Why Is It Most Motherboards Don’t Have Built-In Wi-Fi?

wirelesscardThe cheapest new motherboard for a PC is about $40. On that motherboard regardless of OEM you will find a built-in network interface that allows for 10/100Mbps wired Ethernet connectivity. For any other higher-priced motherboard you would buy, it would also have built-in wired networking. In fact it’s probably true you’d have a hard time finding a PC (meaning not server) mobo without an Ethernet LAN port.

Here’s a challenge for you: Find a motherboard with built-in wireless networking on the board. Do they exist? Yes, but it will be something like this, and it’s not cheap.

Now of course you could just say "install a wireless card" or "use a wireless USB stick", both of which are cheap and readily available, but why do we have to do that? Given how cheap wireless networking is, why is it not included on every motherboard just like wired networking is?

In the notebook/netbook/tablet dept., there isn’t a single one made today that I know of that doesn’t have wireless built-in, so it’s not an issue of whether OEMs can place the technology on them. It’s also not an issue of driver support since both Windows and Linux support many different wi-fi cards.

Does anyone have a good explanation as to why wi-fi isn’t included on every PC motherboard?


  1. Renegeek says:
  2. Possibly because of the interference inside of a desktop computer case that might occur if they didn’t have a bulky antenna sticking out of the back. This bulky antenna might increase the risk of failure upon delivery of the desktop computer. Another factor might be that since WiFi is ‘not ready for Star Trek’ that desktop users would be disproportionately likely to want to choose their own NIC.

    • Well, I’d assume if built-in wi-fi were there, an antenna whip would be bundled with the board, but not attached (it would come in a small plastic bag similar to how SATA cables are shipped with hard drives) so it could be shipped proper. I don’t think there would be any way to have an antenna-less way of going about it since PC cases are so different from model to model.

    • The rear panel only has so much space and the fact that for best results you need to to move the antenna around a bit, and possibly have a large metal case blocking most of the signal.  I guess you could add a four foot extender so the antenna could be moved around on the desk, but I suspect that by that time the costs won’t be too competitive, and whoever buys it would rather have taken that extra money, bought a USB WiFi, and pocketed the savings.

      • Dell desktop PCs that ship with wi-fi have simple whips that seem to do the job fairly well without an extender. Not saying it’s great, but it works.

        • That’s one of the issues though.  The slightest degradation slows your wireless speed down, it doesn’t matter what letter you’re using.  My wife used to be wired, and now she’s wireless.  I upgraded her to N for starters and then played with extending and getting the USB where it got the best signal.  Otherwise, copying files from my wired 1 gigabit port to her G WiFi was like waiting for a 56K modem connection.

          There can be quite a difference between working, working well, and working great.

          • Ruling out if it’s a channel issue (if on 3, go to 6 or 9, etc.), if the whip simply couldn’t grab a signal, then yeah the extender is definitely required.

          • My router already picks the best channel to use every time it gets reset.  Granted, it can still be an issue, but that’s why I use InSSIder and see what the other networks are around me, and if it looks crowded, I’ll reset and forget.  There’s really only three channels in the B/G spectrum that are interference free from each other anyway, which is a sad part of the specification.  I’m still running in compatibility mode here, but I’m thinking about making the N part all N, and the guest part G only.  It’s currently an open AP, but I’m thinking about making the N part WPA2 and leaving the G open.  My biggest worry was over my wife’s communication, but she uses VPN, so going over an open AP isn’t a big deal.

  3. I think has to do more with cost. It would probably cost the mobo manufacture more to integrate on motherboard than to buy an add on card or USB device.This would put the motherboard in a higher cost range which would slow the sales. Asus WiFi boards are a good example.  Back in the early 2000’s Intel was going to do it but they could not get
    a favorable manufacturing cost and they scrapped the idea because it
    would make their boards $60.00+ more expensive.

    • Eight years ago, you’re right, absolutely not do-able without hiking the price. However I do wonder if it would really add that much of a per-unit manufacturing cost to add in the wi-fi now.

  4. Anonymous says:

    A few years back I had a mobo  with wifi… the Asus P5K-E if I recall correctly.  You plugged the antenna to the board via a foot long wire and had it sit on your pc.  The problem?  Like most wifi units, it took a fair amount of work and tech calls for a newbie (like me) to get it to work properly.  By the time I had figured it out I had bought a wifi router instead…  I think board manufacturers don’t want to have to field hundreds (thousands?) of customer complaint calls over issues they don’t control anyway.

    ps:  This is an issue that car manufacturers are already facing from irrate customers complaining about their wifi/bluetooth toys not properly synching with their new car…  whose fault? Car manufacturer, phone/tablet makers, bluetooth, wifi?  Someone will need to ramp up customer service centers to massage angry egos…

    • Touching on the automobile issue for a moment, it’s generally true that the latest tech concerning wi-fi technology in cars is usually at least 5 years behind what you can buy off the shelf now – and that’s because it takes a lot longer to design, finalize and deliver a car compare to a desktop or mobile computer. Car wi-fi will get better by around 2015.

  5. anonymous says:

    I think this is a quite silly discussion…Nobody buys a truck and asks why they can’t go boating in it (they in fact do make truck-boat-trucks…). Same thing about buying a boat and wanting to drive it on the road. These are possible, but in no way in demand.

    Buying a laptop implies mobility, thus a wifi adapter should be built-in to the mobo. Buying a desktop implies that the machine will be located in the same place for the next few years, requiring only a wired connection.

    If somebody actually prefers to use a slower, less secure connection on their desktop because they find it difficult to run an Ethernet cable, they probably need to re-asses their computing needs and buy a notebook instead.

    • I’m sure all those with media center PCs will be happy to know you’d rather have them drag wires across the floor to their entertainment centers, because your “assessment” requires them to do so.

      • anonymous says:

        Why would you connect a Media Center at such slow speeds when you could easily achieve gigabit performance with proper wiring? I can’t help it some people are lazy and don’t want to take the time and effort to properly wiring their buildings (even renters can use baseboard/raceway solutions w/o any infrastructure changes).

      • Wired will still beat wireless, and if I’m streaming with a media center PC and not just watching transfered files, you’d either be wired, or you’d better have the router pretty close and with a clean signal.  And with HD, even more so.  In theory, yes it sounds like there shouldn’t be a huge problem.  But in reality, it’s a different thing.

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