Monday, June 17, 2013

The Limitations of Radio

The air might seem capable of carrying an infinite amount of data, but that’s obviously untrue. How do we know? Radio stations are broken into channels to make sure they don’t overlap; various services, like cell phones and television transmissions, also have specific spectrum allocated to them.

The problem is interference, which is an issue that can impact a Wi-Fi router just like it can impact a radio station. If another device is using the same frequency and channel as your router, the performance of both may be reduced. A common solution is to change the channel setting in the router’s settings, but even this can sometimes fail.

Radio also has a limited range. The waves can’t penetrate dense objects and can only project a certain distance before becoming useless. A wall with heavy plumbing, or a large object like a furnace, could degrade Wi-Fi performance if they intersect the router and the PC wirelessly connected to it.

All of these limitations can be resolved by Ethernet. Official specs put the range of Ethernet at 100 meters (almost 330 feet), which is far more than is needed for a typical home network. There’s also no need to worry about interference. Ethernet is very much alive and well in homes that, for whatever reason, find Wi-Fi to be unreliable.