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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.

Next Steps

To learn more about wireless networking, check out Lisa Phifer’s answers to other wireless networking queries.

This was first published in June 2011

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