Add a gigabit Ethernet port to any room instantly for just $50

Hiring a contractor to add ethernet drops to an existing building can be expensive, and leaving cords on the ground can be unsafe. Here's an alternative.

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While the ubiquity of Wi-Fi makes wireless communication accessible to billions, the performance of wireline networking is still unmatched. However, there are circumstances in which connecting a device via Ethernet to a router is not feasible, often because of wiring constraints inherent to older buildings. For freelancers and others who work from home and need the reliability of a wireline connection in a home office, Wi-Fi is simply not an adequate substitute.

Hiring a contractor to install an Ethernet drop in the wall is a deceptively involved procedure. Though it seems as if such an operation should be easy -- after all, it is only one cable -- piping that cable through a finished wall is a time consuming, difficult operation. Ripping out sheets of drywall in order to gain better internal access is significantly more labor intensive, and will leave behind a measurable amount of dust when the procedure is complete. Likewise, you could simply leave an Ethernet cable exposed from your router to the computer you wish to connect, though this would likely create a tripping hazard, and the thickness of typical Cat6 cables would likely obstruct the ability to close doors, creating a new order of problem for home offices, where privacy is likely at a premium.

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Fortunately, there is an affordable, no-compromise solution which allows for an Ethernet jack to be added to existing buildings without the need of contractors, exposed cables, or raceway cable protectors. With the use of powerline Ethernet adapters, an Ethernet connection can be transmitted through the existing electrical wiring in your home. While prior versions of this technology were limited to 100 Mbit connections, the HomePlug AV2 standard allows users of gigabit, fiber-optic Internet services such as Google Fiber, Verizon Fios, and AT&T U-verse to fully utilize their network connection.

The TP-Link AV1000 Powerline Ethernet Adapter supports the HomePlug AV2 standard, and has power-saving functions, bringing it from a maximum power consumption of 2.7W to 0.5W when idling. The adapter is plug & play, the only configuration needed for use is to press a single button to pair both ends of the adapter, which has the additional benefit of encrypting data transmitted through the electrical wiring with AES-128. The AV1000, like all HomePlug-compatible adapters, are platform agnostic, making it compatible with Windows, OS X, and Linux computers, as well as any other device which has an Ethernet port, such as Android-powered set-top boxes, game consoles, and smart TVs. The HomePlug AV2 standard also allows for the use of multiple adapters in one house, if needed. The AV1000 is available for $49.99 (USD), and has changeable plugs permitting use in North America, the United Kingdom, and most of the European Union. Of note, because of the electrical filtering properties of surge protectors, powerline ethernet adapters such as the TP-Link AV1000 must be plugged directly into the mains socket. More usage information is available from TP-Link's product page.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Adding an ethernet jack to a room in an existing structure is prohibitively expensive, and leaving typical ethernet cables exposed is a safety hazard, and would obstruct doors.
  • Powerline ethernet adapters can be used to overcome those difficulties on a budget, providing a compromise-free wireline connection.

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Image: TP-Link