The best alternatives and substitutes to Ethernet Cables: What can I use instead?

Let’s face it, installing ethernet cables in your house can be a pain. You have to drill, add connections and make sure that the cable doesn’t get damaged. Furthermore, they can be hard to hide. What are some reasonable alternatives for this type of wired internet connection? 


Coax: internet over your TV cable

In some areas, you can get Internet via your TV (or coax) cable.

If you have a coax cable, you can use this for your router instead of an ethernet cable. However, most computers can’t connect to a coax cable directly. They don’t have a port for this. You should run the coax cable to your router.

Your router is then connected to your computer with an ethernet cable. If you have a wireless network, you will have to have an ethernet cable between your router and WiFi hotspot.

Some homes have already coax cables installed. While you won’t get top speeds on them, they work reasonably well. Check the outlet to see if it is still functioning. You can run a speed test to see if the internet speed is fast enough for your needs.

If you already have it installed, it is quite easy to add a router and set things up. It is possible to use the coax cable to pull the ethernet cable through the wall. Just add a wire between the two and pull the coax cable out of the wall. This is also how new electrical wires used to be installed. 

The coax cable is generally used to connect your router to the Internet. You don’t need ethernet cables if you only need 1 WiFi network. If you need a more complex network (such as a wired connection or multiple WiFi networks), you will have to use an ethernet cable.

Can you use phone cables instead of ethernet?

You might have some phone cables in your house and wonder if you can use this instead of having to install new Ethernet cables. It should be possible to do this. You just need an Ethernet cable for the last few feet to set up your router.

Your phone cable runs to your router. From your router, you will need to use an Ethernet cable to your WiFi modem or computer.

If you have a phone cable in your house, you can use this to transfer the Internet signal around your house. At the endpoint, you will need to use an Ethernet cable to set up your WiFi network or the connection with your computer.

If the phone cables haven’t been used for a while, you should check them before you install a system. This can be done with electricity testers and other tools.

Can you use USB instead of Ethernet?

If your computer doesn’t have an Ethernet port, you might wonder if you can use a USB port instead. Most new computers don’t have an Ethernet port as this takes up too much space.

This is possible if you have a specific adapter for this. This adapter allows you to connect your computer to the Ethernet cable through a USB port.

When you get one of these adapters, it is important to check that it supports the latest standards and the highest Internet speeds. This includes USB 3.0 and at least 1 Gbps network speeds.

The adapter should also support your operating system. If this is the case, you can just plug this into your computer and plug the Ethernet cable in and you should have an Internet connection.

Just be careful when you try to walk around as your computer is connected to cables!

Powerline adapters vs ethernet cables: what is the best option?

This is often the best alternative to ethernet cables. Most rooms already have electricity. The powerline is plugged into the electrical network port of your router. Then another device is plugged in the room that you want internet.

The next step is to push a button on each of the plugs. Then you connect a wire from the plug to your computer. That is the only thing that needs to happen to install it. It can be done in a few minutes and doesn’t require any technical knowledge. 

This works pretty well if your electric installation is quite recent and stable. This won’t work well in houses that have older electric circuits or that have a lot of power surges. It can also be a hassle if you don’t have a lot of electric outlets to begin with.

Powerline transmits the data over the electrical network. The speeds will be slower than ethernet but it can be a lot easier to install as you don’t have to run new wires. It will probably reach a maximum speed of 100-200 megabits per second.

This can slow a lot if the distance between the two plugs is bigger. It is hard to tell in advance if it will work for you as there are a lot of things affecting the speed of this system. For this reason, you should test if it works for you and return it if it doesn’t. Get a big brand such as TP-Link as they use advanced software to optimize speeds.

The advantage of these systems is that you can expand them when you want to. It is just a plug-and-play system. They also use less electricity as they can power down if you don’t use them.

Wifi mesh network versus ethernet cable

Wifi used to be quite wonky. Especially if you lived in a larger home or if there were a lot of neighbors with a network. More recently Wifi Mesh networks have been introduced to make WiFi more stable.

These consist of multiple hotspots that are able to mesh different signals together. This allows you to get a faster and more stable connection. Some brands such as Eero have really focussed on this technology and it works really well.

This system costs more money as you need more devices. It also requires more electricity.

Installing it can also be a hassle as you have to find the best location to place the hotspots and run an ethernet cable to them. Once it is set up, it often works great though. You can hire someone to do it for you if you don’t enjoy installing all the cables and devices.

We can expect to see more and more mesh networks as these work really well. You won’t get the speeds that you would get with an ethernet cable but for most users, the speed will be more than enough to do their daily tasks.

These mesh systems are more expensive though. They also don’t work that well when you have thick walls or a lot of metals in the walls.

Starlink or 5G versus ethernet cable

New technologies and unlimited subscriptions might allow you to ditch your wired internet subscription. While they don’t work perfectly, especially if you have some rebar in your concrete, they can sometimes replace your wired internet connection. Granted, gaming or HD video calls will be harder to do but for most applications, this will work just fine.

Starlink is not available everywhere and you have to install their antenna so this is not for everyone. It seems that the upload and download speeds are quite reasonable though. At least it is a great backup solution if your wired connection doesn’t work.

You can use your phone to create a 5G hotspot. If you don’t want to do this, you can get a dedicated hotspot. These work pretty well but might be less stable than wired internet.

Telecom companies might also limit the amount of data that you can use so this might not be the best option if you down- or upload a lot of files. It is possible that more and more people switch to this option though as you can save quite a lot by canceling your wired internet connection. 

Some people mix 5G and their wired connection to make sure that they get an optimal speed. This type of mesh networking is still developing though so it will be interesting to see how this evolves. It might be possible to offload a part of the traffic to one network so that the other one can keep giving you a fast connection. 

To conclude we can state that there are some reasonable Ethernet cable alternatives that allow you to surf the web and perform your daily tasks. They can be quite cheap such as Powerline adapters to more advanced WiFi mesh solutions.

You will have to see what your needs are, what your budget allows, and what is possible in your home. Ethernet cables will in most instances provide the fastest speed so it might be worth the hassle if you game a lot of if you want HD video calls. 

Ethernet cables offer great speeds but they can restrict your movement. Luckily, there are great alternatives being developed, such as 5G networks, satellite networks and so on. 4

You can also take a look into mesh networks as these wireless WiFi networks have become more reliable and faster.

Powerline Internet can also work if you don’t want to go through the hassle of having to hide Ethernet cables.

For some applications, such as video calling, ethernet cables are still the best option as they offer fast speeds and low latency.

HDMI cables are generally not used for internet traffic but to transfer images.