back to article Powerline Ethernet and ring mains

I don't like wireless in my house with kids around. Powerline Ethernet sounds like a very good alternative, but I have a couple of questions I hope Register Hardware readers can answer... Do the units communicate with each other even when they'reon separate ring mains, ie. a ring main for upstairs and ring main for downstairs …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
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    Firstly, why no wireless? You realise your DECT phone, microwave and mobile phone all operate on the same frequency? Or perhaps a security concern? Then WPA could be used.

    Nevertheless, Powerline Ethernet is a good solution for houses where wireless doesn't work very well due to walls etc.

    They can be encrypted (although I'm not sure how good the encryption is, but realistically speaking the risk is low), and they should work provided you are on the same phase.

  2. Jove Bronze badge

    Signal Leakage

    I was advised by an electrician when asking the same sort of questions, that the signal will not be stopped at the Fuse Box/Trip Panel. So in addition to appearing on all of your internal rings, it will also be fed into the building supply if you are in apartment block say. I think the signal gets out on to the local supply connection, where it is attenuated by distance. So if you are in an apartment building, you may find yourself competing with a neighbour for bandwidth.

    I would also be interested in other takes on this.

  3. David

    Go for it.

    I had trouble with wireless drivers on Linux, a machine set up as media and file sharing server. Obviously 1Mbs throughput was just not good enough.

    Bought Zyxel 200Mbs homeplugs of dabs. for under £50.

    Just plug them in and switch on. Thats it. My router is downstairs and computer upstairs with absolutely no problems. I don't know why i waited so long to get them.

  4. Duncan Harper
    Thumb Up

    I agree, it's good kit

    I actually use a mixture of powerline and wireless connections in my house - wireless for the fixed connections, i.e. main desktop PC, and wireless for laptops. It works a treat - the powerline kit is almost insultingly easy to set up, as mentioned - you just plug in and go. It works fine across different ring mains, i.e. upstairs and downstairs circuits. You can encrypt them, though I believe the software to set this up is only available for Windows.

  5. Nigel

    Way better than wifi, just dont expect 200Mbit!


    I just bought 2 packs (4 units) of the Xytel 401's from Amazon for £50 ea (they are now back up to 69, but More computers has em for 50).

    As long as upstairs and downstairs are supplied through the same mains meter, and are on the same phase (only likely to be an issue in business premises), then they should work fine.

    In a crude test transferring a Gbyte file while watching the network utilisation meter in windows' task manager, I was seeing 35Mbit throughput from downstairs to a bedroom upstairs. Way Way better than any wifi kit will give you (even N), and it does not turn to mince when you turn your microwave or the bloke next door goes wireless on an adjacent channel.


  6. Rajiv Dhir

    Powerline can be effective

    Right Facts

    a) The signal will leak out, but attenuate. Add a password and no one should be able to piggyback. I've found the software pretty easy, although if your device has a number for the security protocol, note it down BEFORE you plug it in.

    b) The 200mbps or 85mbps is the raw rate ie you'll get less due to interference and the overhead of the protocols, but that's the same for 54mbps etc for wireless. HOWEVER the 200mbps is shared by all the devices so if you have several boxes all transmitting SIMULTANEOUSLY then they are sharing the bandwidth. Again this is the same situation as wireless, except if you re in a block of flats, there are a whole load of other people sharing it. There are no channels to avoid interference, but 85mbps and 200mbps exist at different frequencies.

    c) It may not work across multiple fuseboards. My sister has a large house with three separate fuseboards and the signal will not cross. Most houses have a single fuseboard and your upstairs downstairs ring mains will just be separate circuits (fuses, breakers, rcds) on the same fuseboard

    d) You can fiddle with placement to improve signal quality, ie direct in the wall, on a distribution block... Software will be provided though as someone mentioned it may be windows only.

    e) I have found that sometimes, 200mbps doesn't work where 85mbps does - don't know why.

    f) Its great for bridging, ie plug it in to a router, or combine it with wireless access points. Sure there are bandwidth limits, but unless you are shunting multi gigabyte files, or multiple 1080p video streams it'll be ok.

    g) It really is easy to set up and is a breath of fresh air after wireless.



  7. Jove Bronze badge

    Low-pass filter

    If you live in a block of flats, a low-pass filter at the fuse box/trip panel should minimise potential interference from neighbours that may also be using powerline network adapters. However I am not aware of such device existing, nor of it being available as an installation option for the wiring of home premises.

    It is early days yet; at present not many people are using the mains for networking, but as in the case of wifi, as more people start using it, the signals from neighbouring premises (in shared buildings) may in some cases have a greater impact on through put.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    "leaking" to other flats/apartments/neighbours

    There should be no need for a filter at the fuse box. If you a metered separately, the signal will not pass through the transformer in the meter. Otherwise, as others have said, typically there should be enough attenuation by distance.

    There are huge deployments in France, where IPTV is big business and the devices are used for connecting the STB to the router - and this has not caused problems with neighbouring networks (very, very, low call centre calls, unlike wireless which had frightening numbers of callers).

    Most of the 200Mbps products have a pushbutton network key pairing - this means that you won't need to set up anything from your PC/Mac/Linux box; with the 85Mbps you will have to configure if you want a secure network key (either way, it is a lot easier to set up than typical WiFi secure connection).

    You'll find there's a fairly large delta in the cost between lesser known brands and the leaders. Devolo are excellent but expensive (though they have Mac/Linux setup SW), Zyxel are solid, Netgear ok, some other no brands are not so good - Solwise are selling products from Aztech branded Solwise, a nice product which is a good balance between cost and quality; but I wouldn't recommend their "VeseNet" products, they're not of the same standard...

    BTW, the 200Mbps will actually work okay on 3 phase systems if there are 3 phase appliances - but this is really only interesting in Industrial premises in the UK.

  9. Josh

    Encryption / password with games consoles

    A natural application for this is to use this for games consoles (Xbox 360), e.g. in the living room while router is elsewhere. How can one use passwords/encryption if needed with a console?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Powerline Ethernet and ring mains’

    I would just like to point out to anyone that uses these things that there might be a knock on the door from Ofcom telling you to remove the interference i.e. get rid of them as they radiate all over the short wave band and blank it out. Ther is a group that coveras this problem UKQRM

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    PLT bad.

    These things produce a LOT of interference to Short Wave users and a group ( was set up to tackle the issue.

    The devices work by injecting an OFDM signal into the mains wiring (approx. 2-28MHZ) which then gets radiated by the wiring, causing interference.

    We have had one set of PLT's tested at an EMC test facility to EN55022 level B conducted emissions and failed miserably as we knew they would. The results are with Trading Standards. Two other manufacturers products are being tested and we expect the same results.

    Compliance to EN55022 is mandatory for CE marking.

    We have an Executive Seminar by the HPA (Homeplug Alliance) which states:

    "Safety, immunity and harmonics are correct but almost all PLC devices pass over the CISPR 22 class A, B limits so failed the test and we could not generate (directly) the DoC (Declaration of Conformity) needed for Europe"

    Ofcom / BT have also removed PLT devices from homes that have been causing interference.

    There are a number of video's on the site which demonstrate the interference levels that these devices produce.

  12. Richard Hankins

    upsetting the neighbours

    There is another drawback to this technology. It uses typically the entire short wave spectrum (2 - 30MHz), and some of the energy pumped into the house mains wiring leaks out to the surrounding area. This is due to problems with the mains wiring - it simply isn't suitable for the job - and manufacturers are just exploiting this medium because its there and costs them nothing.

    There are quite a lot of licensed radio users also using that radio spectrum - such as broadcasting, amateur radio, aeronautical comms, CB radio to mention a few. If you happen to have a short wave user within about 500m of you when run one of these powerline networks, its quite likely you will be subject to a complaint to Ofcom about radio interference. And you will be required to stop using the product because licensed radio users have a legal right to unpolluted spectrum.

    You may say that your PLT product has passed all the required approvals for EMC and like. Unfortunately, any such approvals claimed on the packaging and in the manuals, has been obtained by a technical loophole in the approvals system, which the manufacturers are currently exploiting.

    BT are now discovering to their cost that they cannot run powerline networking with their BT Vision product when there is a SW user in the vicinity - it has to be replaced with either networking cable or Wi-Fi (both of which work perfectly well without causing this problem).

    If anyone buys one of these products off the shelf, I would recommend demanding a written assurance from the supplier that should complaints of interference arise, then they will provide a full refund.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    avoiding wireless

    May I suggest moving to the 3rd world, or perhaps offworld.

    You do realise that microwave ovens give off higher levels of the same 2.4Ghz radiation as wireless access points? (also microwave ovens are meant to be serviced every year....know anyone who has theirs serviced?)

    Also cellphone give off radiation but every child seems to have one glued to their ear in the name of "child safety"

    CRT TVs again can give off radiation due to the coatings

    Back on topic, powerline...interesting concept but isnt as simple as the mags and comments on other sites suggest (such as the site which used to be ADSLGuide)

    My opin...if you really dont want wireless, run some ethernet cord through the house (not hard) and screw some RJ45 sockets up in appropriate spots terminating at the router/switch/hub. Initial upheaval but once installed, pretty much forget and use.

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