An Overview of Powerline Networking

by Aeyne Schriber on February 9, 2012 in Broadband Over Power Lines

Powerline networking represents the next generation technology which allows you to connect PCs and other electronic devices in your home without having to implement any additional wiring to accomplish the job.  With the inception of new technologies for PCs and household appliances in addition to Internet connectivity, powerline networking represents a more convenient option for establishing a unified method for connectivity.

If you are not familiar with powerline networking here is an overview that will provide you with the information you need to know to get started with this type of connectivity.

What exactly is Powerline Networking?

Instead of using the phone jacks in your house to establish a high speed Internet connection such as DSL, powerline networking allows you to utilize existing wires in your home to establish connectivity.  This allows you to connect multiple PCs to the Internet from a single electrical outline.

By connecting to the electrical outlets in your home it provides more versatility in terms of where you locate your PC devices and other electronic devices and appliances.  With a phone jack you are limited as to where you can locate the PCs in your home since some of the rooms may not be equipped with a phone line connection.  Internet connectivity is passed through the power lines in your home making accessibility easier and lower cost.

How Powerline Networking Works

So, if you have all of your appliances and electronic devices connected to the power lines in your home, how can you possibly add Internet connectivity without experiencing interference?

The technology is known as Othogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing also known as OFDM which occupies the unused wires in your power lines.  OFDM will divide unused electrical wires into multiple channels which provide new frequencies for accommodating an Internet connection.  In the event there is interference in the connection, the technology offers a chip which is responsible for controlling the disruption by transferring data transmission to another unused wire in your power lines.

How to Setup Powerline Networking

Powerline networking is fairly easy to install using a Wi-Fi router and a powerline kit.  A Wi-Fi router is the preferred choice since there are more devices that provide wireless capability in your home.  Modern appliances are equipped with wireless Internet, HDTVs for connecting to Internet TV, Xbox and Apple TV, and much more.

If you can handle plugging in an Ethernet cable and a power cord it is rather easy to establish Internet connectivity through a powerline network.  As part of a powerline networking kit you will have access to a powerline adapter.  This is a switch that you plug into the electrical outlet in the wall and contains more than one Ethernet port for connecting multiple devices.

You can begin by plugging the powerline adapter into the electrical outlet in the wall.  Then connect the blue Ethernet cable to the powerline adapter and plug it into the Local Area Network port on your wireless router.  Next, you should use a second powerline adapter and plug it into the electrical outlet in a room where you want to connect to the powerline network.  Within a few minutes the two adapters will recognize one another and then connectivity is established.

Once connectivity has been established you can connect any electronic device to the network which contains an Ethernet port.  This makes setting up a home entertainment system with wireless connectivity easy including a Blu-ray player, Xbox, and other components that operate on an Ethernet connection.  If you experience any dead spots in the wireless connection it is easy to simply place another router in the area that lacks wireless connectivity.

It is also important to mention if your neighbors are close by it is necessary to change the encryption password to prevent them from interfering with your network.  Since it is likely they are on the same electrical circuit it makes it easier for them to connect to your network.  With a powerline adapter you can change your password by pressing the button included on each adapter.  In the event of a power failure the settings will remain intact until the power is restored.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Powerline Networking

One of the main advantages of powerline network is it is very cost effective.  You can typically connect two devices to the network for around $60 and you do not have the expense of any additional wiring.  The configuration is easy to install and accommodates a wide variety of different  types of electronic devices.

Powerline network connections are relatively fast and can support streaming video and other applications that rely on a high speed Internet connection to function properly.  This allows you to create access to these applications anywhere in your home.  The only instance where this may not be the case is if you live in an older house with older circuitry.  The speed can then be affected by the average amount of power you use in your home on a regular basis.

Some of the disadvantages are if you have an older home with poor circuitry you will likely experience more interference and poor performance.  This may require you to change the circuitry in your home especially if your home is as much as a century old.

Powerline technology typically supports Windows-based PCs only and is designed for the standard 110v electrical outlet. The older your circuitry the slower the Internet connection will be.  It is important to check the vendor reviews before choosing a powerline kit and to make sure that you can obtain a refund if the kit you choose results in being incompatible with your electrical circuitry.

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