Home networking - the need for speed

Published on: 03 Aug 2013

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These days we all want super-fast broadband and demand that all of our downloads complete in an instant – if not before.  Unfortunately the weak link for a lot of people is the wireless network in their house.  Don’t get me wrong, wireless networks are great for casual working, surfing the web, checking your email and give you the freedom to move around with your portable device, but what if you want to move large files around or stream High Definition movies or TV?  Unless you’re very lucky, this is when your wireless network begins to creak a little.  Signal strength, bandwidth limitations and interference can all cause wireless networks to perform poorly, especially when sustained data transfer rates are required.

So what if you want a fast, reliable and secure network that can do cool stuff like streaming HD movies to your new SMART TV while letting you surf the internet at the same time?  

You have two choices really.  The first option is the ‘Homeplug’ systems which use your existing home electrics to carry the network traffic around your house.   These are getting quite sophisticated now, come in a variety of speeds and some even have additional wireless access points and multiple ethernet points built in.   

Are they any good?  Well yes, up to a point.  Speeds are limited, and the reliance on your home’s electrical wiring means that any problems with that will affect performance.  I’ve yet to see network transfer speeds match the claims on the box in a real-world environment.  Homeplug systems also tie up a wall socket for each unit (unless you pay more for a pass-thru device) and don’t work well on extension leads.  That said, they are definitely worth a look though, because if your electrical wiring is OK, then they can provide a good upgrade from wireless.

The hands-down best option for your network is dedicated hard-wired ethernet data cabling for static devices such as PCs, printers, NAS boxes, TVs and games consoles, leaving the wireless for portable devices.  A few years ago wired networks were just for businesses, but with the multimedia possibilities these days there is no reason - apart from cost - that you shouldn’t consider it for the home.   If you are interested in streaming your HD movie collection around your house, wired data cabling is worth a serious look, and you will notice a massive increase in performance over wireless and homeplug systems. 

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