One Cool Solution to Weak Wifi Signals
Wireless networking solutions are now common for home and office networks, but there are some circumstances in which WiFi is not enough. You may have 'dead zones' in your home or building where wireless signals are either very weak or cannot penetrate at all. In such cases, a cool technology called Powerline Ethernet can solve the problem. Read on to learn all about it...
What is Powerline Ethernet?
Are you struggling to get a decent wifi connection in the far corners of your house? Metal or concrete structures can block or weaken a wireless Internet signal. If your network includes Internet TV, network-attached storage devices, and other bandwidth-hungry wireless devices, they may also be competing for relatively limited wireless signal strength.
A wired network is one alternative, but running cables through ceilings or walls may not be practical. Fortunately, there is a networking solution that makes use of wiring that is already installed throughout your home or office. You may be surprised to learn that an internet connection can be carried over standard electrical power lines, but it's true.
"Powerline Ethernet" is the generic term for this technology. But don't confuse it with "Power over Ethernet," a totally different technology that delivers electrical power to devices over Ethernet cables. Powerline Ethernet works by encoding Internet data into a carrier wave that piggybacks across an electrical power line at a frequency somewhat higher than that of the AC power that shares the line.
Implementing Powerline Ethernet is pretty simple and inexpensive. You need at least two Powerline Ethernet adapters: small devices that plug right into standard electrical outlets. One adapter needs to connect to your Internet router or cable/DSL modem, typically with a standard Ethernet cable. But you can also get Powerline adapters that connect wirelessly. Either way, you'll also need to plug the adapter into an AC outlet. On the other end (the part of your home or office where you want to get an Internet connection), you plug the other adapter into the outlet, and connect it to a computer with an Ethernet cable. But again, you can go wireless if you like. If you need an Internet signal for a tablet, smartphone or other mobile device, you'll need to use an adapter that offers the wireless option.
How Does That Work Again?
In case any of that is a little fuzzy, here's a recap. Your Internet signal will travel from the router or modem (via a wired or wifi connection) to Powerline Adapter #1, which is plugged into a standard electrical outlet. The signal then travels over the electrical wiring in your building to Powerline Adapter #2. From there, you can connect a desktop or laptop with an Ethernet cable, or provide a wifi signal to a mobile device. Optionally, you can have additional adapters in other rooms if Internet is needed there.
The leading standard for Powerline Ethernet is IEEE 1901, which is based on the HomePlug AV technology developed by the HomePlug Powerline Alliance. Other Powerline Ethernet technologies may not be compatible, so you should look for the HomePlug AV or IEEE 1901 designation on any Powerline product that you're considering. Popular networking equipment makers such as D-link, Netgear, Belkin, and Linksys all sell Powerline Ethernet gear. Starter kits including two adapters typically cost less than $100.
HomePlug AV supports speeds of up to 500 Mbps. In practice, your actual throughput may be lower depending on the condition of your electrical wiring, interference from other devices on the power line, the length of the wire's run, and other factors. In general, avoid runs of over 1,000 feet. But even with all of those possible speed impediments, the speed should be comparable to a typical consumer high-speed connection.
A few practical tips: You may have to disconnect coffee pots, microwave ovens, and other appliances from circuits using Powerline Ethernet. Never plug a Powerline Ethernet adapter into a surge suppressor; always plug it directly into an electrical outlet.
Security is inherently stronger on wired networks than on wireless ones. But you may be sharing an electrical circuit with other tenants of your building, raising the possibility that a neighbor could tap your Powerline Ethernet network. So look for Powerline Ethernet equipment that supports encryption and password protection.
Powerline Ethernet is a practical solution to wireless network bottlenecks and dead zones. If you have such problems, give Powerline Ethernet a try. I encourage you to also check out other solutions to the weak wifi signal problem in my article 10 Ways to Boost A Wifi Signal.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome! Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 23 Aug 2012
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- One Cool Solution to Weak Wifi Signals (Posted: 23 Aug 2012)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved