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Powerline Networking 101

Powerline Standards

While there are excellent resources available on the Internet to learn about Powerline technology and its associated standards, there are many instances of misinformation as well. In addition, terminology isn't consistent among vendor marketing and product packaging, so how are consumers or even those interested in writing about the subject supposed to maintain accuracy in the related discussions?

In my own research, the earliest publicly available documentation easily accessible is that excerpt from the NSA that I cited. From there, the HomePlug Alliance was elected to be the governing body over Powerline specifications. To date, the only specifications defined by the HomePlug Alliance are:

  • HomePlug 1.0
  • HomePlug AV
  • HomePlug AV2

When you see other terms like "Powerline AV" or "Powerline AV2", these are marketing terms that are technically misleading if the cited specifications on the packaging don't list "HomePlug AV" or "HomePlug AV2". Why would a vendor label its product with a term that doesn't specifically match a certification? It may be one of these reasons:

  • Status Pending -- Product certification is in-process, and as we discuss in our How We Test Powerline article, the HomePlug logo and certification reference can only be used under stringent requirements. While the product is being processed for certification, the vendor could use terms that hint at being capable of operating under the newest specification.
  • Delivery Delay -- Product certification would take too long before a newer product was going to be released, so the expense to get the existing product certified doesn't have a good return on investment.
  • Sell it now -- A vendor could decide that the product operates well enough through their own implementation of the standard that they could push it to market without seeking certification from the HomePlug Alliance.

Don't be misled! Remember that there only three approved HomePlug certification standards published by the HomePlug Alliance. For more information about the requirements under which a vendor can display the HomePlug Certification Mark, check out the related discussion in our How We Test article. If a product is marked otherwise, that product is either non-compliant or is pushing marketing terminology.

  • wtfxxxgp
    I love these things. Saved me headaches and hassles to get my online gaming setup going without having to run long cables or relying on crappy wifi dongles
  • Xivilain
    This is one of those great niche products that not a lot of folks hear about. Definitely a look at for people with "bomb shelter" style basements with concrete and metal materials, where WiFi cannot reach.
  • videobear
    From Newegg customer reviews, performance of even the latest powerline equipment is far inferior to ethernet or even wifi. Plus the units have massive quality control issues. Not interested.
  • Onus
    Interesting about the valid specification names. I'll have to check the compliance level of what I'm using. I have a kit with one ethernet connector on one end (plugs in near my router), and four on the other end (my wife uses one, and my testbench gets the others): which is no longer available, but looks similar to which is. They run more reliably and faster than a cheap PCI wireless card, which is better than a USB dongle. This is despite the fact that they are plugged in on different sections of a manufactured home, which means they're going through an additional junction box between the sections.
  • coupe
    "Assuming that the outlets using the Powerline adapters are on the same electrical circuit, ..."

    I think this part should be brought to attention more. Most people who are looking to implement a powerline setup might be confused about this limitation.
  • TechyInAZ
    I always thought that powerline tech was cool! And it is cool, but to run it well you need a house with nice electrical wiring. One of my houses had two 220V (or was it 120V, I forgot) outlets, so the powerline Ethernet wouldn't work on one half of the house lol.

    If you plan to use these, make sure you know where your powerlines are going.
  • Redraidr12
    @videobear Mine works wonderfully.
  • shadycuz
    "Assuming that the outlets using the Powerline adapters are on the same electrical circuit, ..."

    I think this part should be brought to attention more. Most people who are looking to implement a powerline setup might be confused about this limitation.

    They work across Circuit breakers. Most houses only have one Circuit. Breakers "break" that circuit down into manageable pieces so if a device acts up, your whole house doesn't loose power, just that room.
  • Supermuncher85
    Yeah love these things. Just keep in mind that if you do have a backup generator, it will not jump between circuits. Lesson I learned the hard way.
  • quadrider21
    Great artical, I'd like to know a little more about what the security button does.
    Do all three of these standards support security measures?