One of the many things that had me excited about buying my own house was that I planned to network the heck out of it. I would run Cat6 cables to all the different rooms and be able to get connected anywhere. I still may run those network cables some day but for now I’m using an easier, more portable solution to getting the network into my farthest rooms and faster than the wireless bandwidth. I’m using two different brands of powerline networking in my house and they’re both working well for browsing the web on a laptop, streaming 720p HD video to the PS3, and allowing the Tivo to download its program schedule.
Just last month, the IEEE ratified the IEEE 1901TM Broadband over Power Line (BPL) standard. This allows the technology to deliver data rates of 500 Mbps for LAN uses. A big motive behind the technology was allowing all-electric cars access to the network while they charge overnight. Another use case for the technology is extending the network beyond wireless. I’m using powerline networking for devices that don’t have a built-in wireless adapter and applications that needed higher throughput, like streaming videos that would chug a little bit on just the wireless.
I started off with an Asoka PlugLink to take an ethernet connection to my PS3 in the other room since wireless was found to be the bottleneck on streaming certain videos (.mkv in particular) to my TV. The problem with the PlugLink was that it only had a single connection and upon adding a TiVo Premiere to my entertainment system I would need another PlugLink or the TiVo wireless adapter. Instead of spending the money on the TiVo wireless adapater, I spent a little bit more to get the Brite-View LinkE Powerline Adapters which includes a 1-port bridge and a 4-port “switch”.
Both components have the male 2-prong outlet part on their backside and you just plug them into the nearest outlet where you want them. The part with the one port on the bottom is plugged into an outlet in my office. From there, it has a network cable running into it from the router. The other part, with 4 ports in the bottom, is plugged into an outlet near my entertainment center. Network cables are then run from the bottom ports to the PlayStation3 and the TiVo with another cable ready for use if the laptop is in the room.
The PlugLink was then relocated to my back room for the laptop in there, to assist streaming videos to my SDTV. Both systems are able to operate in the house simultaneously. I apologize for not having any throughput measurements but I can say from experience that the bottleneck of streaming videos over the wireless has been resolved with these devices. The Brite-View is described at operating at 200 Mbps+ and the standard that was recently passed allowed devices up to 500 Mbps.
Another feature of powerline systems would be to have 1 “home” device that connects to the router and then multiple connections throughout the house that allows you to network multiple rooms instead of the 1-to-1 connection the above units have.
Western Digital has a Livewire Powerline AV Network kit that provides you with two boxes like the above but you can add multiple boxes to network other rooms with a 1-to-many connection. The traffic is also encrypted according to the description and has speeds up to 200 Mbps. Each device has 4 ports on it and you can include more units by using the software Western Digital provides with the kit.
Cisco-Linksys also has a PLK300 PowerLine AV Ethernet Adapter kit. Its speeds only go up to 100Mbps (in optimal conditions) but it sounds a lot easier to add additional units than the Western Digital approach. You can also purchase stand-alone units (Cisco-Linksys PLE300 PowerLine AV Network Adapter) so you don’t have to purchase a pair when you just need one.
To think that just a few years ago I had a bright yellow 50′ network cable running along the wall from the cable modem into another room. Now everything is much more tidy. I’m enjoying this new standard that allows me to get more consistent network connections in the farthest corners of my house. The other advantage of this approach is that it helps me figure out where I really need network access for when I do eventually get to running network cables.