The question is easy to answer when it concerns your home: in fact, you need both. Wireless appliances, such as your smartphone, tablet, and laptop use the Wi-Fi network. Other appliances, such as desktop computers, network printers, network hard drives, multimedia streamers, smart TVs and set-top boxes for digital TV prefer a wired connection. Both types of networks have their advantagesas well as their disadvantages. However, the list of disadvantages is longer for Wi-Fi.
Wired network Advantages:
- Very reliable communication, at any time.
- Its operation is not impacted by other devices or its surroundings (i.e. neighbours).
- High speed—multiple simultaneous users on the same network do not impact speed.
- High protection against outside (cyber) attacks.
- Relatively low price.
- Devices need to be connected at fixed locations. For instance, working in the garden with the laptop is not an option. There is only limited flexibility for the user (constrained to certain locations).
- It cannot be used on devices that have only a wireless connection.
Wi-Fi network Advantages:
- The user can use wireless devices anywhere inside the home. In certain circumstances, the devices can also be used in the garden.
- Wi-Fi can be a solution in those places where no wired connection is available.
- It cannot be used for devices with only a wired connection.
- Less reliable, depending on the circumstances.
- It is difficult to assess its range beforehand. This largely depends on the materials used inside the building. Wooden panels block radiation the least. Concrete walls, aluminium windows and radiators can weaken the signal by up to 90%, causing the range to diminish quickly and hamper communication. Installing a repeater can solve the issue when the range is too low.
- Wi-Fi is still many times slower than a wired network. Speed can drop significantly during simultaneous use.
- The speed of your data traffic never equals your available bandwidth. It requires so-called overhead traffic to establish communication between wireless devices and the router. Such overhead can take up a significant part of the total available bandwidth.
- It is possible that other devices operating at the same frequency (microwave, DECT phones, baby phones, other Wi-Fi networks on the same channel, etc.) can have a disruptive effect.
- There is less protection against outside (cyber) attacks or use.
- Some people believe that electromagnetic radiation can have a negative impact on health. There is still no scientific proof of this, though research has shown a negative impact of Wi-Fi network radiation on the leaves of certain types of trees.The price of a Wi-Fi network may turn out to be higher than that of a wired network.
It's up to you
If you add a network in an existing home, you will probably prefer a wireless solution, unless you are able to add cables. However, for new builds, it is preferable to build a solid wired network, completed with a small Wi-Fi network, the latter only being used for purely wireless devices.