Of course, Ethernet cabling draped around the skirting boards isn’t a look that everyone can pull off, and few of us will have the opportunity to rewire a home with Cat 5e or 6 cable to every room. For many – and despite the inevitable outrage from radio hams – the best way to extend the reach of your network is to use powerline networking, of which the most widespread version at the moment is HomePlug AV, with a quoted speed of 200Mbps equating to around half that in practice.
HomePlug AV now encompasses 500Mbps adaptors
There are also 500Mbps and 1Gbps variants too, though while both will communicate with 200Mbps versions, the 1Gbit and 500Mbps units can’t talk to each other. Gigabit powerline effectively has a 200Mbps HomePlug AV unit bolted on to allow interworking.
A few years back, powerline adaptors were largely confined to plug-in units with a single Ethernet port. While that still accounts for the bulk of what’s available, there are now more multi-port adaptors, giving you three ports on a single unit, for example.
Solwise now has a replacement wall socket, which provides a single 13A outlet together with four Ethernet ports, providing a ‘built in’ look that will please the house-proud. With many living rooms now having games consoles, media players, and connected TVs, it’s a neat way of providing a decent number of connections.
Solwise's Net PL 200AV Wall 4PE integrates an powerline adaptor and four-port switch into a mains plate
What I’d still love to see, though, is a unit that provides power over Ethernet too, making it simple to turn any mains outlet into a VoIP telephone point, for instance.
Point of entry
If you’re trying to improve your home network, it’s probably also worth considering your router too, and perhaps even your ISP – sometimes a change of the latter will necessitate the former, as when my ADSL changed from a BT-hosted to a C&W-hosted service, and my old Zyxel router refused to work reliably, while a new Draytek Vigor 2820 has been rock solid.
A new router may also give you a faster switch at the heart of your network, with Gigabit ports rather than 100Base-T, and extras like an improved firewall, or VoIP for those brave enough to make the switch.
Plenty of geek-friendly antennae, ports and LEDs: Draytek's Vigor 2820
If you’re thinking of changing ISP, perhaps to take advantage of faster services, it’s also worth looking around at some of the smaller companies, where you’re more likely to find options such as fixed IP addresses at no extra cost – useful, if you want to port your phone line to SIP, for instance – or IPv6 support.
The right solution for any network will, of course, depend on what you want to do with it. If I had to pick one thing to do, I'd use 5GHz wireless for those devices that can handle it, and keep a separate 2.4GHz network for slower devices and guests. ®
Soup up your home network
come on now RegHardware - it's not just radio hams that are sometimes affected by mains ethernet equipment - it's anyone that uses shortwave radio and even DAB (source: BBC).
Imagine if you were prevented from enjoying your favourite hobby by someone else's innocent purchase of equipment? It's a delicate sitatuation and not just 'outrage' by some beardy radio types.... (me included I should add).
(Paris, cos I would DAB her anytime)
Draytek make some great routers.
Would be nice to see some Microtik & Ubiquiti products in here.
Its worth noting that when moving from 100Mbps to Gigabit cabling that in the real world network performance will be limited by the speed of the hard drives and OS overheads. Especially if you are using a cheap NAS.
For me going from 100Mbps to Gigabit only doubled transfer speeds to around 20MBytes/s.
The major reason 5Ghz equipment hasn't made an impact at home is its poor wall penetration. 5Ghz is fine for an open room like a cafe or bar, however in a multi-room home with a router hidden in the under-stairs its not going to be a saving grace for wifi.
Longer term the wifi standard needs to include negotiation with competing base stations.
Horrid things. Being someone who likes to listen to the footie/Danny Baker on Radio 5 on good old AM you can hear the effect of these things driving past houses in the country from time to time. The noise is unmistakable as rather than the random interference you get from powerlines etc it is bursts of noise that sounds like data.
How this is allowed I have no idea. Older readers will remember that in the early 90's some EEC regs came in that required all electronic equipment to have EMF suppression. For example people may remember the good old Sinclair Spectrum used to kick out a hell of a racket on any nearby radio (in fact if you tuned to a sweet spot between LBC and Radio 1 you could actually hear the audio for a good 50 metres).
Lots of devices had to be either re-engineered or pulled from the market. It's why big metal shields started appearing inside home micros at that time.
Anyway my point is that if we had to go through all that to prevent radio interference, why the hell are these mains ethernet adaptors allowed?