Getting to know powerline networking
FRUSTRATED WITH INTERNET BLACK SPOTS IN YOUR HOUSE? IMPROVE YOUR HOME’S INTERNET COVERAGE WITH THIS HANDY GUIDE TO POWERLINE NETWORKING.
WE’VE TALKED A lot in this column about how you can use range extenders and mesh networks to get Wi-Fi to reach the far corners of your home. But there’s another great technology available for getting better home coverage: powerline networking, aka HomePlug AV, aka IEEE 1901.
As the name implies, powerline networking uses your home’s electrical wires to get data from one point to another. Because it’s using physical wires, it’s less susceptible to contention and interference than Wi-Fi, and in most cases, it will provide better and more reliable performance. It’s a great alternative to running Ethernet cabling through your house, and is extremely easy to set up.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR
Powerline networking provides a stable point-to-point network connection, similar to Ethernet. It can be used to connect wired devices in remote corners of your house. If you have a game console out in the granny flat, for example, it might be better to connect it with a powerline adapter than try to force the Wi-Fi signal to reach it.
It’s also very commonly used for bridging wireless access points. Wireless extenders and most mesh networks have a problem: when they retransmit wireless signals, they’re competing with themselves for airtime. That can lead to some serious performance issues. And then there’s the fact that they need to be carefully placed so that each wireless node can talk to each other reliably.
Using powerline adapters to connect your mesh or access points with each other solves both of those problems. We’ve often noted that the ideal wireless setup is a mesh network with the mesh points connected to each other with physical cables — powerline is one way you can achieve that.
HOW YOU SET IT UP
Powerline adapters are typically sold in pre-configured pairs. You just plug each into a wall socket somewhere in your house and they will form a data link between them.
Then you have to connect them to the rest of your network. Typically, each adapter will have an Ethernet port. Using an Ethernet cable, you connect this to either a user device like a PC, or to a networking router, switch or access point. All the devices connected to one
powerline adapter will instantly be able to talk to all of the devices connected to the others. Usually, you don’t even have to configure anything.
HomePlug AV does allow you to add additional adapters to the network, as well as change the security password. The security password is a common code, a bit like a Wi-Fi password, that encrypts communications between adapters, as well as identifies the network that they’re attached to. Usually, passwords and additional devices are added using an app or web console, just like a router.
We should note that, given how common it is to use powerline as a way of connecting Wi-Fi access points and mesh points, some vendors have also started selling integrated powerline and Wi-Fi devices. These devices serve as both powerline adapters and wireless access points, providing everything you need to create a second wireless network in your home and bridge it back to your main network.
POWERLINE NETWORKING PROVIDES A STABLE POINT-TO-POINT NETWORK CONNECTION, SIMILAR TO ETHERNET. IT CAN BE USED TO CONNECT WIRED DEVICES IN REMOTE CORNERS OF YOUR HOUSE.
The TP-Link TL-WPA7510 and Netgear PowerLINE 1000 + WiFi are powerline kits that have wireless access points built in.