Today more than ever, American families have multiple computers at home. Yet, with multiple computers throughout the home, only a few ever consider installing a home network due to the lack of knowledge or understanding of this technology. According to International Data Corporation, in 1999, one in every four of US households (25.3%) has multiple PCs. That number will grow to 43.3% by 2004.The value of having a home network in place is boundless and the American consumers are aware of that. In 2000, approximately 4.1 million homes in the US have some type of network and this number keeps on growing. That is because more and more consumers realized that networking at home can provide connectivity between multiple computers and allows family members to simultaneously share the Internet, share files, and share computer peripherals such as printers and scanners.

OpenHouse Wiring Solutions
Until recently, there were three ways to network a home. The most prevalent way was pulling Cat-5 (Ethernet) cables throughout the home. However, this is the most time consuming, labor intensive and costly method to set up a network. Unless you are technically inclined or know a friend who can pull the cables for free, many consumers can spend an average of $2,000 to wire their entire home with Cat-5 cable. Another method of networking is using wireless (better known as WiFi) networking. Even though WiFi seems to be more convenient because the consumer no longer needs to pull Cat-5 throughout the home, there are some major disadvantages to utilizing this type of network. The main disadvantages are lack of distance, lack of stability, and lack of security. WiFi can only reach up to 300 ft in distance. It is also an open spectrum where the environment (i.e. cordless phones) can interrupt your network. In addition, WiFi does not offer a built-in security so there is no data encryption. Home PNA is another method to network. It uses existing phone lines as the medium for data transmission. Unfortunately, there is usually a lack of phone jacks throughout a home to truly offer a viable solution.

Earlier this year, an organization called HomePlug Powerline Alliance, made up of 70+ companies, introduced powerline networking where it uses the existing AC infrastructure as the network; thus no new wires or installation is needed to connect multiple computers together. Since there is an abundance of electrical outlets (on average 45 outlets) throughout a household, powerline networking can be easily used in a home and offers a convenient, flexible and painless solution to network. Like plugging in any home appliance such as the hair dryer or toaster, just plug in a HomePlug certified product like the Asoka™ PlugLink™ between a computer and an electrical outlet and a network is instantly established. (See figure below.)

Like any consumer products, powerline networking may not be the perfect solution for everyone. The most important thing to think about when deciding whether powerline networking is a solution for you is the fact that powerline networking operates at a bandwidth of up to 14 Mbps-which is a lot when one considers that a fast Internet speed upload and download time is still at a couple hundred kbps. However, if you are an avid user who likes to share files that are significantly large (i.e. 100+ Mbps)–and most streaming video files are–then powerline networking may not be your best choice. Secondly, note that powerline networking does not currently support Macs or UNIX platforms. Although companies like Asoka USA offer an Ethernet interface, the HomePlug spec only supports the Windows applications of 98SE and up. Third, it is recommended that all HomePlug certified products like the Asoka PlugLink are plugged directly into the wall–no extension cords or power strips should be used. Now, if you have considered the above limits of powerline networking and feel that you are a) an average user, and b) operating on a Windows 98SE and up platform, then you can be confident that powerline networking is a viable solution for you and your family.

Once powerline networking is selected as the preferred method to create a network within a home, the next thing to consider is what type of setup will work best for your home. Like any home projects, it is best to start with a blueprint or an outline before actually doing the work. Asoka USA offers 8 most preferred ways to set up a powerline network.

1. Two computers sharing Internet access through a router.

2. Sharing a printer through a computer.

3. Sharing a network printer directly using PlugLink.

4. Using a powerline network with an Ethernet network.

5. Connecting computers without Internet access.

6. Using powerline network with a wireless network.

7. Connecting a powerline network to a corporate LAN.

8. Connecting a game console to a PlugLink.

Unlike other networking technologies, powerline networking does not restrict you to a specific location. Installing, using, expanding on a powerline network is effortless and simple. The cost of implementing a powerline network like the Asoka solution is easy on the pocket. Today, the Asoka PlugLink Ethernet Bridge and USB adapter can be purchased directly from Asoka for $99—no access boxes needed. So stop the fear of networking your computers at home and start networking the simple way.

If you are like me and are clueless about computers, then a powerline network may be a great solution for you and your family. Products like the Asoka™ PlugLink™ truly offer an average user the opportunity to set up their own network easily. Suddenly, the mystery of home networking disappears and perhaps the idea of a Broadband Plumber is no longer critical.