But, are they right for you?
By Jennifer Shatos – Technical advisor: Brett Griffin

Wireless has really taken off in the Consumer Electronic market over the past couple of years. Computers are adopting wireless network cards about as fast as they dropped floppy disk drives. More and more people are accessing wireless networks, not only at work, but at home as well. The convenience of using your laptop anywhere and not having to “plug” in with Ethernet is a huge benefit for many. To decide if it is right for you… lets get technical.

Security.
Wireless in the home, can be very easy, secure, and simple to use if it is set up properly. Most importantly, (and most over looked) make sure your wireless home networks are properly protected! Most gateway router available at the big department stores comes with guides on how to setup security, if you just take the time to read the setup manuals. Security is very important in safeguarding your files, regardless if they are financial, confidential, or just sensitive documents.

Speed.
Wireless has some limitations. Speed and more importantly traffic are the main concerns. Wireless is slower, but for many environments, this is ok. The average wireless network speed is now at 54Mbps, 13 times faster than Comcast\’s fastest advertised internet connection at 4Mbps. Broadband service providers are the current weak link for all networked homes wired or wireless.

Need for bigger networks.
For most homeowners wireless solutions were adequate for their home-networking needs—that is until Microsoft came out with the Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE). The Media Center is a centralized computer that allows you to stream up to six TV\’s with movies, TV broadcast, Radio, pre-recorded music and pictures to name a few services.
The primary TV in the home connects directly to the MCE Computer. The five additional TV\’s use a “Media Center Extender.” This extender is like a VCR, a set top device that provides content; however, the devices do not have the capability to play a video tape or a DVD (except the Xbox can play DVD\’s while not operating as an extender).

The extenders network connection (wireless or hard-wired) and all the media is distributed from the MCE to the extenders via the network. The extender has a 12.5 Mbps demand constantly. Keeping this in mind, you can have a maximum of five extenders in the home, which creates a total bandwidth usage of 62.5 Mbps. The fastest wireless available in the home is 54 Mbps (some manufacturers promote a 108 Mbps, and this is done though compression of 54 Mbps). Until the speeds of wireless in home networks increase, this proves to be a problem for the extenders. The extenders will not work on 802.11B (11Mbps) networks; 802.11G (54Mbps uncompressed-108Mbps compressed) will work, but far from flawlessly. The best solution for those who have no hardwired options is 801.11A (54Mbps). The “A” networks handle traffic loads and congestion for more devices better than the same speed “G” networks.

As Microsoft Media Center computers becomes more of a standard in the market, speeds are sure to improve. There is already an “N” network in development that promises greater speeds as well as greater range from the access point.

Talk.

VoIP (pronounced Voice over IP) refers to making telephone calls using your high-speed internet connection. This technology is gaining ground very fast, as new users are discovering it is 50-75% cheaper than comparable standard telephone service. The catch? First, You have to manually set up 911 calling. Since you can have a phone number from any area code, a 911 call could be coming from anywhere. This is an easy fix, you have to add your street address to the database by logging into the website. Second, there are some broadband ISP limitations. DSL, traditionally requires you to have a existing land based phone line to carry the DSL to your home. Some companies are allowing Naked DSL or non-shared DSL. VoIP works great with cable internet, as they are not using the phone line for service. One of the biggest disadvantages, is a higher chance of losing your dial tone. Power outages, internet downtime, and equipment failures are just a few problems you may encounter using VoIP. If you are dropping the standard phone line and you have a security system you will need a cellular or radio back up for safety reasons.

The phone itself. Most homeowners have cordless phones throughout their home. In the past, you had one wired base station per cordless handset. Recently manufacturers have come out with multiple handsets per base station. I have a system that allows for up to ten cordless handsets. Do I need all the telephone jacks in the home? Or, perhaps just a couple? One for the wireless base station, and one or two for a regular corded standby.Wired or not?
Until recently, the general rule of thumb was wire as much as you can, because it is cheaper in the long run to wire now, than it is to retrofit. Now with wireless becoming more robust and more options in products, perhaps it is time to find a middle ground. You will need to evaluate your personal usage and determine if wireless makes sense.

Our recommendations.
Take advantage of both wireless and wired technologies in your home.
Anywhere you have a built in desk or a TV, you should use the current industry standard.
Install two category 5/5e/6/7 twisted pair cables for Voice and Data, and two coaxial cables (RG-6) for video source and return paths for any computer or video locations.

1. For computer locations: For flexibility add wireless for laptops.

2. For Video: We highly recommended keeping the video hardwired in the home until wireless technologies improve.