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Actiontec HomePlug Ethernet Adapter

By Terry Currier

You might call this a Ethernet bridge or link. It allows you to link up computers to one another, or to a router through the powerline in your home or business. The specifications for HomePlug 1.0 is for it to run at 14Mpbs. It also says you have a range of 990 feet.

The Actiontec HomePlug AdapterIt really is easy to setup. Take the two units out of the box, plug one in a wall outlet near the router or computer you want to link to. You take the Ethernet cable they supply with the unit and plug that into the router or computer. Take the other unit and plug it into a wall outlet wherever you want to work. Remember those places in the house or outside where you could not get a connection from your wireless network? What I found is it did not matter where I plugged it into - I got connected. It truly was plug and connect. In fact it worked without me having to install anything. The only restriction I found was the circuit box. At first I was worried that my neighbors could catch the connection and see what was on my computer. But, in testing it I went to two my neighbors homes and could not find a connection. No it wasn’t that they were too far away. In fact I plugged it into three extension power cords for a full distance of 225 feet away from the house and still I could connect.

The HomePlug Organization (www.homeplug.org) did give me some helpful information:

HomePlug 1.0 technology was specifically built for networking a single home and will cover homes up to about 5000 square feet. Connecting your home to a neighbor's depends on the setup of the electrical network, remember, the electrical wire will usually go out of your house, through a power meter, up to the pole, through a transformer, and then in reverse to get to your neighbors house. HomePlug technology will never pass through a transformer without some special hardware. As for the workplace, there are a few companies building HomePlug solutions for Commercial buildings and hotels, but in general these are engineered installations. In general, a single home has one breaker panel to which all electrical wiring connects, but a commercial building will always vary, depending on the number of stories, the number of transformers, the number of breaker panels, the method of wiring, etc. Many tall buildings are wired vertically, which means an electrical outlet on one side of an office may be connected to an entirely different breaker panel than the outlet on the other side of the office.

I also asked when the 2.0 specifications will be out, which will bring higher speed:

The "feature complete" specification is slated to be available at the end of June, and is going well. We expect it to be up to 4 times faster than any other PLC technology. A check on the website shows no notice of it being published yet.

They do include a CD for the installation of a security, that being only units which are input can connect onto the network. Since there was only me on the network I did not have to worry about the. I tested on my two notebooks and desktop and each of them had no problems of connecting to each other or though the router to the Internet. I had excellent speed. I copied a 29Mb file from one computer to my new notebook and the lowest download speed was 212Kpbs which is great. The speed is better than wireless 802.11b specification, but not 802.11g.

I have heard of electrical appliances interfering with powerline networking. The HomePlug Organization told me:

“The HomePlug specification incorporates a technology called PowerPacket.  This new technology is what makes HomePlug different from the old powerline networks.  PowerPacket eliminates noise from electrical appliances like hair driers and televisions plus it offers security.”

I used it while turning on a vacuum cleaner (I just turned it on I didn’t really vacuum -  my wife would not have survived the shock), and I did not see any difference. I did the same while turning on a mixer and microwave at the same time, and still no problems. They recommend not plugging it into a powerstrip, which I of course tried. It worked, but I would not do it unless there were no other options.

The Actiontec HomePlug Wireless KitWhile it will not beat the speed or lower cost of Ethernet setup, or the new 802.11g, this is ideal for is those homes where the wireless can not reach all areas. It also is more secure then a wireless setup which could be broadcasting to the neighbors.

Actiontec also makes a HomePlug kit for wireless communication. Just plug it in any power outlet and start surfing. With the wireless connection they say you can have  speeds of up to 54Mbps over the 802.11g WiFi network and up to 14Mbps over HomePlug.

Minimum System Requirements
IBM compatible system with 200 MHz Pentium 64 MB RAM with a CD ROM Drive
Windows 98SE, ME, 2K, XP
Ethernet Network Adapter
TCP/IP Installed
2 available power outlets
Cost is $129 – found on Froogle.com

Actiontec http://www.actiontec.com

From our July 2005 newsletter


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