Internet and Ethernet both enable connectivity between users and devices, but what are the differences between the two?

The Internet connects users from all over the world in a single massive network. Internet devices can talk to each other using global infrastructure. Ethernet connects devices to a local area network (LAN), which is a much smaller collection of interconnected devices. Devices can use Ethernet to connect within their LAN and also to the Internet.

What is the internet?

The Internet is an interconnected global network that includes thousands of networks. However, it was not always so expansive. When the Internet predecessor, ARPANET, was created in the 1960s, only computers on the same network could communicate with each other by switching packets.

By the early 1980s, a team of engineers created a way for computers located on different networks to communicate with each other through the Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol (TCP / IP). TCP / IP was the catalyst that made the internet grow into the resource it has become. Without the TCP / IP and other protocols that emerged, devices located across separate networks would not be able to communicate with each other.

Since its inception, the internet has conquered the world. Tens of thousands of smaller networks operated and managed by organizations exist within the Internet. Users connect to the Internet using various hardware devices that communicate through protocols.

Billions of devices around the world use the Internet. About 60% of the world’s population has access to the internet since 2021, according to Statista. The World Wide Web is the most widely used web service. E WEBSITE is another term used interchangeably with the Page, but both are not the same. The web is just a general web infrastructure service and is generally used as a collection of information and resources. Other services include email and File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

Cases of Internet use

Cases of use for the Internet include the following:

  • sending and receiving emails and instant messages;
  • transferring files between devices;
  • web browsing; AND
  • providing infrastructural support for IoT.
This graph shows the differences between the Internet and Ethernet.

What is Ethernet?

Ethernet is a technology that connects devices together on a LAN. A physical Ethernet cable connects the devices and facilitates communication between them. Data travels between wires and protocols enable devices to talk to each other.

Created in the mid-1970s by researchers who wanted to connect multiple computers together on a single LAN, Ethernet was developed at the same time as the Internet. LANs have been in use since the 1960s, but Ethernet was the first technology to successfully connect computers together on one LAN.

In 1983, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) adopted the first official Ethernet standard – just 10 Mbps at the time. Current Ethernet capability can now support up to 10 Gbps, a rate 1,000 times faster than the original Ethernet standard.

Because Ethernet cables are physically connected to hardware devices, there is less risk and more reliability compared to a Wi-Fi wireless connection. Internet speeds are also much faster with Ethernet. However, the scope of the connection is limited. Environments that require secure, high-speed Internet access — such as universities, corporate offices, and hospitals — typically use Ethernet.

Cases of using Ethernet

Cases of use for Ethernet include the following:

  • connecting devices together on a LAN;
  • providing internet access for equipment;
  • providing reliable, fast and secure connection; AND
  • Ethernet (PoE) power support for IoT devices.

How to access the internet

After all, users need the internet to access the internet, email and other internet services. But how can users access the Internet?

A device called a modem enables internet connection from ISPs, such as AT&T and Verizon. A router enables devices on a network to use that Internet connection simultaneously. Some devices combine modem and router operation.

The devices can be connected to a router via wired or wireless connections. For example, Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, such as 3G and 4G, are common wireless ways to connect devices to the Internet. Wired methods include Ethernet cable and fiber optics. Other connection methods are satellite, dial-up and Digital Subscriber Line.

As wireless devices have become more common, Wi-Fi and 4G have grown as popular connection methods. But there are still some benefits to using Ethernet over Wi-Fi, as it provides reliable, high-speed connectivity for games, home offices, and other delay-sensitive environments.

Internet of Things

The IoT describes the system of billions of devices connected to the Internet. These devices, or things, have the ability to transfer and exchange data over the Internet. Colloquially speaking as smart devices, these devices can communicate autonomously with each other without human involvement.

The IoT has simplified processes for both consumers and businesses. Users who install smart objects in their homes can control them with their smartphones, effectively turning their home into a smart home. Businesses can also automate processes and reduce human labor with IoT devices.

Power over Ethernet

PoE is an Ethernet technology that adds power to network cables. Instead of devices needing two network and power cables, they only need a single network cable with wiring. PoE is a safer alternative to traditional wiring because having fewer cables reduces the amount of voltage needed to power a device.

Although traditional Ethernet cables are specifically for wired devices, network crews can deploy PoE to power IoT wireless devices. PoE for IoT is preferred for network teams looking to save costs and simplify the configuration process. Moreover, PoE delivers the same speed, security and reliability found in traditional Ethernet cables.

devices enabled by Power over Ethernet
Some of the many devices that can be powered by PoE.

Differences Between Internet vs. Ethernet

Internet and Ethernet are very different. Here are some of the key differences between the two:

  • connectivity
  • reliability
  • cases of use