I have been making it a point to catch up on the state of the powerline networking industry every CES, and this year was no different. In 2013, I had talked about how G.hn and HomePlug were heading for a showdown. A year later, it looks like G.hn's claims haven't materialised into anything concrete. Over the last year, G.hn decided to concentrate solely on the service provider market, and within that, mainly in the China region and other places where HomePlug hadn't taken root yet. The HomeGrid (G.hn) forum announced a number of partnerships, but I heard from industry sources that none of these announcements have resulted in any shipping products yet.

G.hn had two major trump cards over HomePlug when it was brought up as an alternative. The first one being the ability to obtain gigabit-level speeds, and the second one being the ability to operate over any wire (powerline, coax or phone line). With the launch of HPAV2, the first trump card has been lost. Will the second trump card be attractive enough for service providers to risk choosing it over what is proven technology? It looks unlikely based on what I heard and saw at CES. I have been checking out really awesome demonstrations of the capbilities of G.hn from Sigma Designs (back in 2011) and Marvell (in 2013), but I am left wondering what is preventing them from coming to the market. It would be great to hear more on this in the comments section from readers familiar with this space.

On the other hand, HomePlug is going from strength to strength. Over the last year, they have cornered the 'PLC for electric cars' market, developed a certification program (Netricity) for long-distance low-frequency narrow band PLC (up to 500 kbps below 500 kHz) and launched the nVoy certification program for IEEE P1905.1 hybrid networking products.

The HomeGrid forum had its fair size of news to share too, but the real success of a technology lies in shipping announced products to end users (be it service providers or retail consumers). As of now, I am not aware of any shipping G.hn product. All the networking vendors (catering to the service provider market) that I talked to at CES seem to be committed to HomePlug for the near future. None of them have any G.hn products in their pipeline currently. If this is the state even three years after silicon was first demonstrated, I am not sure how G.hn can make inroads any further (considering that one of their trump cards is no longer on the table).

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  • Hyperlite - Friday, January 17, 2014 - link

    I have to say, i picked up an Actiontec powerline kit on a whim a few months ago and i'm using it to provide ethernet to my direcTV box for ondemand content. It's been absolutely rock solid in my house, and the sending and receiving units are not on the same breaker. I don't know what kind of throughput i'm actually getting, but it has no trouble getting DirecTV's 1080p24 ondemand content through the pipe. I'm glad to see this tech really get foothold.
  • nathanddrews - Friday, January 17, 2014 - link

    I have to agree. I was going to help my buddy wire his new house with CAT6, but after looking at the time and energy required I asked him to try the TP-LINK TL-PA511 to connect his two main tech/entertainment rooms. It was just too damn easy! I thought there might be an issue with the outlets being on separate circuits, but it didn't impact anything that we could tell. Plenty of speed for transferring large files and streaming all the audio and video he needs. He's since added a few more to other rooms in the house. I honestly can't see the downside of these things... from the perspective of simple home use.
  • Samus - Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - link

    I know! It's surprising how solid powerline stuff works. I have a Trendnet kit that hasn't ever needed a reboot and it transfers a real 9MB/second, plenty for streaming anything.
  • LtGoonRush - Friday, January 17, 2014 - link

    Home powerline networking is pretty pointless now that we've left the bad old days of Wireless-G. With a good Wireless-AC router and adapters you can get a wired-equivalent experience over a large house, and we're on 5Ghz now so crowded 2.4Ghz spectrum isn't an issue. If you're going to make an investment in networking hardware, it just makes much more sense in most cases to invest in good WiFi equipment that will help all of your devices.
  • simonpschmitt - Friday, January 17, 2014 - link

    In an ideal enviroment you would be right But if you're living in an old building I found powerline very useful. If only to get an access point to the other side of an 120 cm thick load bearing wall.
  • Flunk - Friday, January 17, 2014 - link

    Or in a condo building, there are a lot of Wi-Fi products fighting for airspace. If the one I bought hadn't already been wired up with CAT6 I would have picked up one of these kits. There is definitely a need there, but the applications are fairly slim.
  • LtGoonRush - Friday, January 17, 2014 - link

    While that was true for 2.4Ghz on Wireless-N and previous standards, Wireless-AC mandates the 5Ghz band so you'll have channels to yourself even in densely populated areas. Improvements related to signal reflections, beamforming, and SDMA mean much better performance even in larger houses with thicker walls. Overall this means that for most applications where powerline networking would previously have been considered Wireless-AC is a better choice. Obviously you will only get a decent experience with decent-quality hardware.
  • DarkXale - Friday, January 17, 2014 - link

    Not really. I'm already sitting with a RT-AC68, with a 2013 RMBP (hint; both use the same wifi controller). While the throughput is good in the rooms directly adjacent to where the router is, the other rooms still tend to dip into rather low capacities, and I do need to switch to 2.4GHz N in some rooms. That was the case even back when the AC68 was somewhat buggy and 2.4ghz 40mhz didn't work - now with twice the bandwidth that cutoff distance is much shorter.

    Yes that is running with a 3-stream 80MHz bandwidth (most ship only 2 stream); though as the building is located where we can call 'in the middle of nowhere' theres nothing really to interfere with either network.
  • Impulses - Saturday, January 18, 2014 - link

    802.11AC might be fine for three typical US household... But here in Puerto Rico houses are usually solid concrete and the wall penetration for 5GHz just isn't there. I recently bought an RT-AC68 and while it definitely improved upon my ancient WRT54G it still wasn't enough to cover the entirety of a modest 4 bedroom/2 bathroom house, and I dropped it dead center of the house.
  • Impulses - Saturday, January 18, 2014 - link

    This is a 1 story house too btw... Signal penetration past rooms like bathrooms/kitchen is still poor (guessing it's the combo of piping plus concrete plus dense metal shelving in some closets), never mind the patio etc.

    Not that I'd advocating power line networking mind you, maybe I should give it a try, for now I just set one router up at one end of the house and another one at the opposite end, interconnected by the Cat6 cable I had already hung along the main corridor years ago.

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