The Ethernet Cables

The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths people will go to in order to avoid installing the correct wiring for their home computer networks. This wiring is necessary today because unlike just a few years ago, almost everyone today has a tablet or smart phone and naturally they want to be able to use it “throughout the house.” The first thing many do-it-yourselfers learn is that Wi-Fi is not the answer when they discover their tiny smart phone simply does not have enough radio transmitter power to reach from one end of their house to the other. Such low-powered devices have to be very close to Wi-Fi access points in order to work reliably. So a miracle gismo that can be found on the next aisle in some stores is the Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) kit that advertises “ideal for delivering high-speed wired and wireless Internet to every room in the home using existing electrical wiring … just plug it in and start playing.” Oh, if that were only true instead of just more advertising hype.

Some people might think it is a little crazy that the same wires that deliver electricity to your refrigerator and microwave can also deliver broadband Internet, but this is true. Marketed as Ethernet Over Power (EOP), these devices come in pairs, the injector to be plugged into your modem with an Ethernet cable and the receiver to be plugged into an electrical outlet in some remote corner of the house where you need an Internet connection. With just a little bit of good luck, it will work as advertised and save you the inconvenience of running network cables.

Probably the biggest obstacle to using EOP effectively is that electrical power lines are not shielded against radio interference (and why should they be?) and they are notoriously noisy. Add to this the fact that electrical wiring here in Mexico is not always exactly what you would call “up to code,” so the condition of your home wiring might simply preclude being able to use EOP.

If a pair of EOP injector/receiver units does work at your house, another thing to be worried about is that they tend to burn out as regularly as light bulbs. For everyone I know who has a pair of EOP units that have lasted five years or more, I know someone else who had US100 worth of EOP equipment fried in the first thunderstorm.

For all of the negatives I have described, every smart network engineer is keeping his or her eye on the development of technologies to deliver broadband Internet over electric power lines. Nobody knows how to do this well, but engineers are working on possible solutions that could be a quantum game changer if they can ever make it work. One computer tech describes this as the effect that developing Star Trek-style transporters would have on makers of locks and bank vaults. Imagine a future world in which your electric utility company could provide high-speed Internet to every electric outlet in your house and everywhere. Such an innovation could put every cable television company and phone company in the world under threat of extinction overnight.

Future development in technology may revolutionize the way we connect to the Internet, but until then, many consumers will find the best solution is to install Ethernet cables where needed.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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