Powerline adapters: Home networking without rewiring

Three major powerline networking technologies offer high-speed connections simply by plugging small devices into electrical outlets

1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3

With all three technologies, individual adapters cost less than $100. Of course, you need at least two. Beyond retail distribution, several power utilities have begun offering broadband Internet connectivity over power lines, typically using some form of the UPA or HomePlug technologies, and adapters are included with the service.

HomePlug standard

"Data over power line has been kicking around for more than 15 years, but by 2000 nearly all the interference issues had been resolved," explained Matt Theall, Intel Corp.'s powerline initiative manager and president of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance. The alliance was formed in 2000, and 14Mbit/sec. HomePlug 1.0 adapters began shipping in early 2002, he said. About three years ago, an intermediate Turbo specification offering 85Mbit/sec. reached the market.

"That enabled a new class of applications, not just for data networking, but for things like audio, streaming video and voice over IP," he recalled. "Then, in November 2006, we began shipping the 200Mbit/sec. HomePlug AV standard, geared for video."

A pair of Linksys powerline adapters, which use the HomePlug specification.
A pair of Linksys powerline adapters, which use the HomePlug specification.

Currently, 37 vendors are shipping HomePlug adapters, Theall said, adding that product returns have been less than 1%. Sales of HomePlug units of all sorts have been almost exactly doubling from year to year, and he expects that 11 million units will have shipped during the year ending in October.

In the future, he expects to see them built into or used for televisions, DVD players, speakers, home automation gear, smoke detectors and docking stations to connect iPods to sound systems. A 1Gbit/sec. version is also under development.

"It's been slow taking off in the U.S.," noted Eric Deming, product marketing manager at Cisco-Linksys LLC, a HomePlug vendor and a division of Cisco Systems Inc. in Irvine, Calif. "As with HomePlug 1.0 and Turbo, initial acceptance has been better in Europe, where using wireless is problematic because of the brick and mortar used in home construction. It's also been a little expensive -- it costs $179 for two, where $149 will get you wireless card and a wireless adapter. It's also a little bit nonintuitive -- buyers may not understand that they need two, one for each end. That's why we sell them in kits of two."

1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon