Call me a Luddite, but I've always found the whole idea of setting up a dedicated wired connection just to get a gadget on the network to be a superfluous hassle. At least with Wi-Fi, as both Brian Klug and Jarred Walton have exemplified in recent days, all that's normally involved is twiddling a few software settings to bring a widget online. The approach is particularly attractive for mobile devices, which by their inherent natures are incompatible with wired tethers. But, as wireless networking veterans already intimately realize, the process is rarely that simple. First off, there's interference to consider; from Bluetooth transmitters, cordless phones, microwave ovens, and neighbors' access points. Don't forget about reflection and attenuation; glass, metal and tile, chicken-wire mesh in walls, and the like. Finally, consider the fundamental physics-induced range limitations, which no amount of antenna array augmentation and DSP signal boosting can ultimately surmount. All other factors being equal, for example, you're not going to be able to successfully bridge as lengthy a span at 5 GHz as you can at 2.4 GHz.

AC-powered devices aren't portable, of course; they're permanently mated to a nearby wall socket. Here's where hooking up a network-dedicated Ethernet, coax, phone line or other connection has always annoyed me. I've already hooked up one (thick) wire, the AC power cord. Why can't I just use it for network packet-shuttling purposes, too? In fact, I can; that's the whole premise of powerline networking, although few devices (save the occasional router) currently integrate power-and-packets within them. Instead, indicative of the still-embryonic state of this particular market, you're forced to externally connect a dedicated Ethernet-to-powerline bridge adapter, which you then connect to a different AC socket.

Conceptually, however, the single-connection vision remains valid. And I've noticed encouraging signs of market maturation in recent months. Now-conventional '200 Mbps' powerline adapters are now advertised on sale for around $50 for a two-pack; that's less than half the price that manufacturers and retail partners were promoting them at not so very long ago. And latest-generation '500 Mbps' adapter two-packs are selling for not much more moola; $75 or so. I've been daily using as well as periodically evaluating various powerline networking technologies since the early portion of the last decade, back in the '14 Mbps' HomePlug 1.0 days (say hi if you ever see me at a show, and I'll show you my scars ;-) ). Given recent trends, I figured it was high time for an evaluation revisit. How well do latest generation adapters fulfill their marketing promises? Is it finally time to dispense with burrowing through dirty, spider- and snake-infested crawlspaces and drilling holes in walls and floors in order to route Cat5e cable around?

Technology Fundamentals
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  • fkoehler - Saturday, September 3, 2011 - link

    Seriously, as a networking guy who's been following this since well before 2004, this has to be one of the worst article I've ever read on the subject.
    And equally as annoying is that its on AT and the goofy tone and copy/pasta of chunks of text.
    All you appear to have done is repeat rote basics regarding powerline networking, most of which has been written before numerous times.
    I fail to see anything useful, new, or even interesting in this article.

    Hey, maybe AT can pay me to write about Cisco IOS or Routers, and I'll paste large swathes of text into my article just to dumbfound the readers and appear techy/edgy....

    I wouldn't call you a Luddite, just a p-ss poor writer with obvious feelings of technical superiority. Considering your stupid comment re: Ethernet, I have the same level of faith in anything else you comment on.

    The majority of this article could have been compressed into 2-3 Introductory paragraphs. Everyone even moderately interested in the technology has known there are only 2 players in this market.

    I guess AT is doing the old TomsHardware thing and going for rehashed quantity over quality.
  • EddieCFS - Friday, November 9, 2012 - link

    Problem : Boutique Hotel 4 floors,10 rooms per floor . No additional cabling allowed .
    Is it possible to have four networks ; one per floor ? . How do you "isolate " network from each other if sharing a common CB ?. ( Requirement is up to 10Mbps per room )
  • Maxx11 - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    Hello ,

    I know this thread is kinda old, but I will ask regardless...
    I have two older Panasonic HD-PLC PA100 units. Are these new units you tested in article better -- is it worth upgrade ? Are there even better units available now ?

    Also, are these tested units better than Panasonic HD-PLC when used between breakers with different phase power ? (my experience has been they are almost useless in this situation, which may account for more than half the normal cases)

    Thanks for any info...


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