Antenna Vs. Hardwire

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Whether you need a security system or greater signal strength for your network connection, your main methods of data transfer are antenna-based (wireless) and hardwire (cable). Today we're going to consider these two signal-transmitting options and explore the benefits and drawbacks of each.

What's the difference between antennas and hardwire?

Wi-Fi and other antenna-based technologies let you connect to the internet without physical connectors and cords. Hardwired communications, on the other hand, use cables to transfer and receive signals--meaning they require cords. While an Antenna-based network connection can be convenient, a hard-wired connection has many advantages, including added security, speed, and reliability.

How a Hardwired Connection Works

Ethernet cables are the most common and inexpensive hardwire cable option. They contain copper wires, which are excellent conductors of electricity, to send and receive information in the form of electric waves. With an ethernet cable system, devices connected to your network can input and output data almost instantaneously.

Advantages of Hard-wire Connections

There are many benefits to forgoing an antenna system in favor of hard-wire cables. A hard-wired network allows for a speedier and more reliable network connection. Cords offer data capacities that are superior to those of most antennas, and are even able to send and receive data simultaneously. This multitasking ability keeps data input and output moving at the fastest possible rate--useful for any computer with an internet connection, but especially useful in business environments and surveillance operations in which cameras must be responsive to control room commands. Because wireless, antenna-based connections are unable to send and receive information at the same time, they're prone to disruptive latency periods (waiting times between commands and responses) that can impede remote control of surveillance. Another factor to consider when deciding between cable- and antenna-based connections is security. With a hard-wired system, there is no way for an outside hacker to hop on your signal and send commands to your device.

Disadvantages of Hard-wire Connections

Hard-wired connections can be intrusive. They often require digging to place them underground or extensive work to place them behind walls. What's more, freezing temperatures in the ground can cause lines to become brittle and crack. And above ground, cables can be vandalized or even cause injury. And while ethernet cables usually produce superb connections, it's possible for them to pick up interference noise, especially if they cross paths with other electrically conductive materials or equipment with strong voltage. In such cases, the use of either a coax cable or an optic fiber cable may be called for. Coax cables have special shielding that insulates their inner conducting wires from external noise. And fiber optic cables are immune to electric interference because they exchange information in the form of light. Fiber optic cables are by far the fastest and most reliable cabling option on the market.

How Antenna Connections work

Antennas make wireless communications possible by translating information into RF (radio frequency) waves. Electrons in output transmitters vibrate, creating electromagnetic currents which move invisibly through the air and arrive at receiver antennas. The signal waves are then converted back into observable materials.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Antennas

The greatest benefit of an antenna-based connection is the ability to link devices to a network without the need to plug in connectors. Unfortunately, there are many drawbacks to this convenience. Antenna-based connections are not optimized for rapid data transfer because antennas cannot simultaneously send and receive signals. This limited capacity can result in problems like dropped internet connections, low-quality telecommunications, and disrupted remote control of surveillance equipment. While not all antenna-based communication systems use WiFi, WiFi is the most common method of wireless data exchange and also the most problematic. A WiFi signal shares channels on a public bandwidth, which can result in slow internet speeds, especially during busy traffic times. Further, the use of shared public bandwidths can leave WiFi's electromagnetic signals vulnerable to interception from hackers, leaving both private information and security devices open to malign interference.

Methods to Improve Antenna Signal Strength

There are tools to alleviate many of the issues that come with antenna-based network services--issues such as poor signal strength and interference from competing signals.

Array Antennas

Array antennas are one tool to improve wireless signal performance. They are a collection of connected antennas which work together to transmit or receive radio wave frequencies. Array antennas solve signal issues caused by single antennas by combining the power of multiple antennas into one signal strength that is the sum strength of all the antennas combined.

RF Power Amplifiers

As its name suggests, an RF power amplifier is able to tune in to a weak radio frequency signal and make that signal stronger. Even when there may be "noise" around a desired weak signal, an RF power amplifier has the sensitivity to pick up the weak signal and amplify it over other all others.

Wireless Vs. Wiring

While wireless devices use antennas to transmit electromagnetic waves through the air, hardwire connections transmit signals through ethernet, coax, or fiber optic cables. Cable cords may be inconvenient, but they provide more speed and security than their antenna-based counterparts.

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