always realistic. Some rural areas are still not wired for broadband Internet connections. This forces users to subscribe to satellite access. Ethernet cables can run a maximum of 100 meters before the signal needs to be boosted. This can cause problems if you don't have an environment that allows this luxury. Remember that the longer the cable is, the more signal loss occurs and the signal travels down the wire. This is why special cables have been developed to help preserve the strength of the signal. However, the use of such technology usually comes at a significantly higher price.

Wireless Technology

Wireless isn't really a new technology. Wireless signals were fist used in transmitting AM and FM to television and radios in the early 1950's. The military has been using "line of sight" micro-wave towers for decades. Everyone knows the most common wireless technology: cellular phones. However, this technology has several problems. The table below portrays the pros and cons of wireless technology.

Pro's Con's
Convenient Un-reliable - affected by other wireless signals (portable/cellular phones, microwaves, etc)
Range Price
High Life Expectancy Signals can be easily intercepted
Speeds are much slower than wired
QoS (Quality of Service)


On the pro side, wireless technology is very convenient. You do not have to worry about running wires in tight places, or obtaining low-voltage permits. The range of wireless technology can be impressive. While the equipment you use may break (just as wired equipment would) the signals themselves never break. In comparison to wireless eventually getting old or corroded, this is a great advantage.


On the negative side, wireless technology suffers easily from interference. Other source of EM (electro-magnetic radiation) can cause problems for wireless signals. While wired technologies suffer from this as well, wireless signals are affected more frequently. Another down-side to wi-fi is the price. High-end wireless equipment comes with a serious price tag. Installing the equipment can be tricky depending on the environment. You may have trouble with signal strength from out-door antennas that may be adversely affected by temperature or humidity. Wireless technology also has implications in regards to security. Remember that wire-tapping can be done, but you must have physical access to a wire. However, this becomes much easier with a wireless signal. These signals can be intercepted by simply being the range of a wireless signal. Another problem is speed. While some wi-fi equipment producers claim they can transmit data at 108 Mbits/sec, this is a deceptive marketing scam. See the details in this article. Wireless speed is not even close to gigabit or 10 gigabit speeds that are attained using wires. Lastly, the quality of service is anything but effective. Wireless technology does not and probably never will operate in the five 9's of reliability.


In conclusion, it is my personal opinion that wireless technology be used as a last resort. There is nothing more annoying than fighting with your wi-fi equipment because you suddenly lost your signal when you were trying to put in a last second bid on ebay, or check an important email before you walk out the door. Speed and reliability will be never better with wireless signals that over the wire.

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