Myth Busting Wi-Fi: 8 Questions

Ed Wenck, Content Director, CEDIA | Feb 17, 2021

Wireless solutions are great – until they’re not. Below we address some common misconceptions about Wi-Fi and explain why a network with a hardwired backbone is key to proper performance.

Aren’t there enough mesh networks devices or extenders out there to run everything if need be?

Of those two solutions, a “mesh Wi-Fi” system will likely be more reliable, but you’re a) chewing up electrical outlet with pods, and b) setting yourself up to be overwhelmed later. The next ten years will see absolutely explosive growth from the Internet of Things (125 billion devices by 2030), and those Things are going to need bandwidth. The best way to build a reliable network is to have multiple hardwired data-ports for your machines and run cable to wireless access points that can distribute a great signal to handheld devices like phones and tablets.

Won’t hardwired systems be much more costly?

Not if they’re properly planned at the outset of any new build or retrofit/remodel. Think about the cost of data cable (category rated or fibre) and a plastic low-voltage box, complete with faceplate and port, versus plugging in several hundred pounds of mesh-network pods. If that cable’s run behind drywall before any finish work is done, the cost is nominal. And a great solution should that cable need future upgrades? Conduit.

Nearly all of the devices I’ve seen are Wi-Fi capable, so aren’t they built specifically for wireless applications?

Let’s go back to the first response and think about that number again: 125 BILLION devices. Now take a look around a home and total up all the connected devices you’ve got. Next, think about improvements in things such as picture quality on TVs. All of those factors mean that more data needs to be transmitted from source to device. Most Wi-Fi enabled devices are just that – enabled. It doesn’t mean that’s the best solution and it doesn’t mean they’ll perform well if a network is jammed up with masses of radio waves competing with one another.

Won’t Wi-Fi 6 take care of all of this?

It’ll be better, but inevitably, the same problem keeps rearing its ugly head: More stuff, and more data being pumped into that stuff, means the eventual appearance of buffer face, loading wheels, and other issues that customers HATE.

I thought 5G was going to be the end-all solution?

How many devices do your customers have that are currently 5G capable? Pretty close to zero right now, we’d bet. 5G will be great for the smartphone experience and helping with all manner of business applications, but even when it becomes more common in residential applications, it’s still essentially a radio signal delivered over the air – which means the same bandwidth problems will ultimately pop up.

OK, where and when shouldn’t I use Wi-fi?

Anything that is data intensive or mission critical shouldn’t rely on a wireless connection.  Areas in the home such as offices, huddle spaces, remote learning areas, and media centers should be hard- wired with Ethernet. Ethernet is far more reliable than a wireless connection and should be relied upon in these areas where reliable, minimal buffering connections are critical.

Everybody in the house can use Wi-Fi at the same time, though, right?

Multiple users chew up signal, but the throughput with Ethernet can far exceed typical Wi-Fi systems.  To get massive output from Wi-Fi systems to multiple users you will end up needing to use enterprise access points and controllers which are much pricier than typical Ethernet switch implementations.  Many people drawing bandwidth at the same time will tax a Wi-Fi system and will ultimately reduce the experience for everyone.

My neighbours all have Wi-Fi, but that doesn’t cause me issues, right?

Wrong. Wireless signals, that hopefully (if properly designed) cover all areas of the home, will also intrude into adjacent spaces.  If you live in a high-density area of apartments, flats, attached homes, and the like, chances are all of those access points will be meshing together creating noise in the Wi-Fi spectrum causing interference and lack of bandwidth for everyone. Imagine if you could see all this interference: tonnes of signals, all fighting for some share of the space. Ethernet connections – hard-wired cable with solid protection– dodge these issues entirely, and focus on getting the data you need from A to B quickly and effectively.