Gremlin in the wires
POWERLINE NETWORKING technology is nothing new. It allows a computer network to be established using conventional electricity cabling instead of the usual ethernet cabling or wireless connections. At one stage it was going to be used to deliver consumer broadband services by Eskom, but that never happened. However, home kits have become available for establishing local area networks for homes and businesses and readers have asked for more information about this technology. Your wish is our command.
Ethernet cabling is the best way to establish a home or office network, but the cable itself has to be pulled through the walls – so it’s not terribly convenient. Wireless is easier in that regard but has limited speeds and suffers from obstructions and the like. The promise of Powerline ethernet is speeds similar to ethernet with simplicity akin to wireless. Would that it worked. Unfortunately, my experience with the technology wasn’t great, to say the least.
The product we test is the Belkin Powerline AV Starter Kit, which includes two network points and ethernet cables to connect them to your computing devices. To install the system you simply plug in the points – although we required British plug adapters – and sync them up. That was simple enough. We connected one end to an existing router and the other to a computer. The lights on the adapters showed they were connected and that signal quality was good.
And that was as far as we got. Network traffic was clearly flowing through the points but the computer used in the test wasn’t receiving a usable address from the router. Instead, it seemed to pick up settings from the powerline adapters – with the result it couldn’t connect to the Internet or other local computers via the router. That also limited our ability to test connection speeds.
Though it’s possible the powerlines we were using were just simply so bad in quality the network was unusable, the same thing happened when the adapters were plugged into two adjacent plug points on the same section of cabling. Indicator lights also suggested that connection was good.
This is a great technology in principle but we just couldn’t get it to work. So you might want to get a techie in to help you if you decide to go for it. But there’s a bigger problem facing this product: it’s so expensive in South Africa you could actually save money by getting someone in to run ethernet cabling throughout your house – which kind of negates the whole thing in the first place.