Powerline Networkworking – A Wi-Fi Network Alternative

Use your electric wiring to create a home network; fast, and cheap.

Powerline When most of us consider setting up a home network, we generally tend to be single minded. Automatically, it seems, we focus on Wi-Fi to the exclusion of any other network solution; and there are alternative solutions.

Wi-Fi has obvious advantages, not the least of which is it does away with the messy job of installing network cables which tend be unsightly, and in some cases difficult to install; particularly if run between floors.

On the other hand, Wi-Fi can be a less than satisfactory solution to networking since issues such as distance between devices, thickness of walls and physical separation in the case of devices separated by floors, can impact Wi-Fi performance. In fact, in the past I have had less than acceptable performance with Wi-Fi devices located on different floors.

Power Line Communications (PLC) is a technology that uses the electrical wiring in your home, or your office, to provide network and Internet communication between attached devices, including computers, digital media devices such as a Tivo/Slingbox, and gaming consoles like the Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Wii.


To network two computers, for example, you start by plugging the outlet adapters, which form the backbone of the technology, into two appropriate electrical outlets. Then, connect the outlet adapters to the Ethernet ports on your computers and voila! – you now have a basic network connection between the two machines.

Early on in the development of this technology performance was an issue, but in recent years relatively new improvements now permit up to 200Mbps transfer rates. In some European countries 400Mbps transfer rates are common.

So playing games on more than one device; transferring video, music, or other high-volume files on the network, or using devices such as network hard disk to store large files, are not an issue.

Powerline 2 As with Wi-Fi, the signals have the ability to travel a short distance outside your home, so this technology includes the capacity to set an encrypted password to enhance network security.

There is some resistance to this technology in the U.S. amongst short wave radio hobbyists, since it’s possible for these adapters to generate unacceptable interference to short wave radio communication.

Quick facts:

Simple to set up – just plug in

Instant network connection

No network cables to install

Easy Internet connection sharing Network – Computers, Game Consoles, HD Media Devices

Cost: $100 – $200 (approximate)

If you’re interested in additional information on this technology, then checkout the Universal Powerline Association website.

Suppliers of this technology include these familiar companies: NetGear and D-Link.

For additional information checkout “Wired or Wireless?” by fellow Tech Blogger TechPaul. As well, a TechPaul reader asks – why upgrading to Gigabit Ethernet didn’t improve their Web surfing speed? For the answer, read “Gigabit Ethernet Didn’t Make Internet Faster “, on his site.

Update – May 22, 2010: A regular reader has serious concerns regarding this type of technology, and in the interest of fairness, his views should be heard here.

Apart from presenting a gaping security hole, the transmission of Internet content via radio frequencies over power lines that have not been designed for such frequencies (up to 30 MHz), and therefore are not shielded, causes power lines to radiate like any other antenna.

In effect, by using home-PLC, you are setting up a broad-band local jammer that covers almost the whole short-wave spectrum with the potential (if millions of unsuspecting users apply this technology), to block world-wide shortwave communications much more effectively than any jamming network in use during the Cold War.

The peddlers of this technology have suffered one setback after another when they tried to establish PLC as a means to cover the “last mile” for ISPs, because, for the reasons mentioned above, they simply cannot meet the standards for harmful (i.e. interfering) RF radiation.

To recoup some of their investment, the involved companies now try to market their (s)crap to home users, using compliance certificates that have either been forged, or obtained by illegal means, because they are unable to meet the criteria laid down by the pertinent radio authorities.

Therefore, radio amateurs all over the world, broadcasters and many other commercial and government shortwave users, have joined forces to combat PLC, and I am one of them.

Will you therefore, please make an addendum to the above-mentioned article and point out the downside of this technology, which seems to be so deceptively simple for the layman – just plug and play, but he doesn’t know what he is doing to the rest of the world. For further information, detailed reports, etc. please check with your local amateur society and the ARRL.

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Filed under Geek Software and Tools, Home Networking, Interconnectivity, Networking, WI-Fi Alternatives

2 responses to “Powerline Networkworking – A Wi-Fi Network Alternative

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