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Powerline Ethernet adapters advance

Powerline Ethernet adapters are getting new capabilities to run Ethernet over electrical wiring faster.

By Jeff Caruso, Network World
September 10, 2010 01:57 PM ET

Powerline Ethernet adapters run Ethernet signals over electrical wiring. This can be particularly useful in a home that has impediments to wireless signals getting through.

You plug one adapter into an electrical outlet and connect it to your router, and you plug another adapter into another electrical outlet and connect it to something else – a PC, TV, game system or other Ethernet device. The adapters communicate with each other over the power lines in the home.

The technology has been available for several years from companies such as Belkin and Cisco, based on standards set forth by the HomePlug Powerline Alliance. Now the IEEE is expected to standardize the technology as well, via its IEEE 1901 specification.

Rates can be expected to be as high as 200Mbps, though of course the actual network speed will vary quite a bit depending on the exact condition of your electrical wiring. That speed is higher than you could expect from current wireless networks. 

Last year, Belkin introduced a gigabit version, five times as fast as other powerline products.

Now, the HomePlug Powerline Alliance is working on a specification along those same lines, something it’s calling the HomePlug AV2 specification, which is intended to be interoperable with the slower version and future IEEE 1901 products. The alliance says these are the key enhancements (quoting): 

* MIMO (Multiple-Inputs Multiple-Outputs) offers significant increases in link throughput and range without requiring additional spectrum or transmit power. MIMO allows the data signal to propagate from multiple outputs to multiple inputs implementing advanced transmission coding schemes which will increase capacity and enable more reliable and expanded home coverage. This is similar to the 802.11n and 802.16e which use MIMO solutions with wireless products to extend performance.

* Increased MAC (Medium Access Control) efficiencies lower overhead and expand throughput.

* Increased operating spectrum: the specification will expand operations into an additional spectrum, up to an order of magnitude beyond current powerline technology. This increased bandwidth will further improve performance.

Look for more powerline Ethernet adapters to hit the market once the IEEE 1901 standard is ratified this year, with more promise in the future as the second generation of the standard gets under way.

Read more about lans & wans in Network World's LANs & WANs section.

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