Powerline Ethernet uses the existing electrical wiring in your home or office along with special adapters to connect your computers to the data network and Internet router.
Powerline Ethernet adapters convert and transmit the data signal by using a different frequency then the one used by the electrical current. The concept is similar to how dozens of radio stations transmit signals at the same time in the same city and yet your FM tuner can pick them out of “thin air” so you just get the one frequency you selected.
The key advantage of Powerline Ethernet is that there is usually an electrical outlet in every room and on every floor and they are all connected through the same Electrical Circuit Panel in your home or office. Many homes were built decades ago and were not hard wired for computer network connections. Older construction techniques that used Plaster have mesh in the walls that acts like a shield blocking WiFi signals between rooms. If rewiring your home or office with computer grade network cable is not an option, and the WiFi signals cannot penetrate the walls, Powerline Ethernet may just save the day.
One problem with Powerline Ethernet is the way the technology works. In the United States, homes tend to be wired in what is called “Split Phase.” Electricity enters at 240v and splits in to two 120v legs. In short, the rooms you want to connect may be on different 120v legs and therefore Powerline Ethernet speeds can be a little slower than if both outlets in the two separate rooms were on the same 120v leg. In most cases, even rooms on different 120v legs can still connect but in extreme cases, special jumpers need to be installed at the Electrical Panel to help the signals cross between the 120v legs.
Powerline Ethernet networking can achieve speeds of up to 500Mbps under perfect conditions or as low as around 50Mbps. All of these speeds are sufficient for browsing the Internet and even streaming music or videos. Realize the average broadband download speed is between 5Mbps and 30Mbps so even the slowest Powerline Ethernet connection is adequate. These slower speeds may not be optimal for local area networking for data intensive business applications on an Office File Server where the minimum acceptable speed is usually 100Mbps and the current standard is 1Gbps but it is better than no connectivity at all.
I use Powerline Ethernet as connectivity of last resort in Apartments were the WiFi signals will not penetrate the walls even between two side by side rooms or the range of the WiFi signal is significantly degraded by interference. Another issue especially in Apartment Buildings is lack of signal separation. If the twenty nearest apartments within 1500 feet all have WiFi and there are only eleven available WiFi channels, there will be overlap. The laws of physics state that two objects cannot occupy the same space and the same is true of WiFi channels.
Here is a real world example: I was in a large hi-rise Apartment building in New York City and the Time Warner UBEE combination cable modem and wireless (WiFi) Router signal could not get between the bedroom and the living room. I plugged in two Powerline Ethernet Adapters, one in each room and within five minutes I had a rock solid wired Ethernet connection using the Electrical wiring to transport the data signals. In this case, I put a Wireless Access Point (converts a wired to a wireless data signal) in the living room but I could have just as easily put a multi-port network switch for wired connections to share the Internet connection to the TV, Blu-Ray player, and Sirius Radio.
Remember, Powerline Ethernet allows you to use the electrical copper infrastructure in your walls to build out a data network of last resort when traditional wired and WiFi network solutions are not an option.
For more information on Powerline Etherner, visit:
Home Plug Alliance
Here are some Powerline Ethernet Options:
Actiontec – 500Mbps Powerline Network Adapter Kit
Belkin Powerline Solutions
D-Link Amplifi Powerline Products
Netgear Powerline Products