It is amazing that roughly 20 years after first commercial use of the internet we are now totally dependent of it. This dependence in many cases evolves into addiction. There are many popular services that we are using on a daily basis. Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter are only few popular names that wouldn’t exist without internet.
First home access to the internet was via modems and telephone infrastructure. At that time speeds were adequate for websites and services that were available. The next step was replacement of modems with xDSL technology which significantly increased the range of available bandwidths. The latest approach is using fiber cables to get the fastest internet speeds in individual homes. 1 GBit/s is now reality for anybody having the possibility to connect to the optical network.
Another technology that evolved in parallel with wired access was, of course, wireless access to the internet. The most common technology today in use is Wi-Fi which allows speeds over 100 Mbit/s. All you need for a wireless access is an access point (usually a wireless router) and WiFi enabled laptop or any computer with wireless network card.
For average user there is probably no big difference between these two ways to access the internet. However, there are some very important aspects that need to be taken into account when deciding which technology to use.
Wired access provides constant bandwidth between individual user and internet service provider. It is mainly the bandwidth of the ISP’s backbone which determines actual speed that we will be able to achieve. Wired access enables permanent connection. This is important when you need reliable connection which should be also available from the outside. Static IP address is usually used for such purposes and if the connection is important it is also powered by an UPS.
The main difference of wireless internet access is that it uses a radio channel to transfer data. This channel has limited capacity which is usually shared among many users. Even if there are many channels available the total bandwidth that we can get depends also on the number of users and their transfers. In general, this is an additional bottleneck for our access to the internet. Another significant difference is that the connection is not permanent. When it is established there is no guarantee that is will stay as it is. The situation in the radio frequency spectrum can change, other users may start using the same access point, slight change of antenna position may significantly decrease connection speed, etc.