Ethernet over powerline tech has existed for a while but traditionally has frankly sucked. It was slow and had issues with reliability. After decades of improving standards and technology this has changed dramatically and now makes a very cheap and attractive alternative to wireless in many situations. The latest iteration gives a 1200 Mbps connection right over your existing power lines in your house and is designed to work in “noisy” power environments without interruption.
I deployed this technology in my home about 6 months ago to solve a networking issue I had. I was very skeptical of this technology as my previous encounters of it were more than a decade ago with speeds of < 10 Mbps and not very reliable. I would hear horror stories of how turning on the washing machine would cause dropped connections and very slow speeds.
Use Cases for Ethernet Over Power
I have a cryptocurrency mining setup in my garage consisting of a few PCs and some old video cards that would be rather unpleasant to have in my living room due to heat and noise. My apartment is on the second floor and the garage is ground level. Running a cable all the way from inside would have been > 100 ft to my router and would have been a real eyesore. Most of these PCs don’t have a wireless card built in and the ones that did got a very weak signal from down a story in a concrete garage.
Here are some of the traditional options to connect a PC that is too far away for reliable wireless:
- Run a full ethernet cable directly to the machine either by drilling or running a really long cable
- Add a powerful wireless card with better / more sensitive antennas and hope your wireless router is putting out a strong enough signal to facilitate the connection
- Create a wireless bridge by adding a second wireless point as a “hop” that is close enough to talk reliably with the other router or close enough to run a Ethernet cable (routers need to support this function and be compatible to create a wireless bridge)
In my situation drilling and running a cable was not an option as the apartment complex would not allow it and would consider it damages to the apartment if I did so. Wireless bridging was not an ideal option either as every apartment has their own WiFi point so the airways are very flooded creating reliability issues.
I used the 2 unit kit but if you have more devices you need to connect in various places there are packs of 4 units and they can all be networked together.
Installing these is crazy easy. You simply plug it into the wall and plug an ethernet cable from your router into it. At the destination plug an ethernet cable from the second unit directly into your computer or into another switch/router. That’s it!
This is the end of the two units that connects to my main router/internet connection. The blue cable in the picture goes into my main router.
Now if we go down a story into my attached garage we can see the rack here:
I have the second unit plugged into a cheap powerstrip at the end of a 20′ extension cord. The unit plugs into a router (to the left of my keyboard in the garage rack picture).
Let’s check the performance of the device. My environment is not an ideal setup as it is shared apartment complex units and going quite a distance even by power line.
The end destination is plugged into a cheap powerstrip at the end of a long extension cord. I’m basically using extension cords as my own personal ethernet cables.
Now let’s do some ping and stability tests by running a continuous ping to google.com:
C:\Users\james>ping -t google.com Pinging google.com [184.108.40.206] with 32 bytes of data: Reply from 220.127.116.11: bytes=32 time=17ms TTL=56 Reply from 18.104.22.168: bytes=32 time=17ms TTL=56 Reply from 22.214.171.124: bytes=32 time=18ms TTL=56 Reply from 126.96.36.199: bytes=32 time=18ms TTL=56 Reply from 188.8.131.52: bytes=32 time=18ms TTL=56 Reply from 184.108.40.206: bytes=32 time=18ms TTL=56 Reply from 220.127.116.11: bytes=32 time=17ms TTL=56 Reply from 18.104.22.168: bytes=32 time=18ms TTL=56 Ping statistics for 22.214.171.124: Packets: Sent = 8, Received = 8, Lost = 0 (0% loss), Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds: Minimum = 17ms, Maximum = 18ms, Average = 17ms C:\Users\james>
Ping is really great at 17ms. Connection bandwidth test looks good.
The Ethernet over Power setup ended up being perfect for setting up a mining rack out of the way in the garage. I avoided having to try to set up any wireless bridging / buy wireless adapters or drill any holes/running cable.
Other types of projects that could utilize this: home servers, NAS storage setups, and basically any situation where having a PC out of the way is desirable.