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Comparison of wireless and wired networks

19 January, 2016 - 15:03

The most obvious advantage of wireless networking is mobility, and wireless networks typically have a great deal of flexibility.

Mobility of wireless networking

Wireless network users can connect to existing networks and are then allowed to roam freely. Wireless data networks free users from the tethers of an Ethernet cable at a desk. They can work in the library, in a conference room, in the airport, or even in the coffee house across the street. As long as the wireless users remain within the range of the base station, they can take advantage of the network.

Flexibility of wireless networking

The flexibility of wireless networks can translate into rapid deployment. Wireless networks use a number of base stations to connect users to an existing network. With the infrastructure built, adding a user to a wireless network is a matter of configuring the infrastructure, but it does not involve running cables, punching down terminals, and patching in a new jack as wired networks need to. Only could such flexibility make possible the public hot spot operation, through which public users can gain access to the network connections wirelessly provided by service providers in various locations or premises.

However, wireless networks do not replace fixed networks. Servers and other data centre equipment are very static in terms of their location; they may as well be connected to wires that do not move. And, the speed of wireless networks is constrained by the available bandwidth. Furthermore, while security on any network is a prime concern, it is more critical for wireless networks.

Speed constrain of wireless networks

Information theory can be used to deduce the upper limit on the speed of a network. Wireless-network hardware tends to be slower than wired hardware. Unlike the 10-GB Ethernet standard, wireless-network standards must carefully validate received frames to guard against loss due to the unreliability of the wireless medium.

Security issues of wireless networks

On wireless networks, security is often a critical concern because the network transmissions are available to anyone within range of the transmitter with the appropriate antenna.

On a wired network, the signals stay in the wires and can be protected by strong physical-access control (locks on the doors of wiring closets, and so on). On a wireless network, sniffing is much easier because the radio transmissions are designed to be processed by any receiver within range.

Table 1.1 provides a comparison of the features of wireless and wired networks.

Table 1.1 Comparison of wireless and wired networks

Wireless networks

Wired networks