This article has recently been updated to reflect new information.
In recent years, two trends have become catalysts for wired and wireless technology developments: The Internet of Things (IoT) industry boom and the overall proliferation of societal interconnectivity.
For example, newer Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) wireless protocols, such as LoRa, provide cost-effective solutions for remote battery-operated devices to reliably transmit low data over wide geographic ranges. Other emerging RF technologies, like cellular 5G connectivity and next-generation WiFi 6 (802.11ax), promise higher-speed data transmission for systems needing to efficiently deliver large amounts of data.
As wireless technology improves, the demand for increased wired connectivity bandwidth presents the next challenge for wired local area network technology. Wired technology which is also used for the network backbone, must scale at least proportionally to the wireless demand. Wireless and wired transmission methods are complementary within the data ecosystem. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages, depending upon their application.
|Wireless LAN||Wired LAN|
|Power||Battery, energy harvesting or power cable connection||Power cable or Power over Ethernet (PoE).|
|Data Rate||Approaching 10Gbps aggregate through-put with 802.11ax||Up to 10Gbps per port/connection. Teaming multiple ports can achieve higher through-put. Next-generation protocols supporting advanced encoding are expected to achieve 40Gbps through-put.|
|Security||Digital encryption||Inherent security of hard-wired, twisted-pair copper cabling.|
|Range||Dependent upon the wireless protocol standard||Up to a kilometer range using fiber. Range for copper connectivity may be limited as higher data rates are achieved (i.e., 30m for 40G Base-T)|
|Cost of installation||Minimal, no cabling to end client node required||For applications using existing infrastructure, there may be no cost because all Base-T technology/cabling is backward compatible. Higher upfront costs may occur for new applications needing cabling installation|
Cost, application requirements and physical constraints drive the decision for implementing wired, wireless or hybrid networks. Trade-off considerations include power availability, data bandwidth requirements, data security, and proximity/location of the network elements.
Power & Range
Data & Scalability
There is not a “right” answer that fits for every scenario. Wired and wireless applications lend themselves as the best solution for specific requirements. Both technologies will continue to co-exist, but the total available market will probably shift to toward wireless connectivity as the global society becomes more mobile and adopts 5G and WiFi 6 technology on a prevalent scale.
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