Network Connectivity Devices Archive

At last HomePlug AV and Power-Over-Ethernet in one device

Article

Asoka PL9660-PoE PlugLink 200 Mbps Powerline Adapter w/ PoE Reviewed – SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

Asoka USA

Product Page

My Comments

Introduction

I have often heard the line that the Power-Over-Ethernet technology, which supplies power to a network device connected via twisted-pair Ethernet cable using that same cable, and HomePlug powerline-networking technology are mutually exclusive technologies.

What is Power-Over-Ethernet and what is it used for?

The common 802.3af and 802.3at Power-Over-Ethernet technologies make use of the Category-5 “twisted-pair” Ethernet cabling that is used to transfer data to the network also as a power-supply cable. The main advantages are that you don’t have to have an AC outlet close to a network device and you can just run one cable to that device to allow it to function.

The typical implementation is either an Ethernet switch that has Power-Over-Ethernet ports providing power to a VoIP desk telephone, wireless access point or IP-based video-surveillance camera. This appeals to businesses as a way of providing centrally-managed power for these devices as well as allowing for simplified cost-effective installation and reliable operation.

What is HomePlug AV powerline network technology

The HomePlug AV network technology uses the building’s existing AC wiring as a data conduit. This provides a “no-new-wires” wired network setup for homes and other installations where it is not cost-effective to have Ethernet wiring in place and has shown a strong appeal for temporary wired-network setups.

Even if a building has Ethernet wiring in place, the HomePlug AV technology works as a way of extending this network in a temporary or semi-permanent manner. In some cases, the HomePlug technology can work as a cost-effective wired network link between a house and an outbuilding such as a detached garage if there is AC wiring in that building which isn’t separately metered.

Of course most of these network segments have network client devices connected via a short Category-5 Ethernet cable to a HomePlug-AV-Ethernet bridge adaptor typically referred to in the UK as a “homeplug” in the case of the common single-port wall-wart device.

Why am I impressed with the Asoka PL-9660POE “homeplug”

This adaptor is both a single-port HomePlug-AV-to-Ethernet network bridge along with a Power-Over-Ethernet power supply according to the 802.3af standard. Here, I could connect a Wi-Fi access point or VoIP desk telephone that can be powered using Power-Over-Ethernet to this device and it provides power to that access point while linking it to the HomePlug AV powerline-network backbone.

The advantages seen here is that I only use one AC outlet to link the network device to the HomePlug segment as well as providing power to it rather than having to have another AC outlet or double-adaptor being used for another wall-wart. You also benefit from only needing one cord between the device and this HomePlug adaptor which is easier to manage in to an aesthetically-pleasing setup. This is of importance when you are using an wireless access point to extend your wireless network and you would find that having that access point up high with a clear line of sight to the laptops, tablets and smartphones used in that area would yield optimum network performance and battery runtime for the mobile devices. It is compared to using a HomePlug wireless access point which will typically be installed at floor level and obscured by furniture and may not be able to perform adequately.

What about transportability when you are thinking of that VoIP desk telephone? Typically, a furniture and equipment arrangement may suit one’s current needs but these needs do change. This adaptor may allow you to reposition the phone to a newer location as you see fit even in a semi-permanent manner such as if you are moving the cash-wrap stand in your shop to a newer location to cater for a sale or you simply wanted to bring the VoIP conference phone out only when needed.

This device may also help with legitimising the Power-Over-Ethernet technology for the home network. Examples of this could include “two-piece” HomePlug access-point kits; small consumer-AV applications like tabletop Internet radios, network speakers or digital picture frames; or even all-in-one computers that can be powered through the Ethernet conneciton. To the same extent, computers like tablets, small notebooks and “adaptive all-in-one” computers of the same ilk as the Sony VAIO Tap 20 can benefit from using their Ethernet port as a power connection option to charge up their batteries or allowing the user to avoid compromising battery runtime,

Even an Internet-gateway router could be powered using this method as an alternative to the separate power brick that these devices come with. As well, using a Power-Over-Ethernet power splitter which provides 12 volts or 5 volts DC to a device that isn’t capable of Power-Over-Ethernet from an 802.3af Power-Over-Ethernet connection could yield benefits to the home network by eliminating the need to use a “wall-wart” or “power-brick” and a separate AC outlet to power network devices.

Points of improvement with this device

Here, the HomePlug standard that this device supports could be the HomePlug AV 500 / IEEE 1901 standard for better data throughput. This is more so as this standard becomes the norm for most HomePlug AV segments. As well, a variant that supports the 802.3at Power-Over-Ethernet Plus standard could be made available and pitched towards set-top-box applications. But these improvements may require further power-supply engineering to cater for higher power loads.

Similarly, the Asoka “homeplug” could be made available under an OEM-contract to other vendors to sell to customers so as to make the concept more ubiquitous. For example, having this fitted with the Continental-standard AC plug and sold in to France could work hand-in-glove with the “décodeurs” (TV set-top boxes) that are part of the many “n-box” triple-play Internet services offered in that country. Here, these would work as a convincing easy-to-implement alternative to a “homeplug / power-supply” box like the Freeplug that is used to link the “n-box” Internet gateway device and the “décodeur” set-top box. These boxes typically have three wires with one to the power outlet and two to the “n-box” or “décodeur” device.

Conclusion

I just hope that this device isn’t just a “flash in the pan” when it comes to HomePlug and Power-Over-Ethernet but a way to prove to the industry that these technologies complement each other.

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The Freebox Révolution benefits from Freebox OS to be like a recent NAS

Articles – French language

La Freebox Révolution accueille Freebox OS – DegroupNews.com

Mise à jour Free : capacités de partage renforcées | 59Hardware.net

My Comments

Just lately, Free had rolled out their latest firmware update for the Freebox Révolution “n-box” router. This has various improvements like cloud-assisted remote management and storage access, including management of the “FreePlug” HomePlug AV power-supply units for these devices.

But they describe this firmware not as firmware for customer-premises equipment but as “Freebox OS”. This is like placing the Freebox Révolution on the same stage as one of the recent consumer or small-business network-attached storage devices. Here, they lay out the management dashboard for this device so it reminds you of a desktop operating system’s GUI, This is carried over whether you use it from a Web browser or the freely-downloaded iOS or Android mobile apps.

They also are publishing an application-programming interface so that third-party software developers could create management programs for the Freebox Révolution. This could allow for things like management software which works native to particular host-device operating environments through improved dashboard software.

But who knows what is in store for this device once the groundwork is laid down in this operating system. For example Free could start curating an app store and software-development environment for the Freebox Révolution so that others could add functionality to this device. Think of such options as access to third-party cloud storage, additional application-level gateway functionality and, perhaps, adding business-grade features like VPN-endpoint or VoIP “virtual extension” abilities to a consumer-grade device.

It is another example of the lengths the French telecommunications companies are going to to yield multi-play Internet services that are facilitated with highly-capable equipment.

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A wireless-broadband router for the boat

Pleasure-boats at a marina in MelbourneArticle – From the horse’s mouth

Netcomm

NTC-30WV-02 – Marine WiFi Router : NetComm Wireless (Product Page)

My Comments

You have that narrowboat, houseboat or large cabin cruiser that has effectively become your home away from home. In some cases, you may be spending a lot of your retirement years on this boat. But what about your Internet connection?

Netcomm have answered this need with their NTC-30WV-02 which is a “Mi-Fi” router that is optimised for the marine life in freshwater and saltwater. It works with most 3G wireless broadband services which will cover most inland freshwater and 60km off the Australian coast. That figure may be accurate for the East of Australia and similar coastlines that have many towns and cities and use the 800Mhz and 950Mbz spectrum for 3G wireless broadband.

For the LAN side of the equation, it uses 802.11n dual-stream MIMO for the Wi-Fi segment and 10/100BaseT Ethernet as its wired segment. This is being pitched not just for smartphones, tablets and laptops but also for network-capable navigation devices that will start to exist on the bridge of many pleasure craft.

Both sides of the equation are serviced by proper user-replaceable dipole aerials (antennas) which have a greater chance of yielding better 3G and Wi-Fi performance than the typical “Mi-Fi” router with its integrated aerials. It also could mean that a boatie could install stronger 3G aerials on this 3G router to satisfy more reliable performance when the anchors are up or they decide to

The same device also has a socket where you can connect a standard telephone handset or analogue / DECT cordless base station so you use the 3G connection to make and take calls on the boat. This can make things “sound normal” if you want to contact someone on land or they want to contact you out on the water because of the mobile number associated with the SIM card associated with your service.

This modem would come in to its own with “shared” and “family” data plans that cover multiple devices and use a large data allowance. But it can come in handy with “high-end” data and mobile plans that have higher data capacity if this is your sole connection like, for example, a retiree who lives out on the water.

The device can connect to a 12VDC 580mA (peak-demand) power supply which would apply to most of the “live-in” boats.

What I would like to see for this device is some support for WPS-PBC connectivity such as a membrane switch or terminal block so one can add on a “WPS PBC connect” button. Here, this can provide the quick wireless-network enrolment for devices and software that support it like Windows 7/8 computers, Android phones and most consumer electronics.

Similarly, this unit could be in a good position to support the new Wi-Fi PassPoint standards for hotspot login especially on the WAN side. Here, this function, along with a “range extender” or Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi routing function would team up well with the increasing number of marinas that are offering complementary Wi-Fi hotspot service as a service to the boaties who moor there. These features could cut out the extra hassle required with logging in to the Internet service whenever they arrive and tie up; and could allow for seamless cost-saving handover between Internet services.

Who know what this device and others like it could offer to the pleasure-boating community who work the coastline or inland waterways of many different countries in their vessels.

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First HomePlug AV2 adaptors on the market from Linksys

Article

Linksys Fields First HomePlug AV2 Adapters – SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

Linksys

Product Page

My Comments

Linksys has launched in to the US market the first HomePlug powerline network kit that is based on the new HomePlug AV2 technology.

This kit, which retails for USD$119.99 is based on two HomePlug AV2-Gigabit Ethernet bridges. These use the “Single Input Single Output” application of this technology and can sustain a HomePlug link speed of 500Mbps similar to the HomePlug AV / IEEE 1901 “AV500” technology.

But these implement the “three-wires” setup using the US three-prong plug thus working along with other HomePlug AV2 technologies to create a more robust segment. Of course, they would be compatible with HomePlug AV 200 and AV 500 segments and may work at lowest link speed. They also implement the “Simple Connect” push-button setup routine which has been implemented since HomePlug AV so as to create secure unique segments or join HomePlug AV2 devices to existing segments easily.

The Ethernet connection on these devices is a Gigabit Ethernet which satisfies realities like desktop and laptop computers being equipped with Gigabit Ethernet connections. It also allows these “homeplugs” to work in a future-proof manner with high-end routers, next-generation broadband and the cost-effective Gigabit desktop switches.

Personally, I would consider paying the extra premium for this kit if I was dealing with setups where HomePlug network reliability may be questionable. Similarly, I would pay this same premium if I was intending to link that bungalow to the main house’s home network or setting up a temporary wired network in a café or bar.

This could be a sign of things to come for the HomePlug powerline network technology as a flexible network technology.

{ HOMEPLUG AV + 802.11N WI-FI WIRELESS + GIGABIT ETHERNET (where affordable) = AN IDEAL SMALL NETWORK]

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A Mi-Fi device that is the size of a USB stick courtesy of Telstra

Article

Telstra Launches 4G USB + Wi-Fi Device | Gizmodo Australia

From the horse’s mouth

Telstra

Product Page

My Comments

I never knew this would happen when it came to the design of wireless-broadband access devices. Here, Telstra had launched a 4G access device that was the size of a typical USB wireless-broadband modem but was able to work as either a typical wireless-broadband modem or as a “Mi-Fi” router.

In the latter mode, you could just plug it in to one of many USB power-supply devices ranging from a self-powered USB hub through a AC-powered or 12V-powered USB charger typically for your phone to even one of the USB external battery packs. This gives it a level of power-supply flexibility on the same par as a typical smartphone, and the supplied AC adaptor can also work as another spare smartphone charger.

In some ways, this “Mi-Fi” could be used along with the Pure One Flow Internet radio and a USB battery pack of the kind used to charge up mobile phones to provide a truly portable Internet-radio solution that is if the price is right for Internet access. It is similar to what may be expected for in-car Internet applications as what BMW, Chrysler and others are proposing.

Who know what can happen for networking and Internet use as we end up on the road with these kind of “sticks”.

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Buffalo offers a HomePlug AV500 and Wi-Fi N300 kit that can work as a router

Article

Test 59H: Kit CPL Powerline 500AV Wireless-N Router Starter kit (France – French language)

From the horse’s mouth

Buffalo Technology

Product Page

My Comments

Buffalo Technology are offering to European customers a HomePlug AV500 / Wi-Fi N300 access point, known as the WPL-05G300, which isn’t just a HomePlug / Wi-Fi access point for that existing small network. Here, this device doesn’t just allow you to also connect to an Ethernet segment but can be set up to become a wireless router while serving the other Ethernet segment. This is due to two Ethernet connections on the same device

The fact that it can become a router may please some users who may use a broadband modem like most cable-modem deployments and some next-generation broadband and ADSL2 deployments. But the router functionality would be considered irrelevant to most European users who typically run a modem-router which has the integrated Wi-Fi functionality.

Personally, I do see this device still relevant as the secondary access point to “fill in” those Wi-Fi reception gaps such as what is created in older European properties that use thick brick, cement or stone walls. This also includes a lot of the UK properties that have remnants of fireplaces that have been blocked off.

What I am pleased about with this device is that there are switches on the unit to select between the router and access-point mode and similarly to select between client-bridge and access-point behaviour. I am not sure if this is true but this could allow for “quick setup” of extension access points through the use of WPS.

This device is available as a pair of two of these access point / router devices which could come in handy as a way to create that HomePlug segment and increase Wi-Fi coverage or create a 802.11g/n “N300” Wi-Fi segment. Similarly, the kit could also answer outbuilding network needs or encompass that old caravan in the home network. Caravan-park owners could also lick their lips at this setup with the ability to provide reliable wireless coverage in their tenants’ vans.

Who knows who else will offer similar devices that can capitalise on HomePlug AV technologies to create capable no-new-wires small networks.

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A comparative overview of the latest French triple-play “n-boxes” (French-language video)

Article – French language

Vidéo : Les box d’opérateurs au banc d’essai#?xtor=RSS-16#?xtor=RSS-16#?xtor=RSS-16

Link to video / Lien à vidéo

My comments and English-language summary

The video is comparing the “n-boxes” which are the hub of the triple-play services which are covering the highly-competitive French market as most regular HomeNetworking01.info readers will know. It also compares the triple-play services themselves for value, customer service and prowess in satisfying the pay-TV and video-on-demand needs.

I would also suggest that you have a look at my article on setting up for Internet in France if you are winging it in to that country to set up house there.

From the video

Most powerful Freebox Révolution
Highest service bandwidth Numéricable LaBox
Best pay-TV / video-on-demand service Numéricable LaBox
Best online gaming Orange LiveBox Play, Box SFR
Best customer service Freebox Révolution, Box SFR
Least expensive Bouygues Bbox Sensation

 

Here, we are dealing with a highly-competitive market where there is encouragement for innovation. Most of the “boxes” featured here offer an integrated Blu-Ray player as well as pay-TV and out-of-the-box console gaming as far as entertainment is concerned.

They also are the hub of your home network, offering a router, VoIP analogue-telephony adaptor and network-attached storage, as well as being the start of a DLNA Home Media Network.

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Two of the n-box systems in France that answer the Freebox Révolution

Articles and Resources (French language)

La Livebox Play entre en scène – Tour d’horizon de l’offre Livebox Play – DegroupNews.com (Review)

La Box by Numericable (Interactive Advertisement by Numericable)

My comments

After the Freebox Révolution had appeared on the French market as a highly-credible piece of carrier-provided consumer equipment provided as part of a triple-play service, the bar had been raised for such equipment.

For example, the décodeurs i.e. the set-top boxes had become fully-capable video peripherals that integrate a slot-load Blu-Ray 3D player and provide the existing TV set with full smart-TV abilities. This even includes games-console functionality with access to a carrier-hosted app store for these games. Some of the remote controls that come with the set-top equipment have “out-of-the-ordinary” control methods like gesture-based control and RF controller-STB link, with some offering the HDMI-Consumer-Electronics-Control functionality so you can control your flatscreen TV’s source-selection, volume and power wit these remotes.

As well, the n-boxes i.e. the gateway devices are equipped with a network-attached storage based around an integrated hard disk. These would work to the common file-presentation protocols like SMB/CIFS, FTP, HTTP, iTunes (DAAP) and DLNA while offering functionality that a mid-tier consumer NAS would offer like a download manager / torrent server. Even the way the carriers have the gateway devices styled carries the message that they don’t look like your father’s old station wagon.

I have previously covered on HomeNetworking01.info the ability for French-market Samsung Smart TVs to work with Le Modem  which is part of Orange’s LiveBox Play package.

Numericable’s La Box package is an all-in-one device which connects to their FTTN / DOCSIS cable-modem service. But this device has the cable modem, router, VoIP gateway, NAS, PVR and Blu-Ray functionality in the one box. This setup even uses the QR codes as one of its methods for securely enrolling smartphones and tablets to the Wi-Fi wireless network segment.

The LiveBox Play gateway device, henceforth known as Le Modem, implements things like an OLED customer-information display and uses 3 WAN options – VDSL2, ADSL2 and fibre-to-the-premises.

There are others like the Bbox Sensation which also are equipped with the similar functionality but it would be interesting to see who else would run with similar hardware that has this high level of functionality or raise the stakes further through the firmware update cycles.

Similarly it would be interesting to see whether these devices just appear within France or appear in other markets where there is real competition on the Internet-service front.

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Product Review-Western Digital MyNet Range Extender

Introduction

I am reviewing the Western Digital MyNet Range Extender which is a surprising take for the new crop of Wi-Fi range extenders. This dual-band range-extender has the Ethernet port so it becomes a client bridge for an existing Wi-Fi segment, but it has the ability to work as an Wi-Fi access point for a wired network segment. This means that it can be set up to extend a wireless network’s coverage once you use it with a HomePlug AV kit or an existing wired Ethernet backbone.

WD MyNet Range Extender

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$149.99

LAN Connectivity

Ethernet 1
Wireless 802.11a/g/n dual-band single-radio WPA2-Personal WPS
– access point, repeater, client-bridge

The device itself

A lot of devices of this class can show their worst side when you are setting them up and integrating them in to your home network. Manufacturers tend to say that they are easy to set up but they can be difficult to set up for reliable operation.

Setup

WD MyNet Range Extender connections - Ethernet and band selector

Connections on rear of the range extender – Ethernet connection, band selector and power

The WD MyNet Range Extender is very much close to plug and play installation if you are using a router or access point that works with the WPS “push-to-setup” method for the wireless network. On the other hand, you have to log in to a special SSID to set the unit up for most networks. Don’t expect this dual-band range extender to work like a radio or TV “translator” station where it can pick up on one band and extend the network to another band, like picking up on the 2.4GHz band and repeating to the 5GHz band – it doesn’t support this functionality.

There is the problem of a worrying error message that mentions that the network connection has failed when you are setting up wirelessly even though it can work. Another problem that also worries me is the use of the same SSID and channel for “extending” the network. This can cause problems that lead to this same error message due to a “beat” frequency being created by the range extender or the risk of a data storm being created. As well, I had to configure the range extender so that its “extended” area is identified separately to the main router so as to identify if it is working properly.

Other than that, the use of a signal meter on the side of the WD MyNet Range Extender allows you to determine how strong the signal is to allow for optimum positioning, whether it serves as a range extender or a client bridge.

The WD Range extender also works well as a client bridge for an Ethernet-ended device even while it works as a range extender, serving one or more wireless devices. This is although the manual says that it is to serve on device but if you use a switch with this device, it could be a different case. It is worth knowing that the bandwidth for the wireless cell created by this device is effectively half of what would be normally available from the router but this is more about assuring reliable operation for your network equipment and it would be installed at the “fringe” of your main access point’s coverage.

The fact that the DC power comes in from the supplied AC adaptor as 12 volts 1.5 amps may also please people who may want to use this device in a vehicle or a boat to “draw out” a caravan park’s or marina’s Wi-Fi coverage or feed it to an Ethernet device without the need of an inverter.

On the other hand, I had a fair bit of trouble getting this unit to work as an access point and found that the review sample wouldn’t even obtain the DHCP address and identify itself on to the network. Following the instructions in the online manual was a futile exercise and I would suggest that WD make the job of setting up as an access point an easy effort. For example, the use of DHCP or Auto-IP be implemented properly on the Ethernet connection in this mode.

Operation

I used the WD MyNet Range Extender as a “fringe coverage” extender for the existing network and found that it was able to work with my phone when it came to streaming Internet radio at the London-based station’s maximum rate.

I also ran it as a client bridge but it also works as the “fringe coverage” extender and it was able to work properly with an old laptop that didn’t come with integrated Wi-Fi wireless.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Western Digital could offer a simultaneous dual-band variant of the MyNet Range Extender that could extend both bands of a simultaneous dual-band router or work as a simultaneous dual-band access point.

Similarly they could have this unit be able to work properly as an access point including using DHCP or Auto-IP setup for integrating itself to the Ethernet segment so you can configure it. It could also support an “access-point” setup mode for simplifying the setup of an extended-service-set where one of the access points is equipped with WPS or you run it as a “client bridge” or range extender and it locks on to the wireless network you intend to “extend”. This issue could be sorted out through a firmware update that could apply to equipment that is in current circulation.

As well, there should be a “client WPS” button so you can quickly enroll client devices to the MyNet Range Extender rather than just enrolling the Range Extender to the host router.

Conclusion

Like most wireless range extenders, the WD MyNet Range Extender would require a bit of work in getting them to extend a small wireless network properly. It works well as a client bridge but the access point function does need more work on it. I would recommend it more as a dual-band client-bridge or range extender for someone who has had experience in setting these devices up.

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Raising the bar with MiFi router design

Articles

AT&T’s new MiFi Liberate is LTE-capable, ‘world’s first’ with touchscreen display – Engadget

AT&T Shoved a Touchscreen in Its Latest LTE MiFi Hotspot Because, Hey, Why Not! | Gizmodo

AT&T’s MiFi Liberate LTE is first touch-screen hot spot | CNet

From the horse’s mouth

AT&T – Press Release

My Comments

AT&T have released a new “MiFi” router for 4G wireless broadband networks in the form of the AT&T-Novatel MiFi Liberate. Here, this device is not your “father’s old station wagon”.

The device borrows the P-shaped design cues from the Apple Magic Trackpad and some door-handles rather than Microsoft’s newer input devices. Users can manage their connection using a colour LCD touchscreen rather than the typical Web user interface and, in some cases, a monochrome LCD or OLED display.

It can connect up to 10 concurrent Wi-Fi devices to the 4G LTE wireless-broadband connection and can do this for 11 hours on its own battery. What also impresses me about this MiFi is that it, like a few recent AT&T MiFis, has the ability to share files off a microSD card, including the ability to share media to UPnP AV / DLNA devices like Internet radios. This function could be taken further if the MiFi could mount microSDXC cards of 64-128Gb capacity.

At the moment it’s only through AT&T but I would like to see more carries who run LTE-compliant 4G networks offer this device in their 3G wireless router lineup. The firmware that all of the carriers who run with this device should support all of the functions including the file-sharing / DLNA functionality.

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