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Wireless Networking Options for E1.31 and E1.11 Controllers
Last Updated: 10/11/2019
With the proliferation of wireless technology, many common items like thermostats, phones and TV's are now wireless and no longer require dedicated cables for their data "feed". This article covers the various factors involved when considering a wired or wireless network for transmitting lighting control data.

As there are two common data transfer methods (Ethernet / WiFi and RS-485) within the Holiday Lighting world and they differ completely, we will address each one individually.

  • E1.31 Protocol (Wired 802.3 Ethernet and Wireless 802.11x WiFi)
    • Used with high-volume pixel controllers like the AlphaPix and EasyLights
    • Typical data rates (the amount of data sent from the PC to the controller) are comprised of:
      • Number of DMX Channels (3 DMX channels per pixel)
      • Total number of pixels (per controller, per network)
      • An example of a 16 string/output pixel megatree with 50 pixels per string would be:
        • 16 strings * 50 Pixels * 3 DMX channels = 2,400 DMX Channels
        • 2,400 DMX channels * 44 updates per second (22ms timing) * 8 bits of data (256 dimming levels) = 844,800 bits of data per second
        • Add in about 5% overhead for additional data in the E1.31 stream and you end up with about 887,404 its of data per second OR .88 Megabits per second (excludes Ethernet or 802.11x overhead)
        • Note that this is only ONE standard element in a display.
        • .88 Megabits per second is 8.8% of a 10 Megabit network and .88% of a 100 Megabit network
    • As most common networks (and E1.31 controllers that are on them) are 100 Megabit networks, this means that a standard and inexpensive wireless network (switches, cables, etc) can handle a fairly large display without any special equipment
    • Wired vs Wireless
      • Wired (802.3 Ethernet)
        • Pro's
          • Cheap - Cables, switches and related hardware are very inexpensive. In some displays large distances can make cost a factor (drive through displays).
          • Fast - As almost all cable (CAT5 or higher) is rated for 100 Megabits, even the cheapest cables can handle large volumes of data
          • Reliable - CAT5 cable is not generally affected by outside factors (other local networks, trees, walls, etc)
          • Long distances - Standard Ethernet connections can be run up to 900ft in a single run
          • Not complex - For the vast majority of displays, pre-terminated CAT5 cable is easy to install and requires no special skills
        • Con's
          • The CAT5 cable has to be physically run to each location
          • Some locations can be extremely hard to run cable (multiple houses, areas with human traffic)
          • May require a network switch (typically under $20) to split signals on controllers without built-in switches
          • Cable cost (as opposed to wireless)
      • Wireless (802.11 WiFi)
        • Pro's
          • No cables - Allows for cable free (don't forget you still need a power cable) installations
        • Con's
          • Expensive - While this can vary quite a bit based on the specifics of the project, usually wireless bridges, routers and point to point data transfer hardware is more expensive than CAT5 cable (excluding any installation costs)
          • Can be unreliable - Since WiFi is sent over public air waves, other access points or high levels of data use on a shared wireless network can result in reliability issues.
          • Distance issues - WiFi is highly variable based on antenna location, antenna type, obstructions (walls, trees) and of course, distance
          • Complexity - Configuring and troubleshooting wireless networks can be complex, especially given that most displays are outdoors and data sources are indoors. The wireless devices themselves can be complex to setup and configure (networks, security)
          • Stuttering and dropped data - Due to the highly timing sensitive nature of DMX data combined with the reliability of WiFi, data can be delayed, resulting in flickering or other issues (think of buffering video on your phone)
It is the recommendation of HolidayCoro that in E1.31 networks, where possible, use wired networks and only in situations that have no other solution, due to physical obstacles, safety, mobile items or other factors, use WiFi.

  • E1.11 Protocol also referred to as "DMX 1990" (Wired RS-485 and there is no standard for wireless DMX)
    • Older protocol use for low channel count (512 channels for DMX, around 1,500 channels for LOR procol) controllers like the EasyPix, 3, 27 and 30 channel Dumb DMX controllers and legacy LOR controllers
    • Typical data rates (the amount of data sent from the PC to the controller) are under 1 Megbit
    • Wired vs Wireless
      • Wired (RS-485)
        • Pro's
          • Cheap - Cables, switches and related hardware are very inexpensive. In some displays large distances can make cost a factor (drive through displays)
          • Reliable - CAT5 cable is not generally affected by outside factors (other local networks, trees, walls, etc)
          • Long distances - Standard Ethernet connections can be run up to 4,000 ft in a single run (distance reduces speed)
        • Con's
          • The CAT5 cable has to be physically run to each location
          • Some locations can be extremely hard to run cable (multiple houses, areas with human traffic)
          • Cable cost (as opposed to wireless)
      • Wireless (No published standard, all are proprietary)
        • Pro's
          • No cables - Allows for cable free (don't forget you still need a power cable) installations
        • Con's
          • Expensive - Typically 10 to 200 times more expensive compared to wired
          • Can be unreliable - Since signal is sent over public shared airwaves, interference can occur
          • Distance issues - Varies by system
          • Complexity - Configuring and troubleshooting wireless networks can be complex, especially given that most displays are outdoors and data sources are indoors.
          • Stuttering and dropped data - Due to the highly timing sensitive nature of DMX data, quality issues can appear in resulting output

If you need wireless for your RS-485 based network (performances, mobile devices, etc) it it almost sure that you will know of this requirement and will need to secure wireless transmitters and receivers.

Here is an overview of wireless on the HinksPix PRO:



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