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Ethernet usage could boost wireless speed

Kate McClelland | Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Though wireless is the Internet connection of choice for many students on campus, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) says using an Ethernet cable will help speed up the network.

Every dorm room on campus is equipped with an Ethernet outlet and if students made more use of them, there wouldn’t be as much traffic in the wireless network, said Dewitt Latimer, chief technology officer.

“It’s like the old-fashioned party line that telephones used to be connected to – the more people on the line, the worse the connection becomes,” Latimer said.

However, he said OIT ultimately recommends using the connection that is appropriate to what you are trying to accomplish online.

“If you’re trying to download and play a two gigabyte movie, then you should be using the wired connection for the best results,” Latimer said. “But if you’re watching TV with your friends and IM-ing or checking your e-mail at the same time, the wireless connection is what is best for you.”

For students on the run, the higher navigation speeds may be the dealbreaker.

“I usually get on the Internet before class and I try to use the Ethernet connection in my room because it seems to be faster and more reliable,” sophomore Jim Healy said.

But for students who enjoy the mobility that the wireless connection gives them, the Ethernet option is too constraining.

“I’m not even sure when I usually go on the Internet – I just check my e-mail whenever I sit down at my desk. And I just use the wireless network, because it’s more convenient than dealing with the Ethernet cord,” sophomore Jen Valencia said.

Sophomore Eileen Walsh said she uses the wireless connection simply because of the way her furniture is arranged.

“Right now my desk isn’t near the Ethernet outlet so I use the wireless network but last year I used my Ethernet connection all of the time,” Walsh said.

According to OIT, student computer usage peaks between the hours of 5 P.M. and 3 A.M. each day. During that time, there is an average of 1,400 simultaneous Ethernet connections and 3,400 simultaneous wireless connections.

“I usually use the Internet in the early evening – I’ll check my mail before and after dinner,” Walsh said.

While OIT’s system registers every connection – Ethernet or wireless – it does not distinguish between users who use both the wired and the wireless connections, so it is possible for a user to be counted twice, Latimer said.

The average network throughput on the ResNet wired network is 300 megabytes per second while the Nomad wireless network rate is only 150, so the wired connection will be significantly faster if you are downloading a large file, he said.