With Wi-Fi 7 around the corner, a company who is designing silicon for that new Wi-Fi standard is running a line that wired networks will be obsolete.
But it is a bit too hasty to state that because there are situations where the wired network will still be relevant as a backhaul for that Wi-Fi 7 wireless network. Here, I encompass both the Ethernet networks built on Category-5 or Category-6 cable along with “wired no-new-wires” networks like HomePlug powerline or G.Hn networks based on powerline, telephone wire or TV coaxial cable.
How are your premises built?
If you find that your premises is built of dense building materials like brick, masonry or cinder-block / concrete block, you may find that you have trouble with your Wi-Fi network’s coverage. This is more so where any of the interior walls uses those kind of materials.
Examples of this may include a double-brick house that had an extension built on to it or a house that has one or more brick interior chimneys. Similarly, apartment dwellers may run in to this problem if two or more of their apartment’s interior walls touch their building’s “service core” plenums used for the elevators, garbage chutes or as “risers” for plumbing and wiring. Such a plenum is typically made of thick or reinforced concrete to satisfy noise-level or fire-safety expectations.
Another building material to watch for is metal. This may be used for reinforcement like with reinforced concrete, or it could be used as a mesh or for decorative effect like with corrugated iron used to give that rustic look. Add to this insulation material that is augmented with foil to improve its effect. This material has that “Faraday cage” effect where it reflects radio waves rather than passes them.
As well, the radio frequencies that are more affected are those at the higher end of the spectrum due to their short wavelength. This will be more so as wireless networks extend in to the 6GHz territory.
These situations will call for a wired network backhaul in order to create building-wide coverage for your Wi-Fi network.
Another situation that will be of relevance to suburban and country living is the want to connect secondary buildings like a barn, cabin or granny flat to your primary house. This would also apply to the use of a caravan or campervan as secondary living quarters.
It would be more so as you think that bringing your home network and Internet to these buildings that you expect to have as part of your living or space and is something I have covered in a feature article and infographic. Here, a wired link can earn its keep in these kind of setups and may allow you to be more flexible with building materials for the secondary buildings or main bouse.
A new-wire approach can be in the form of Cat5e cable could give up to 2.5 Gigabits per second bandwidth over 100 metres, something that would be affordable for most. If Cat6a cable was used, this could go to 10 Gigabits per second for the same length. The more premium fibre-optic technology would be able to achieve 300 metres for stability and 10 Gigabit throughput. The Cat5e setup would come in to its own with fixed outbuildings built relatively close to the main house like in most low-density living areas including most smallholdings.
Use of powerline-based “wired no-new-wires” like HomePlug AV2 or, especially G.Hn HomeGrid, would come in to its own here. This is more so if you are renting your home or are dealing with caravans or campervans being purposed as sleepouts for example and you have them connected to your home’s mains supply.
Other factors to consider
Some devices may also cause issues when it comes to Wi-Fi coverage due to their design.
For example, a flat-screen TV will use a significant amount of metal as part of its chassis and this can act as an RF barrier. Similarly furniture made out of sheet metal like the traditional office filing cabinet can also be an RF barrier.
These “RF barriers” can effectively create an “RF shadow” if the client device is located close to them and such items are located close to each other.
It is also worth considering that wired network technologies, especially those based on Category 5 or Category 6 twisted pair copper cable or fibre-optic cable will be developed in a way to have more bandwidth than Wi-Fi-based wireless technologies. Here, it takes advantage of “pure-play” wiring infrastructure that is predictable in signal quality and reliability. This will underscore the role of these technologies as a reliable high-speed backhaul option between devices or Wi-Fi access points.
Due to facts like dense or metallic building materials, multiple buildings on a property or metallic objects, wired networks will still be considered relevant in the era of Wi-Fi 7. Add to this that wired networks, especially those using dedicated wiring infrastructure, will still be worked on as something that offers higher data speeds than equivalent Wi-Fi technologies.