Almost every electronic today from simple cell phones to a new 70” TV is made Wi-Fi ready. When setting up a new device, most people will pull up the Wi-Fi menu, connect to their network, and go. While this is usually the obvious choice, it is not always the best one. With most handheld devices it is the only choice, so there is no choice there. But where bigger electronics are concerned, using an Ethernet hardline can provide many advantages over Wi-Fi.

What Makes Wi-Fi Signals Weaker?

Wi-Fi is a popular technology for one key reason: convenience. Being able to connect any device to the Internet while in range of a Wi-Fi signal is a huge deal. Over the last few decades, wireless technology has gone from nothing but pagers to every electronic coming with wireless functionality. Not being limited by the accessibility and distance of a cable was a major game-changer for a multitude of technologies, but that does not mean Wi-Fi’s potential is limitless.

All Wi-Fi signals have to be generated by some sort of machine, such as a modem/router or wireless access point. These signals get weaker as users get further away from their source. How quickly this occurs also depends on what is in-between a user and the signal source. Lighter materials like glass and wood do little to block Wi-Fi signals. Denser materials such as brick and concrete are much more difficult for Wi-Fi signals to penetrate. Even people can block Wi-Fi signals in crowded areas since water is dense enough to moderately disrupt Wi-Fi signals and the human body is 60% water.

How Does Ethernet Solve These Problems?

Ethernet cables are made with copper cores called conductors. A conductor transmits electricity between devices, which is how data is transmitted. The electricity moving through the cable blinks on and off very quickly. Computers and other machines recognize the signal being “on” as a 1 and “off” as a 0, which is called binary code. The machines can then translate this code into web browsers, photos, videos, games, and other apps. While Wi-Fi operates on similar principles, some of this code can be disrupted when a Wi-Fi signal is weak. The code has to be resent or is sent slowly in the first place. Ethernet is able to provide a stronger, direct connection to circumvent this issue.

There are different categories of Ethernet cable available that support different Internet speeds. The maximum speed available will also depend on what your modem/router is capable of supporting as well as what kind of maximum speed your ISP’s plan supports. While the standard Ethernet cable that comes with most equipment is Cat5e, most people can see a boost by upgrading to Cat6 (which is 10x faster than Cat5e). There are other types of Ethernet better than Cat6, but they can be overkill if your other equipment does not support them.

What Kind of Ethernet Should I Use?

Before anything else, check your current Ethernet cable. There should be writing on the outside that lists whether the cable is Cat5e, Cat6, or something else. If you are using a cable that came with an electronic, it is almost certainly Cat5e. Most set-ups can see at least some improvement by upgrading to Cat6. Performing a simple network speed test will tell you how good your connection is compared to what your ISP advertises.

What applications the Internet is used for will also determine what kind of cable works best. For at-home use, Cat5e cable should be sufficient for basic tasks like checking social media or shopping online. Frequent activities that consume more data, like video streaming and online gaming, are what typically warrant the use of Cat6 or better cables. In business settings, upgrading straight to Cat6 or better can be a good idea depending on the size of the network. The more people who are on a network at once, the slower it will go; even when performing simple tasks like moving around Word documents or Excel files within the network.

Even if an upgrade is not necessary right now, getting it out of the way will save you that trouble in the future. As technology gets better, data consumption increases. In January - March of this year, people used 34% more data than they did within the same timeframe the previous year, according to Comcast. Switching to a more powerful Ethernet cable now can get your network ready to go as technology continues to improve.

Ethernet Solutions from ShowMeCables

No matter what kind of Ethernet cable you are looking for, ShowMeCables has them at the ready to ship today. This includes pre-made Ethernet patch cables, bulk cable, connectors, installation tools, and more. We also have a number of installation guides to guide you through DIY cable assembly projects.

Have questions about Ethernet or any of our other products? You can reach our Sales team at 1-888-519-9505 or Sales@ShowMeCables.com