Belkin’s just tweaked its Powerline Networking hardware and made it a promising alternative to Wi-fi–it’s been given ethernet speeds of a gigabit per second. That’s five times faster than other powerline systems, and nearly twice as fast as 802.11n.
Powerline adaptors take the data output from your internet modem and route it through your home’s mains power wiring–the signal piggybacks on the 60Hz mains frequency (50Hz if you’re elsewhere in the world). The system is a neat alternative to Wi-fi, can have a broader range, and work in buildings where the thick walls sometimes play hell with a wireless router’s signal–handy if you live in an older building like I do. You just need two special adapter power bricks: one at the modem end, and the other at your PC.
The speed of the devices has generally been pretty limited until now, with Belkin quoting the “current fastest powerline technology” running at just 200Mbps, versus 802.11n’s 600Mbps. The new system is capable of true gigabit data rates, which is equivalent to a proper ethernet connection, and must be the product of some particularly clever engineering in Belkin’s labs. Though the company notes the gigabit rate is theoretical, it also touts it as being an ideal way to transport the increasingly vast data files we’re all getting used to as we watch and record more and more HD television.
The U.S. version is out now, in a $150 starter pack, and will be tempting for many people with a home network that is limited by Wi-Fi’s efficiency. Let’s hope that Belkin’s tackled some of the issues that tend to affect powerline tech: Older wiring slows it down, and thunderstorms can kill the router boxes.