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The Best Home Alternatives to WiFi Wireless Networks

Posted Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013 (2:12 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 22,207)
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Wireless networks can be found pretty much everywhere, they’re in your home, on your mobile, on laptops, in games consoles, local cafes, banks and even some airplanes now offer internet access using wifi. But what do you do when wifi is stretched to its limits, are there any alternatives? Quite a few as it happens.

Suffice to say that wifi has evolved to become a familiar technology but as a result more and more of us are also becoming familiar with its many shortcomings, such as the limited reach through walls (especially those built with chicken wire) and the performance or reliability detriment experienced when in a congested environment (i.e. lots of home wifi networks running in the same area).

Naturally there are plenty ways to mitigate some of these problems, such as by using wifi extenders, switching to one of the new 802.11ac (5GHz) based Gigabit wifi routers (there’s less congestion in the 5GHz band but that will only last so long) or holding out for the first 60GHz capable WiGig (802.11ad) devices that should run over shorter ranges but offer faster speeds (7Gbps).

The Alternatives

But what if your device isn’t wifi enabled or extending the signal simply doesn’t deliver an effective result? Perhaps you’re simply scared of wifi “radiation” rotting your brain (unlikely but quite a few people do keep tin foil hats to hand just in case)? In those situations you might want something different.

Wired Ethernet Local Area Network (LAN)

The first and most obvious choice of all involves complimenting or scrapping your wifi in favour of a trusty old wired local area network (LAN). Most computers and network capable devices, except tablets and smartphones (though we have a solution for them too – explained later), include a standard rectangular RJ45 Ethernet/LAN socket on the back. Connecting your network into this is normally just a matter of plugging in the cable and that’s it.

The creation of a closed / wired network is not only more secure but will also deliver a network with the lowest latency and best speeds (i.e. 1000Mbps). The obvious downside to this approach is the need for cables, which can be messy and also limit your ability to surf while being mobile around the home and garden. But then almost every non-wifi solution will need cables at some point.

Pros:
* Performance
* Security
* Cheap

Cons:
* Cables.. cables.. everything

WiFi to Ethernet Adapters

Sometimes the problem isn’t so much wifi itself as the lack of supporting connectivity. A large number of older and even some modern network capable devices, such as TV set-top-boxes, do not ship with wifi support built-in.

Unfortunately these devices often reside in different rooms from your router, which makes running a long cable around your home somewhat tedious.

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5 Responses
  1. Vertualred

    Thanks for the guide, this will be helpful.

  2. Bob

    You can use your main sockets to distribute the signal. I have never tried it and am not confined it offers any advantage over WiFi. By far the best approach is good old cable. Unfortunatly it is not that practicable in many cases.

    Maybe the time has come for new builds o have a data network installed. It would not be that expensive to put in

  3. Tim

    I’d been using Powerline but switched to MoCA for connecting my XBox to my Media Centre PC; I found that I got occasional dropouts in network connectivity over Powerline, whereas on MoCA I get a very consistent connection. For streaming TV, it makes a big difference.

  4. There is also another possibility which has the advantages of Ethernet copper cabling but without its drawbacks. This is using Plastic Optical Fibre (POF). You can share the mains ducts as it is an optical cable and now it can reach 1 Gbps (see the chipset from KDPOF at http://www.kdpof.com). There are several companies selling adapters in the form of wall plugs with RJ45 or even WiFi interfaces but, so far, they reach only 100 Mbps. They will start to ship equipment with 1 Gbps capabilities by the beginning of 2014 ( see http://www.pofnet.co.uk) .
    This marriage between a fixed backhaul with all its advantages, running at 1 Gbps, and a WiFi network providing mobility and with just the right power to cover the room with the wall outlet is the solution that really puts in value the best of both worlds without drawbacks.
    By the way, as you can see in the KDPOF web, POF is cheap and with a huge core which means you can cut it with a pair of scissors and you don´t need any connector or polishing which is not the case of the classic GOF (Glass Fibre). POF is easy for DIY or installers.

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