It’s impossible to imagine a world without Wi-Fi, and yet, more and more, it’s becoming harder to entirely rely on it—especially in the home or workplace.
Despite the advances in Wi-Fi technology, including more routers and devices that offer Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, and the Federal Communications Commission opening the spectrum in the 6GHz band, paving the way for faster Wi-Fi 6E, some inherent downsides are all the more apparent in an increasingly connected world. As more high-bandwidth devices compete for space on crowded wireless networks, the cracks in Wi-Fi are starting to show.
Wi-Fi is easy to deploy, which is why many homes and smaller businesses rely on it almost exclusively. They use Wi-Fi for every internet-connected device, from security cameras and smart home switches to laptops and cell phones.
The problem? There’s only so much bandwidth to go around on a Wi-Fi network. Even though most routers can theoretically handle as many as 250 devices, it’s not ideal. Crowded Wi-Fi networks mean slower speeds, dropped connections, and even devices that intermittently can’t connect to the network at all.
Even with Wi-Fi 6.0, With the average number of connected devices in a home increasing year over year, Wi-Fi performance is an issue that’s only going to get larger.
In theory, Wi-Fi lets you connect wirelessly to a network from anywhere in that network’s range. In practice, it’s never that simple.
In an ideal world, the range of a standard Wi-Fi router is about 150-250 feet indoors, depending on the manufacturer of the router. That’s an optimistic view, however. Wi-Fi signals are notoriously fickle. Signal strength can suffer from interference due to obstacles or even other electrical devices—even if they’re not connected to the same network.
In a typical home, this means the Wi-Fi might work well on the first floor—near the router—but devices upstairs may suffer much slower speeds or even struggle to stay connected at all.
There are solutions to extend the range of a wireless network available. These include Mesh network routers, range extenders, and range boosters. These can quickly become costly solutions that deliver mixed results, as they still suffer from the same core performance issues that plague standard Wi-Fi setups.
Cyber crime is escalating at an astounding pace—15 percent year-over-year according to a recent Cybersecurity Ventures report. It’s not just limited to largescale hacks of major corporations, either. Individuals and smaller businesses are equally at risk of cyber crime.
Unfortunately, Wi-Fi networks are an easy way for those with malicious intent to access sensitive information. There are steps you can take to protect your Wi-Fi network, including using network encryption and a reliable firewall. Even with these steps, however, your data is more exposed than if it were being transmitted over a wired network.
People have been asking if Wi-Fi is safe since it first gained widespread deployment. The primary concerns have been whether or not the type and level of radiation emitted by Wi-Fi signals is safe for humans to be exposed to on a constant or daily basis. More research is needed to definitively determine whether there are health risks posed by Wi-Fi.
How to mitigate the downsides of Wi-Fi
When looking at the downsides of Wi-Fi, the answer isn’t to eliminate it from your networking plans. On the contrary, Wi-Fi has its place and when it comes to mobile devices like smartphones, tablets or smart home devices like light switches and window blinds and appliance, Wi-Fi is absolutely necessary.
Supplementing Wi-Fi with a robust and well-planned network that includes wired Wi-Fi Access Points (WAPs) and gaming/computer and home theatre stations is the key to overcoming its downsides. You can also incorporate a smart hub into your network, so that smart home devices communicate over Z-Wave or Zigbee rather that Wi-Fi.
With a wired network, dedicated Ethernet access points can be installed throughout the home or small business, which means you can directly connect devices like PCs or smart TVs to the network.
This frees up bandwidth on the wireless router. It brings reliable high-speed internet access to areas of the home or business where Wi-Fi signals aren’t strong or reliable. And it allows you to transmit data that may be sensitive over a wired network, as opposed to a more exposed wireless one.