Networking

Ethernet over power lines: Netgear makes major improvements

Using in-house electrical wiring for networking computers usually only happens if wires can't be run or Wi-Fi connections are less than adequate. Netgear's new Ethernet over power-line devices may change that.

Last year, I went through what I consider the perfect storm of network cabling. To explain, I was asked by a client to set up an Ethernet network at one of his rental facilities. For some reason, I could not run cables. To make matters worse, there was an inordinate amount of grounded metal (galvanized studs) acting like RF sponges. That eliminated Wi-Fi gear as an option.

Out of options, I tried Netgear's Powerline equipment and was disappointed. Bandwidth never came close to what Netgear advertised. Still, the client was not deterred by the limited throughput. They were happy to have anything at all. I guess sneaker networks get old fast.

New and improved

Previously, Netgear offered two product lines, one rated at 85 Mb per second and one at 200 Mb per second. Both were lucky to achieve half that throughput. Still, Netgear seems determined to make Power line Ethernet a viable solution. They just announced a new product line that may take care of the bandwidth problem. The new adapters have the following enhancements :

  • Throughput speed of 500 Mb per second.
  • Prioritized Quality of Service (QoS), important for streaming media applications.
  • Simple 128-Bit AES encryption, using the "Push-and-secure" button.
  • Backward compatible with other Netgear Powerline products and equipment from other vendors, if it's HomePlug AV certified.
Two models

Netgear is offering two models, the Powerline AV 500 Adapter Kit/XAVB5001 (courtesy of Netgear):

As well as the Powerline AV+ 500 Adapter Kit/XAVB5501 (courtesy of Netgear):

Netgear mentions that the devices are designed to leave the second socket of an outlet pair open for use. Also, the XAVB5501 provides a filtered power socket, if outlets are in short supply. Each kit comes with two adapters.

Final thoughts

I just ran an Ethernet cable about 20 meters to get network access to our main HDTV in the living room. I first tried using a Wi-Fi link. But it required a repeater, which cut throughput enough to cause buffering. I'm thinking the new Powerline adapters would have saved a lot of work.

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127 comments
PLC-CLLI
PLC-CLLI

Michael, May I send you some related info on PLC-enhancement to transfer rate? You may google cal-lab plc lightning isolator.

gsveeb
gsveeb

I'm using one of their older models and found the following issues: I had one of those Radio Shack "Telephone over Electrical Wiring" adapters on the same circuit and it basically killed the bandwidth. Both devices do not play nice with each other. Had to move the telephone adapter to a completely different circuit. I also had one of those floor lamps that you touch to turn them on and off or change the intensity of the three way bulb plugged in on the same circuit. Every time the adapter would transmit or receive data the light would be changing intensity in time with the data. Freaked me out the first couple minutes before I figured it out. If you have a surge protector, plugging the lamp into it seems to solve the problem (some sort of filtering, I guess), but be careful with that because the lamp might draw too much current and exceed the rating of the surge protector.

rsimms
rsimms

Before I am sold, I would like to hear from a technical person vs marketing.

roger
roger

Do these devices work over two wire ac or does it have to be three wire?

paul
paul

My main concern with these devices is how much thought and consideration is put into the design of these devices, with the ever increasing speed is the possibility of ever increasing emmisions into the RF spectrum from DC to 30 Mhz. Amateur Radio Operators are increasing experiencing a rise in the noise floor at HF frequencies and in some cases the total inability to operate at their allocated frequencies as the noise is so high. Ironically people think that Amateur Radio is out of date with the Internet, VoIP and Email, but as been shown in many case as recently as Haiti and Chile when all other means of communication have failed Amateur Radio is initially the only means of communication readily available. It may be argued that the situation at the site of crises would probably have no such adapters operating as the mains has probaly failed. However as in these adapters it takes two to locations to communicate and if a receiving Amateur Station is unable to make sense of any distress communiaction the damage has been done.

jreavis
jreavis

Where would the Web content on the Internet come from? I'm thinking, if there is no ISP, the data has to come from somewhere. So does the power line act like a car antenna, just picking up signals wherever you happen to be? I feel like that person who first posted in this discussion here... it's all new to me, and very exciting.

uli.fuerst
uli.fuerst

How many computers can you connect over power lines? Are there collisions or can there be as many frequencies imposed over power as you like? Uli

gordon.obrien
gordon.obrien

I have six of the 200mbps model dotted around my home, but I find the 3 LEDs on the units are far too bright. I have 3 in one room and although they are hidden behind cupboards/chairs etc, with the room lights dimmed it is like watching the Northern Lights! Just one unit in a bedroom is irritating. You only use the lights when first setting the units up and very occasional diags. Putting 5 layers of tape over the LEDs still lets you see the LED status without being too obtrusive.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Since all it requires is a person with a laptop and one of those plugs. TO run around neighborhoods and plug into peoples outside plugs undetected, and they get to steal all your information, and if several people on the same transformer are using it, then they get it all. Fortunately this new version says it's encrypted. Which should stop the hackers for a little while.

mike_patburgess
mike_patburgess

Oh great now we have 110volts or 220 volts connected to some computer gear. Just remember, lightening strikes power lines and there are ample surges going down those lines which will fry anything. Do not get caught up in the hype that this will not happen. Lightnening can jump over any protection that they can put in place which will compromise every piece of gear that you have connected to a power line.

jridge76
jridge76

What happens when we have wireless power? It is kind of a tongue in cheek question, however what filters networks from each other? If the utility company is using the same thing for smart meters and everyone in your neighborhood is using the same thing. Of course I am kind of simple.

wildpitch
wildpitch

I forget the model I tried of these but it had to hop over a remote store that was essentially fed from the same power source, but there was a remote fuse / breaker in line, so I had one of these powerline units either side of the fusebox. Needless to say it didn't work. Anyone know if there's a solution for that as it worked great when the units could see each other on the same wire?

gclarkso
gclarkso

The only experience I have with these products have been bad. The last time I tried one of these I had to replace my network card. Does it work?

CorkyMuldoon
CorkyMuldoon

I've been using Linksys Ethernet over power line devices to connect DirecTV set-top boxes to my living room DVR, to stream audio and to stream content over the internet from Netflix. Throughput on one link is as advertised (85mbps) and the other link maintains a steady 55 - 60mbps. One definite advantage the Linksys units have over these Netgears - the Linksys devices at the distant end are equipped with 4 Ethernet ports. The Netgears described here have only one, which will necessitate additional costs for Gb Ethernet hubs to connect multiple devices. Ethernet over power lines, in my case, works very well.

Michael L Jones
Michael L Jones

I've been using a pair of Netgear POE devices to get internet to my living room and TV for about a year now. With 6 meg DSL incoming, living in a neighborhood with lots of signal, and all my stuff upstairs, wireless was a crap shoot at 2.4 GHz regardless of B, G or N. 5 GHz N might work better, but they still want a mint for a remote repeater in most cases. We've been pretty pleased with the performance. It definately is faster than anything I have incoming from broadband and drives our DVR and net connected Blu-Ray as well as can be achieved. Haven't been using it for heavy file transfers, but can stream audio, YouTube and Amazon Unbox videos just fine.

seanferd
seanferd

At least there seems to be something that might work well on "consumer" wiring. I've not heard anything about these for a while.

santeewelding
santeewelding

I recall this being heralded as a Second Coming. Still late, it seems.

hmmmmm!
hmmmmm!

Interesting remark on surge protectors... a bit off subject and could be another area for discussion AKA "Surge protectors". I had my PC get weird every once in a while.. LOTS of non=repeatable errors, but at night it ran just great. It seemed to be related to PC power supply and I was talking to wife about it, "always goes down when you are on line (her PC systems on same 110 circuit) and wonder why you are not bothered, must be my machine, but it works fine at night when you are not on. She suggested running 110 cord from another circuit (as ID'd by breakers).. Tried it and ALL works fine now. Changed the surge protector at same time. SO NOT power supply, was the circuit and why that is happening I do not know, nor going to bother about as all working fine now. Do now wonder what can happen with the data on 110 as something was wacko on the 110 we used.. know it is assigned on top of power, but if power browns or surges or or or..what then?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Sharing experiences like yours is invaluable. TR members can draw from this and learn. Kudos to you.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I am not a marketing person. I have no affiliation with Netgear or any other networking vendor.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Broadband over Powerline (BPL) and HomePlug Association devices. BPL is where you would get the Internet over the power lines that come into your house. http://www.howstuffworks.com/bpl.htm BPL is not in wide use around the world, but it could. HomePlug devices like those in this article are used in pairs. One connects to your Internet gateway device and the other to a computer or networking hardware. http://compnetworking.about.com/od/homenetworking/ig/Home-Network-Diagrams/Powerline-Home-Network-Diagram.htm Hope that helps, if not ask away.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

There is a certain amount of bandwidth and it will be divided amongst the connected workstations. They all use the same frequency, addressing schemes similar to TCP/IP are used to direct the traffic.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

You can turn them off. It is part of Netgear going green.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Since you have to physically plug in, and you have to know what brand/type of device is being used to be compatible. With wireless you can drive around a find open networks quite easily. James

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I know what you are saying. But, there are all sorts of ways your equipment can be affected by a proximal lightning strike. I even have had it enter a facility via the ground rod that was supposed to be protecting. If a surge is running through the power wiring a Ethernet card is the least of your worries.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Keeps powerline traffic secure. I suspect power via RF is a few years away. I have been reading about devices, LED lights in particular that run off of the RF in i9mmediate vicinity. Cool stuff.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I can't remember where I read this, but it is in my notes: "Makers of equipment for low-speed power line networking in the band below 1 MHz have struggled for years with the impact of circuit breakers and two-phase power distribution. Circuit breakers have substantial attenuation in the band used by these devices, so paths from one circuit to another may experience substantially more attenuation than same-circuit paths. Also, most homes have two-phase wiring and there may be no physical connection between some circuits other than the connection at the distribution transformer. Power line communication between such circuits relies on coupling between them, which can easily create 20 dB of loss at frequencies below 1 MHz. Fortunately, the losses from circuit breakers and cross phase coupling are less severe in the band occupied by the HomePlug signal, typically causing only a few dB of additional loss."

auogoke
auogoke

I just purchased the XE104. There are 2 units in the packages, Each unit has 4 RJ-45 ports. (You will use one of these ports to connect to the router). I have not experienced any problem. P.S. I have been thinking of connecting a switch/hub to one of these ports. Do I have to use a crossover cable?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

You and my client express the same thoughts. Thankfully, there is something that works. Also, if you are having trouble with 2.4 GHz, 5Ghz would be worse, when it comes to penetrating physical obstacles.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Is the reason for the second coming. In fact, there are those pushing for Internet access to come over power lines (BPL).

rsimms
rsimms

Sorry, did not mean to imply that you were in marketing. I meant that since these units are not yet currently on the market, info usually comes from marketing first. I made the assumption that this is where the information originated and where you got your information. Traditionally marketing does fully understand technology (not physics majors) and tends to over rate their products. I do appreciate your hard work and research and the fact that you are willing to share this with us.

kkopp
kkopp

Considering that this is over power, all one needs is the right radio equipment pointed at the house. This stuff broadcasts a signal over wire (like all wired communications do). You just don't have the security of shielding or wire twists to keep the signals from leaking from the wires.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

If it's relatively recent, it may be auto-sensing or have a method to change the link configuration.

kkopp
kkopp

Most people don't think about this, but when you're sending these signals over un-twisted lines they become broadcasted signals. Encrypted or not that is bad news. It can interfere with a whole host of currently used and sometimes vital wireless bands. Ask any Ham radio operator about this.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Try something new, please let us know how it turned out. Hopefully for the best.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

There is some controversy as to how much effect it has. Still the fact that it's RF over a wire means it's going to escape. I have a friend that lives near the radio telescope and Green Bank Virginia and they absolutely stopped BPL cold. http://www.gb.nrao.edu/

fiosdave
fiosdave

As an Amateur radio operator of long standing, I have been following the PL scenario closely. This is a POOR idea! So far, all tests have shown that considerable interference can be generated by these systems. Not only for Hams, but for police, fire department, ambulances and many other public services. We already have enough pollution. Radio spectrum pollution may not be as obvious as water and air pollution, but it can be just as dangerous! If trials are proposed in your area, I strongly advise you to protest them!

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Are you on 2m? If so I can hit n0goi on 145.17 for a chat sometime.

kkopp
kkopp

Sorry. I commented without going through all the comments. (a lot of them, anyways) 73's KB0UBD

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I also believe that the US will follow Europe's lead and use embedded fiber optics in Power line cables. It eliminates all the problems, and has a higher-throughput rating.

bowenw
bowenw

Michael, Both HomePlug and HF BPL both use the HF RF spectrum, but part of the HomePlug spec is a requirement to notch out and not use the frequencies allocated to amateur radio. As I mentioned in another post, the ARRL's web site (http://www.arrl.org) is also a good source of info on BPL and the ongoing hassles between the power companies, the FCC and the ham radio community. I think for the most part HF BPL is fast becoming a dead issue, both because of the interference problems with the primary users of the HF spectrum but also because newer technology is being developed that alleviates a lot of the problems with the existing BPL technology.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Thank you. I thought was the case. Yet now days with non-stop innovation, I have to bite my tongue. Specially when they can stop and store a single photon. How cool is that.

Old-Fart-IV
Old-Fart-IV

It has been a few years since I taught Optical theory and system installation. But I do remember why Optical systems were the main choice in explosive and heavy EMI - RF environments. Optical Fiber is basically glass (with extra ingredients) which is an insulator to the RF and EM waves. Thus, the optical signal will not be affected by the EM or RF energy around it. Optical fibers can carry a static charge on their surface (just like rubbing a glass rod with silk), but that can be minimized using grounding and waveguide beyond cut-off techniques.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I have read that these devices have a 300 meter range. I suspect that is if everything is perfect. You have to be aware that interference hurts bandwidth and distance. You may want to check out some of these white papers: http://www.homeplug.org/tech/whitepapers/

amccrum
amccrum

Would this be a possible work-around for the ethernet cabling issue with a 300 ft range limit for a manufacturing application? I could see this being a huge boon to plants using this technology to connect distant locations of a plant where a fiber connection is not feasible for a one-three user application, or even a remote building. Would this also be an issue with a transformer being a "firewall" that eliminates communications to locations beyond it?

seanferd
seanferd

No crosstalk. But interesting! However, shielding the optical signal from a randomly variable and potentially strong magnetic field may be interesting for high-speed data transmission, or maybe not. Optical fiber is routinely run along shared conduit, and many optical undersea cables come with their own high-voltage power cables. I'd be interested to find any papers more or less specific to these ideas.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

That is right in the middle of some amateur radio bands that are used for emergency work. BPL has other issues. Not sure, but I believe there are bandwidth restrictions that make it less interesting than using fiber optics. The link is to an old PPT file, but it explains the technology: www.ee.buffalo.edu/faculty/paololiu/566/highvoltage.ppt

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Not sure what you mean by multiple outlets. If you mean one adapter that can send traffic to multiple remote adapters, as far as I know that is possible. The HomePlug 1900 standard mentions that. James is right about noise and wiring quality as affecting how these work. Obviously switches would be a problem, and dimmers are as well. They introduce noise into the wiring. There is another option as well. Netgear has Powerline access points. May be that would solve your problem. http://www.netgear.com/Products/PowerlineNetworking/PowerlineWirelessAccessPoints.aspx

JamesRL
JamesRL

You never know till you try, the variable is the quality of the wiring in your house and any sources of interference. James

santeewelding
santeewelding

Is common to both optical and radio, isn't it? Do their potentially interactive characteristics lie that far apart on the spectrum not to worry? And, what is the European point of new conduit when ethernet over power lines is meant to take advantage of existing infrastructure?

Slayer_
Slayer_

And how does that work for multiple outlets? Or outlets on light switches, or lights with lights with lightswitches. I'm betting a dimmer switch really fouls this up. I would love to use this technology in my house, right now I have several desktops hooked up with wireless, which is painfully slow. Even the older version of this technology, produces better speeds than wireless.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

We amateur radio operators are concerned about the RF interference BPL causes. I like the European version better. A member clued me into it. Over there they run fiber optic cables down the center of the power cables. Great idea and avoids any unwanted RF interference.