A new type of Internet access that uses the existing power grid and goes at insane speeds (2.5gb/s). Thankfully, I will one day soon be a beta tester.
It somehow involves encoding binary not into the flow of the electricity itself, but into a naturally occuring electromagnetic field found encompassing all power lines. It was originally engineered to work with the American Power Grid, it can easily be modified to be compliant with any power grid in the world.

More information (at least a LITTLE more) can be found at the patent holder's website, www.mediafusioncorp.net.

Power line networking also works on a smaller scale, as an alternative to wireless (802.11) or conventional wired networks in the home.

Conventional wireless has the following setup.

  • You buy a wireless access point and connect it into your ADSL or Cable router (or you buy a router with an integrated AP).
  • You buy wireless cards for your computers (many mid to high end laptops have them built in).
  • Potential problems with interference, walls which are too solid, large metal items and simply distance.

Powerline networking has the following setup.

  • You buy at least two powerline interface boxes.
  • One connects into your router and the other to your PC.
  • Most simply present an RJ45 connector, rather than being a network card in their own right, so there's no drivers or Operating system compatibility issues.
  • Most laptop and desktop PCs around now have onboard Ethernet ports (and if not, cards can be purchased for even less than wireless cards).
  • The units can also be used to "bridge" between two networks (which can also be done with wireless, but means buying two wireless APs).

So the pros and cons can be summarised as follows.

  • Cost - the units are usually less expensive than wireless cards (although they do need each PC to have a network card).
  • Bridging - easy and cheap to bridge between two wired networks.
  • Flexibility - here it loses out to wireless. Of course you can use it with a laptop, but then the laptop has to remain near a power socket with a cable going to it.

Interestingly, though, the third point is closer to my use of powerline networking. My wireless hub is currently upstairs, near my router and server (which are on conventional wired). However, it doesn't reach very well to the other corner of the house. With these powerline network boxes, I can move the wireless hub downstairs without running Cat5 cabling through the house.

+--------+                               +--------+        +--------+        +--------+
| Server |                               | Laptop |        | Laptop |        | Laptop |
+--------+                               +--------+        +--------+        +--------+
     |
     |                                          Wireless network
     |
+------------------------------+                  +-------------+
|       Main wired Switch      |                  | Wireless AP |
+------------------------------+                  +-------------+
     |                 |                                  |
     |                 |                                  |
     |                 |                                  |
+-------------+   +-------------+                 +-------------+
| ADSL Router |   |Powerline Box|                 |Powerline Box|
+-------------+   +-------------+                 +-------------+
     |                 |                                  |
     |                 |                                  |
  Phone Line           +----------------------------------+
                            In House Mains Cabling

The current units run at 14 Mbps or 85 Mbps (you pay about 50%-100% more for the faster units). They vary their speed as your in-house cabling will support. They have encryption to ensure your data is secure.

NB: I say "in the home above" as it's unlikely this would ever be used in an office enviroment. Offices are often cabled to specific requirements, and this can easily include Cat5 cabling, either in trunking along the walls or under the floor.

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