Ubiquiti: When Will We Hit The Limits of Gigabit Ethernet with Wi-Fi?

Ubiquiti Gigabit Versus WiFi for Digital Transformation
Ubiquiti Gigabit Versus WiFi for Digital Transformation

Since the coming of the Internet, various mechanical enhancements were important to encourage the speeds that clients have generally expected. From dial-up to DSL, from 802.11b to 802.11ac, to give some examples these progressions have improved Internet experience and availability. Thus Wi-Fi brought much-included accommodation over wired connections yet decreased speeds. To moderate these constraints, Wi-Fi innovation has advanced to build speeds, as have wired benchmarks (for instance, from 10/100 to Gigabit Ethernet).

Lately, Wi-Fi has moved toward the speed of Gigabit Ethernet. This is the standard utilized by most wired connections to send and get information. In this blog section, we’ll look at the speed of current wireless gadgets and how they contrast with Gigabit Ethernet.

Comparing Gigabit Ethernet to Wi-Fi

It’s important we look at Ethernet in the same way we do Wi-Fi to help us compare speeds. If Ethernet were marketed as a Wi-Fi device, it would advertise the following speeds:

Note from these results that Gigabit Ethernet is actually 2-Gigabit aggregate and 10/100 Ethernet is a 200-Megabit aggregate.
Note from these results that Gigabit Ethernet is actually 2-Gigabit aggregate and 10/100 Ethernet is a 200-Megabit aggregate.

How Wireless Measures Up

Now let’s look at how wireless compares. Here is some data from the fastest enterprise 4×4 MU-MIMO APs currently on the market under different client loads:

4×4 80 MHz 802.11ac MU-MIMO AP (nearly ideal conditions):

Note that with all wireless speeds cited – with little changed in the environment – these numbers will often be 50% of the advertised speeds.
Note that with all wireless speeds cited – with little changed in the environment – these numbers will often be 50% of the advertised speeds.

Chipset manufacturers, Wi-Fi firmware engineers, etc. are proud of these numbers, as they are the real-world doubling of throughput from 3×3 802.11ac SU-MIMO:

3×3 80 MHz 11ac AP (nearly ideal conditions):

  • 50 clients: ~100 Mbps

As you can see, 4×4 MU-MIMO doubles performance, from ~100 Mbps to 200 Mbps aggregate TCP throughput.

Let’s summarize:

When Does Gigabit Ethernet Start Limiting Wireless Speeds?

While there have been a number of quicker alternatives to Gigabit Ethernet for many years (for example, 10-Gigabit, 25-Gigabit, etc.), these technologies have not yet been adopted on a wide scale. Understanding the data shown above leads us to consider the question, when will alternative multi-Gigabit Ethernet technologies really matter for the enterprise network?

Let’s look at some data:

So the answer to our question is:

Somewhere around two to three 4×4 MU-MIMO 80 MHz radios (plus a 2.4 GHz radio), depending on the ratio of downstream/upstream traffic.

So as you can see, Gigabit Ethernet does not limit the speeds of enterprise deployment APs that have a single 4×4 802.11ac MU-MIMO radio and a single 4×4 2.4 GHz radio.

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