Wire speed refers to the rate of data transfer a given telecommunication technology provides at the physical wire level. Wire-speed, an adjective, describes any hardware box or function that tends to support this data transfer rate without slowing it down. It's common to refer to functions embedded in microchips rather than in software programming as working at wire speed. Switches,, routers, and other devices are sometimes described by their manufacturers as operating at wire speed. Data encryption and decryption and hardware emulation are software functions that might run at wire speed (or close to it) when embedded in a microchip.