While wireless is a major facet of an average home network, wired network devices still have extremely practical uses. The largest benefit of wired networks is the consistent amount of bandwidth they provide, lower latency and minimal environmental concerns. One of the major limiting attributes is, of course, a lack of mobility. As a result, it is important that factors that would make a wired network solution more beneficial than a wireless solution are understood.
Environmental factors can cause severe performance issues with wireless networks depending on building material, distance from the router and other devices saturating the wireless bands. Thicker materials like brick and steel-framed construction often found in commercial and dormitory environments diminish the performance of wireless. In addition, larger areas being covered can require wireless repeaters to gain useful signal strength throughout larger homes or those with multiple floors. This can cause data loss and poor latency when re-transmitting data from one end of the wireless range to the other.
Depending on the wireless network spectrum you utilize, the number of consumer products that operate on the same band can cause poor performance. Wireless telephones operate on the same 5GHz and 2.4GHz range as wireless routers. This can be combined with all of the routers and cordless devices from not only your house, but those of your neighbors as well. Since 2.4GHz only operates off 11 channels (or bands), and 5GHz has 22 channels, it is easy to see how wireless data collision could occur in densely populated buildings.
In these situations, it is preferable to operate through a wired network connection to eliminate network degradation. One major facet of planning your wiring placement includes avoiding electrical wiring as much as possible, since electromagnetic fields can cause issues with data delivery. As well, the length of the run is important, as 100 meters is the standard when running Category 5, 5e and 6 twisted-pair cabling.
High bandwidth availability provides file sharing and media servers with a significant performance enhancement over those utilizing wireless technology. Even providing a direct router connection utilizing a wired network can give wireless devices higher-quality file transfers and streaming. This is because the media is only streaming through the wireless channels once rather than from the media/file server to the router, then to the client requesting the file or media. Ideally, you would want to use a wired network connection between all points from where the media or file is to the computer requesting that data.
To gamers, a wired network connection to the modem provides much lower latency, improving the gaming experience. A ping response is essentially the amount of time it takes for a data packet to get sent to a networked destination like a router or server and then return to your computer. As previously mentioned, wireless connections can be affected by many environmental variables that can cause your ping to take longer than a wired connection. Other factors, such as available Internet bandwidth, do influence this, but a wired network connection is your best bet for minimizing delays.