Switches come in various speeds, with the fastest ones being capable of relaying information at an incredible 10Gbps. You may be wondering if you purchase a switch and connect it up to your network if it will be beneficial in boosting your ethernet signal. Let’s find out.
A switch is limited by its fundamental speed, either 10Mbps, 100Mbps, 1000mbps, or 10Gbps. Furthermore, it will not increase ethernet signal speed or attenuate the signal in any way past 328 feet (100 meters) or if it does not have a built-in repeater. It will further be limited to the maximum speed of its connected devices.
This article will briefly detail what switches are, how they work, the speeds at which they run and why networks utilize them. We will also have to discuss repeaters because they relate to switches and signal degradation. Then we will look at how ethernet signals are affected by switches determining in which scenarios if they actually do make an ethernet connection faster.
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What is a switch?
A switch (also known as a network switch, switching hub, or bridging hub) is a piece of hardware that is used for networks. This piece of networking hardware connects devices via ethernet cable to a network so that these devices can facilitate the sharing of resources. Devices that can be connected to a switch include computers, printers, and servers.
How does a switch work?
A switch will take data from one connected device and send it through a port directly to the device that is asking for the data. This is unlike an old out-of-date hub, which is similar to a switch, but it would send data through all the ports instead of directing it to the required port and device.
A switch is smarter than a hub in this respect and uses the receiving device’s IP address to send the data to the correct place. A hub will use this principle as well; however, a switch will try to map out which device is connected to which port.
When a device relays back to the initial device that the information is indeed intended for that destination, the switch will map its ports accordingly and remember which devices are connected to which ports. Hence the following time, information is sent out with a specific IP address; instead of all the data being sent out to all the devices, only the port allocated with that IP address will receive the data.
Why do we need switches?
We said we need them to link devices together on a network, allowing the devices to share information and resources when needed, but why can’t we just use access points or routers?
Solid cable connections are the best way we have for data to travel. Furthermore, in a LAN (Local Area Network), a switch is much faster than a router. This means that devices connected to it can send and receive data across the LAN at super-fast speeds.
How fast and far do switches transfer data?
There are different types of switches, and access switches typically support 10Mbps, 100Mbps, and 1000Mbps for end-users (users connected to it). You then get distribution switches that will normally run at speeds of 10Gbps. These switches will connect to a core switch that will also typically run at 10Gbps.
No matter what switches you use or what devices are connected to them, the total length that can be allowed between devices to switches and switches daisy changed together is 328 feet (100 meters). This means no matter your configuration, the cable length from device to device cannot exceed 328 feet.
This is where understanding comes in if, indeed, a switch can increase your ethernet signal.
Understanding repeaters and switches?
We understand now what a switch is, how it works and why we need it, including how fast data can travel across them. We also understand that the length of cable in any configuration when connecting devices to switches and daisy-chaining switches together can not exceed 328 feet.
Many individuals think that connecting up a switch to their network will increase their ethernet signal whether their network cables run beyond 328 feet or not. This is not the case. Repeaters are used to “increase” the signal of a network (wired or wireless). However, a switch may have a built-in repeater depending on the make and model.
Due to the fact that any signal transmitted via a channel (wired or wireless) will degrade over long distances, a repeater is the networking device that is used to attenuate the degraded signal and then retransmits it. A repeater (digital ones) may even be able to reconstruct signals that have been distorted by transmission loss. Hence a repeater will be placed at certain intervals within a network to keep the signal strong.
Can A Switch Really Boost Your Ethernet Signal?
We said that switches might have built-in repeaters. This means that a switch could have the capability of attenuating a degraded signal. Furthermore, if a switch is not placed within the 328 feet scope of the network, it will actually cause signal degradation.
A switch with a built-in repeater will not increase the ethernet speed but rather restore it to what it was. Furthermore, just like any other networking device, a switch will be limited to the devices connected to it. This means that the signal can only be as fast as the device that is sending or receiving the signal.
For example, if you have a router connected to a switch and the router is 100Mbps, but the switch is only a 10Mbps switch, and your computer is connected only with the capability of 5Mbps, the max speed that the computer will get from the internet is only 5Mbps. If the computer had a networking capability of 100Mpbs, but the switch was only 10Mbps, it would still only send data at the rate of 10Mbps to the computer.
Take further note that if any form of this network in one area would exceed a length of 328 feet (100 meters), then the signal would be degraded from that point and unless your switch contained a repeater and was within that 328 feet range, there would be loss of signal.
If a switch did not contain a repeater, then no matter if it were in the range of 328 feet, it would not attenuate the signal back to its original strength, and in fact, you would again have signal degradation.
We now understand that a switch is a networking device that allows devices to be connected to a network with a wired connection (typically with an ethernet connection). Switches are used in situations where solid cable connections are needed because, in fact, in a LAN situation, they are faster than routers.
Repeaters are networking devices that attenuate signals that have been degraded due to the signal being carried over large distances. Some switches may contain built-in repeaters, but you may also get switches that do not have built-in repeaters. Furthermore, it is important to note that switches and connected devices in a network may not exceed the distance of 328 feet (100 meters); otherwise, signal degradation will occur. Only switches that have built-in repeaters will be able to attenuate the signal past this point.
The last thing to note is that switches do come with various speeds (speeds at which the data can travel), and they are 10Mbps, 100 Mbps, 1000 Mbps, and then 10Gbps depending on the switch. It is important to note that the capability of the slowest connected device will be the maximum speed at which the data can travel. So, even if you have a high-speed switch, but a relatively slow internet connection or your device has a slow ethernet connection speed, it will be limited to that specific speed. The switch will not make your ethernet signal faster in any of these cases.