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The Ethernet Advantage

By Valerie Priester

Published July 7, 2014

Everybody loves Wi-Fi. It's great not being tethered, and UB's Wi-Fi provides plenty of speed for simple tasks. But you might be surprised to learn that UB's network engineers include wired connections in new buildings, and for good reason.

Wi-Fi? Not So Fast

“Wi-Fi is 1,000 times slower than wired connections. Both are getting faster, but wired is always a faster choice.”
Mark Deuell, Director
Network and Classroom Services

Valerie Priester (UBIT Staff) has been a member of UB Information Technology for over 17 years, most recently as part of the IT Policy & Communication team. When not writing Web content for UBIT, she can be found rowing on Tonawanda Creek, gardening or walking her dog, Maddie.

For all its convenience, Wi-Fi is slower than wired connections--a lot slower. Wired Ethernet connections support speeds up to 1000 MBits (1 Gbit) per second, whereas an 802.11n Wi-Fi access point offers only 155 MBits per second--and that's if you're the only one using it. The more devices sharing the same connection, the weaker the signal becomes.

With a Wi-Fi signal, phones, laptops and routers all share bandwidth, but having a wired device means having your own personal, fast connection.

Add to this the fact that Wi-Fi signal can be blocked by columns in a building, microwaves or even people, and you’ll begin to understand why you’ll continue to see wired connections on UB’s campus.

Speedy Connections for the Medical School

UB's network engineers recognize that wired Ethernet connections would be efficient and increase productivity. In the UB Medical School's new downtown building, to be completed in 2016, each office will have two wired ports operating at one Gigabit per second, which is especially important for faculty working on research. According to Network and Classroom Services Director Mark Deuell, the inclusion of the wired ports will "allow increased flexibility for faculty in how they want to arrange and use the space."

Medical researchers and professors often need to access virtualizations of high-resolution images, which would take much longer to download using a Wi-Fi connection.

Where Do I Plug In?

You don't need to be on the medical campus to take advantage of faster Internet speeds. Wired connections are standard in existing UB faculty and staff offices.

For students, ResNet, UB's lightning-fast wired Ethernet connection, is available in every room in residence halls and campus apartments. UB students are best off using a wired connection when accessing streaming services and online courses, using cloud-based software like My Virtual Computing Lab and gaming online.

Bringing Out the Best

UBIT is constantly working to improve the Wi-Fi experience in lecture halls. "We directionally focus Wi-Fi in the classrooms to develop smaller areas for better bandwidth," Mark explained. This can reduce the number of devices on each access point and eliminate dead zones.

When you need to use Wi-Fi elsewhere on campus, whether it's an office or a residence hall room, there are steps you can take to improve your experience:

  • Turn off Bluetooth/Wi-Fi on your router, printer, gaming system or smart TV if you're not using it.
  • Set your router to a 5GHz network (if it supports 5G).
  • Keep your device drivers up to date, as manufactuers are always working to fix wireless issues.

If you notice consistent issues within a particular area of Wi-Fi coverage, please report it to the CIT Help Desk so we can fix it: call 716-645-3542 or email ubithelp@buffalo.edu.

Remember, if it's flexibility or portability you crave, Wi-Fi is the answer, but if you need a more reliable, faster connection, nothing beats a wired Ethernet connection.