Networking your home or office to get fast, reliable access to internet, files and content on your network, can (and is almost always) a hassle. Wired solutions involve drilling and cabling (which leads to messed up carpeting and flooring, etc), which most people given an option would avoid. Wireless solutions avoid most of these problems and are convenient and easy to setup. However, wireless routers invariably offer less coverage of your home or office and require either wiring some areas or additional equipment (wireless extenders, access points, etc) to maximise coverage.
There is a really innovative alternative solution which has been around for a couple of years but seems on the large part to be either unknown or ignored in Ghana for home/office use, Powerline Networking. So what is Powerline Networking?
Powerline Networking is specific use case of a wider system, Power line communication (PLC), which Wikipedia defines as “systems for carrying data on a conductor also used for electric power transmission”. Powerline Networking is therefore simply using existing standard home electrical wiring to create a network to interconnect home computers, peripherals and home entertainment devices that have an Ethernet port and allow distribution of broadband Internet, HD video, digital music and smart energy applications across homes. Powerline networking is emerging as the backbone for home networks allowing any device to be connected wherever there is a power outlet in your home.
Although I have known about Power Line Communication (PLC) and even known about the VRA using a system based on PLC at Akosombo for data and internet connectivity (Broadband over power line (BPL)), it had never occurred to me that it could be leveraged for networking within homes and offices. It was therefore fantastic to read about Cisco’s new Homeplug Powerline adapters (See Press Release), which in turn led me to discover a whole slew of existing products offering similar functionality.
(Note. I have contacted Cisco support to find out if their products support 220V-240V (50Hz) power, which is what we use in Ghana).
Although there are several standards for powerline networking, just as always happens ( VHS beat Betamax, Blu-ray beat HD DVD), one standard usually wins and dominates. Homeplug (Homeplug AV is a version of this standard) has become the commonest industry standard and is sponsored by the Homeplug Powerline Alliance made of about 65 member organisations. The HomePlug Powerline Alliance also provides the compliance and interoperability program to support the IEEE standard for broadband over powerline networks, IEEE 1901. Here is a quote from the Alliance on why powerline networking just makes sense.
Power outlets are the most pervasive home wiring medium and power outlet connectivity is available worldwide, affording the use of multiple outlets in every room at a lower cost per connection point. HomePlug powerline networks are far easier to install than pulling the dedicated network cable needed for purely Ethernet-based networks and they can also be used to extend wireless coverage by allowing for optimum placement of access points. The convenience of connecting any device through a power outlet is also enabling exciting new products covering entertainment, information access, telephony services, and smart energy/smart home devices.
Although some setups involve wired/wireless combos and multiple adapters most Homeplug Powerline setups usually involve two adapters, one Ethernet adapter that connects to your router and a second adapter for your wired devices in another part of your home/office. Security usually involves setting up passwords on the devices before plugging thme into your sockets.
As you can tell, I am very excited by the discovery of these solutions and I have therefore decided to find and explore the various products and devices utilizing powerline networking, over the course of February. We’ll focus on Homeplug products which is the dominant industry standard, so from here on, we’ll assume powerline means Homeplug. First up most likely will be the new range of Cisco Linksys adapters which caught my eye and set off this cascading effect, that is, if they’ll work in Ghana.
PS. For those of you who have known about this for a while, feel free to roll you eyes at my oohhing and aaahhing but I do hate the hassle of networking.