The Power to Connect: Power Line Technology

Have Wi-Fi dead spots? Tired of your office looking like you battled some electrical beast and kept its dozen cord-like tentacles for trophies on your floor? Or, maybe you live in a rural area that does not have the infrastructure for DSL or other broadband internet technologies. Well, there is another option for creating a network – using power line technology.

Ethernet over power lines is a technology to carry internet signals over the same wiring that carries electrical currents. Although many people are unaware of the technology, it has been in existence for almost two decades. It allows users who have difficulty getting a consistent Wi-Fi connection due to issues such as walls blocking signals, have a network connection. Users also benefit from a reduction in the total number cables of required to create a network.

belkin wifi router plugged in, learn about using power line technologyThere is typically at least one power outlet in every room of a home or office; any outlet can become a data port by plugging in a cell phone-sized ethernet over power line adapter. Computers access the network by  connecting to the adapter using an ethernet cable; in most cases, no  additional software is required and the network does not use additional power. Ethernet over power line use a combination of three different technologies to establish connectivity which include radio waves, wireless networking and a modem,  and provide theoretical connection speeds of up to approximately 200 mb/sec (actual speeds are usually less than half the theoretical limit) and cost less than US $100.00 per adapter.

Most Powerline adapters provide configurable encryption to prevent eavesdropping and to avoid interference by additional networks of power line adapters that are on the same circuit. Unlike many networking solutions, power line networks are easy to setup; they are pretty much plug in and go. The adapters detect all computers on the network and automatically create a network. The adapters have little, if any software. If they do require software, it will be to provide configuration information like an encryption key.

There different (and competing) standards for ethernet over power lines:

  • HomePlug AV (most current)
  • Universal Powerline Association
  • International Telecommunication Union

Although adoption of the technology has been slow in the US, around 40 vendors offer ethernet overpower line adapters. Additionally several power utility companies offer broadband over power lines.

If you would like more information about Powerline adapters or if you are ready to establish your own feel free to contact us today.

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