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Wi-fi replacing Ethernet? An expert weighs in on the possibilities

Wireless expert, Lisa Phifer addresses a query regarding Wi-Fi replacing Ethernet. Lisa provides analysis, advantages and disadvantages, and future expectations of both.

Will Wi-Fi ever replace Ethernet?

Surveys show that Wi-Fi has already become the preferred method of client-to-LAN connection, and analysts predict that the lion's share of new network access "ports" will now be wireless. Wi-Fi is also growing more popular for network edge-to-distribution layer back haul – especially in areas where relaying traffic through an AP mesh is easier than running a cable drop to every AP.

However, I do not expect Wi-Fi to replace Ethernet inside large network cores, or for high-capacity, high-availability edge or back haul links. Anywhere that Gigabit Ethernet is now required, Wi-Fi is not yet a suitable replacement. Ethernet also remains the best way to connect high-volume servers and other devices that are stationary and need highly-reliable, very deterministic, and/or high density connectivity. Although 802.11n has made Wi-Fi faster and more robust, RF is still a less predictable medium and channels are still finite.

This was first published in June 2011

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