What is Powerline?
Powerline is a way of using the wiring in your home to create an ad-hoc home network, connecting devices in other rooms away from where your router is set up without having to run meters of expensive cable everywhere.
Powerline works by plugging one adapter into a main socket and then connecting this, via a short Ethernet cable, to your router.
You then plug another Powerline adapter into a different mains socket in the house and run an ethernet cable out from this, connecting up your PC, games console or smart TV. Some Powerline devices can act as WiFi extenders, bringing new wireless access points into rooms where Wi-Fi signal isn’t very strong.
If you’ve got your wireless router set up downstairs and the reception isn’t that great upstairs for example you could use Powerline adapters to increase wireless coverage around your home.
Powerline is a very quick and effective way of creating a home network and can be used to connected devices like the BT Vision set-top box to the BT Home Hub in order for on-demand TV content to be watched.
If you don’t want to lose the use of a mains socket, then powerline adapters are available with ‘pass-though’ electrical sockets (like a power strip or power cube) meaning you can create a Powerline connection and not have to sacrifice the use of a mains socket for something else.
Here’s some examples of Powerline adapters we’ve covered:
How fast can Powerline go?
The dominant standard of Powerline technology is called HomePlug AV. This gives ‘practical’ speeds of around 80Mbps and a theoretical top speed of 200Mbps.
The more recent HomePlug AV2 standard provides faster practical speeds of 350Mbps (with a theoretical top speed of 600Mbps) and will likely become the standard as broadband speeds increase and take up of connected devices increases.
The reason why practical speeds are estimated to be so far below their theoretical headlines is because every time someone uses the mains power in the home this will have an impact on speeds.
The effectiveness of Powerline largely depends on the quality of the wiring in your home as well which can vary due to how old your home is and the quality of any shielding (if there is any) on your wires.
Finally, speeds are shared across all the devices you’ve got connected on your Powerline network, and if you’re connected to a 100Mbps Ethernet router then your speeds won’t go any faster than that.
How many Powerline adapters can I have at once?
Every time you add another active Powerline adapter to the network, you halve the available bandwidth. Adapters which aren’t connected to active devices won’t hog bandwidth.
Following on from the question about speed, if you have speeds of 100Mbps across your home Powerline network, adding an extra adapter will reduce speeds to 50Mbps, then 25Mbps, then 12.5Mbps and so on.
For this reason, you can’t have any more than 16 Powerline adapters running in your home network, to stop speeds reducing to low levels.
Can I prioritise traffic across a Powerline network?
Using management software, it’s possible to give certain types of traffic within your home network a higher priority. As such, Powerline is useful for connecting smart TV devices to your router, as you can specify on-demand traffic to get the highest priority.
Powerline adapters like Devolo’s dLAN 200 AVplus comes packages with software that lets you select certain types of traffic over your home network as being high priority.
Are Powerline networks secure?
HomePlug AV encrypts signals using 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). This means that any traffic on HomePlug AV can’t be intercepted and no-one can piggyback on your network.
Powerline networks are usually blocked at the main fusebox in your home, so your neighbours or anybody else outside can’t join your network. If you’ve got a very large home with independently-phased power in different floors or areas, powerline adapters won’t be able to communicate across these, and you’ll need two powerline networks bridged via Ethernet or WiFi.
Ok, so what is HomePlug, HomePlug AV and HomePlug AV2?
Early years of powerline technology saw several competing standards, but HomePlug is now considered to be the official standard everywhere outside of Japan.
HomePlug 1.0 is the earliest version, but you don’t often see HomePlus 1.0 gear for sale these days. It can share the same mains power cables as later versions, but HomePlug 1.0 devices can’t communicate with HomePlug AV.
HomePlug AV is a newer standard, offering faster speeds and built-in encryption. HomePlug AV2 was introduced in 2012, and is being pushed to gradually faster speeds above 1Gbps.
HomePlug Green PHY, something you might see on smart meter branding, is designed to carry signals from smart grid and smart thermostat devices like E.ON’s Smart Grid and myStrom’s ECO LAN. HomePlus Green PHY streamlines data transmissions from these devices so that they use less of power.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has accepted HomePlug and its Japanese counterpart, Panasonic’s HD-PLC, as the basis of its international powerline networking standard, IEEE 1901.
- ZTE Powerline ZXHN H51 series pipes WiFi around your home wiring
- Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless Plus can handle HD and 3D streams
- TRENDnet announces ‘smallest ever’ Powerline 500 AV adapter
- Solwise Smart Link adapter opens new network routes
- Netgear’s Powerline Music Extender pumps up the volume
Devolo’s dLAN 500 AV Wireless Plus will let you kill two birds with one stone – it’s a Powerline adapter that also doubles as a WiFi access point, allowing you to easily extend WiFi coverage around the home.
As well as being super-convenient, streaming HD and 3D video is apparently a breeze thanks to some clever built-in noise reduction tech.
One of the banes of Powerline networks is that devices like your fridge or your washing machine create ‘noise’ on the network, which will interfere with data rates giving you slower speeds. With the dLAN 500 AV Wireless Plus, connections are more stable across the network compared to typical Powerline solutions, thanks to integrated mains filters on both ends, designed to tune out some of this noise.
The dLAN 500 AV Wireless Plus is a dual-band access point, transmitting data on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands (compatible with WiFi N, G, B and A) meaning devices using to it will be able to benefit from less congested connections.
As well as this, there’s three Ethernet ports, so you can connect your Xbox 360, YouView box or Smart TV set all from one source.
The Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless Plus is available online now, from Currys, John Lewis, Maplin and PC World. An individual adapter costs around £90, while a full starter kit costs £130.
January 16, 2013
Solwise’s latest powerline product can choose the speediest route for a reliable connection across your mains wiring.
The NET-PL-500AV-SMT introduces Smart Link technology for noisy mains, communicating over both the standard Live-Neutral wires, and the Live-Protective Earth pair.
The Smart Link adapter costs £95.09 for a pair, and selects the least noisy path to route your data, so one adapter will have to be your ‘home’ connector at the router end of your network.
Smart Link connections are compatible with HomePlug AV200 and AV500, creating up to 500Mbps to share between other AV500 devices, and coexistence with HomePlug 1.0 devices.
October 11, 2012
Netgear has announced Powerline Music Extender, a new type of powerline adapter that lets you pipe music around the home over your home’s wiring.
Perhaps best thought of as powerline meets Sonos, the idea is that you connect an adapters to a speaker at one end and and wirelessly stream audio to a receiver unit that’s plugged into the mains in the other.
The actual Music Extender adapters connect to speakers via RCA cables meaning they’ll work with pretty much all kinds of speakers.
You should be able to stream any kind of music file from your PC or a phone or tablet (iOS and Android only for now).
iPhone and iPad users can also stream audio from Spotify and Deezer and can specify which speakers you stream your tunes to via Airplay.
Netgear hasn’t revealed exactly how you do this via Windows PCs and Android devices yet. For Android phones and tablets we suspect that you’d be able to use the Netgear Genie app.
The Netgear Powerline Music Extenders are ‘pass-through’ type adapters, so you can still have other devices plugged into the mains.
Coming soon to UK stores, we’ll update with price info on Powerline Music Extenders when we get it.
August 30, 2012