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Siemens unveils first HomePlug/wireless router

Feb 06, 20034 mins

* When wireless coverage falls short, extend network with power line

If the question is “What are ways to connect small-office networks?” the answers are A) Ethernet, B) Wireless and C) HomePlug. The new Siemens SpeedStream 2524 Powerline Wireless DSL/Cable Router adds a new answer: D) All of the above.

The first of its kind, the SpeedStream 2524 is a four-port Ethernet router with 802.11b wireless and HomePlug power line support. That means you can mix and match clients and other devices using any of the three technologies.  This allows great flexibility, and lets you extend the network. Say you have a garage home office where wireless doesn’t reach; you can add a HomePlug adapter to your computer and plug into the network via power line, or if you need mobility there, you can plug in a second wireless access point that will communicate with the first, extending the wireless network.  

As with all HomePlug devices, you must plug the SpeedStream router directly into the wall socket, not into a power strip or battery backup. Installation was straightforward, but we would have liked to see a quick-start guide. Instead, all documentation resides on a CD-ROM.

To “charge” the power line network, you must add a second HomePlug device, such as a Siemens SpeedStream 2501 Powerline USB or 2502 Powerline Ethernet adapter. Notably, these plug entirely into the wall socket, unlike the clunky first-generation boxes that connected to the PC on one side and to the wall socket on the other.

Wireless security for the Siemens 2524 is standard 64-bit and 128-bit Wireless Encryption Protocol and a configurable password for your network name or Service Set Identifier. You can allow only specific clients to connect wirelessly by predefining low-level Media Access Control addresses, and restrict Internet access to a subgroup of users, whether they connect via HomePlug or wireless. These latter two features are handy for corporate home offices, but overkill for most consumers.   

For HomePlug security, Siemens offers a network password for each client. Encryption isn’t crucial as it is for wireless; should your neighbor have HomePlug equipment and somehow manage to plug into your network (from a backyard outlet maybe?), the  password is enough to keep him out.

Overall, the Internet access controls are well done. You can set up groups and control their Internet access separately, so children can be restricted from certain defined services like ICQ, newsgroups and FTP. Unfortunately, the URL filtering tool doesn’t work with groups, which means blocking for kids means blocking it for everyone.  

There’s a firewall to protect against denial-of-service attacks, but it’s overkill since these are rarely launched against home networks. Universal Plug and Play Services are enabled by default, and you can either specify IP addresses for each client or rely on the included DHCP server.

We’d like Siemens to include more information on its Web-based router Status page, such as number of users and throughput.  Siemens offers more than its competitors, however;  users enjoy a dashboard view of the network’s health, and vendors could oblige them easily.  

Wireless speed, using a NetGear WAB501 Dual Band Wireless Adapter (802.11a/b) was impressive. File transfer throughput, even with 64-bit encryption turned on, regularly hit 5M bit/sec (based on the throughput dialog screen on the wireless client), which is close to the practical top end for 802.11b. Powerline speeds were comparable. Head to for a complete scorecard on the Siemens SpeedStream 2524 Powerline Wireless DSL/Cable Router.

How we tested

Our SOHO test network uses a Linksys 24-port hub to connect several clients and NetWare 6.0 and Linux servers to an AT&T Broadband cable connection through an RCA cable modem. We plugged the SpeedStream 2524 router into the Linksys hub to check compatibility with an existing network. We also plugged it directly into the RCA cable modem.  We tested wireless connections using a Dell laptop equipped with a NetGear WAB 501 dual 802.11b/a band PC Card. We tested HomePlug connections with the Siemens 2501 and 2501 Powerline adapters.