Wired or wireless commercial CCTV: which is best?

If you have decided to invest in commercial CCTV technology – or to upgrade an existing installation – you will need to make a number of decisions concerning the technologies available. Which is the best model for your business premises? Is a wireless or wired system the right way to go?

The technical differences

As the name suggests, wired CCTV systems depend on cabling for power, recording and connection to the internet. They generally consist of three components connected via the cabling – a camera or cameras, a recording unit and a router.

The power connection may run separately to the data cable. The latter is normally ethernet, a standard also used to connect PCs, but one ethernet variant allows power to be transmitted alongside the data, minimising the cabling required. This cable has the self explanatory name ‘POE’: Power over Ethernet.

Wireless systems, by contrast, offer more flexibility as the video footage generated is transmitted over wifi to a recording hub. It can also be accessed remotely via wifi, so works well when securing remote buildings. Of course, the cameras still need a power source.

The installation issue

Dependence on cabling inevitably restricts the placement of wired CCTV systems. Multiple cables must be laid in viable locations and unless POE is used, the cameras can only be situated close to power outlets.

By contrast commercial wireless CCTV systems require no physical connection between the cameras and the recording hub. This means they can be mounted in a wider variety of locations (including remote locations and outbuildings) for more comprehensive video coverage: the only limitation is proximity to a power source.

Other differences

In general, wired CCTV systems offer a robust and reliable infrastructure. Once the cables have been laid, failure rates are low and the video footage is not subject to wifi interference or signal loss.

On the other hand, it is harder to make changes to the network. Repositioning a camera will require the installation of new ethernet cables, something that will need investment.

A second significant difference is potential size. Wired systems can support a larger number of cameras: as many as 16, allowing comprehensive coverage of large buildings or areas.

As mentioned above, commercial wireless CCTV systems are susceptible to signal interference, especially in locations (such as shared commercial premises) where multiple wifi signals overlap. Wireless systems are also, by their very nature, dependent on a strong wifi signal. This requires a good router and the absence of physical barriers between the router and the cameras – for example, thick stone walls or metal. Wifi repeaters can help to boost signal strength.

Which is right for you? That depends on the nature of the location you wish to secure. Are you looking for comprehensive coverage of a larger building? Then a wired system is the way to go, but if flexibility is a higher priority for securing remote locations, then choose wireless. 9 times out of 10 for commercial premises, wired is the preferred choice, but there are occasions where the flexibility of a wireless cctv system outweighs the reliable infrastructure of wired.

Dan Bradding
Written by Dan Bradding

Dan is a systems integration specialist and Director at Ace Fire and Security.