The HomePlug consortium has been around since 2000. It is made up of a number of companies which develop products intending to network the home using the already existing electrical wiring infrastructure. The consortium's technology has been adopted as the baseline for the IEEE P1901 standard due for ratification next month. In this section, we will not talk about standards such as MoCA (Multimedia-over-Coax) and HomePNA which are alternatives to powerline networking for a connected home. The focus will be on standards which aim to compete with the HomePlug base requirements.

Gigle Semiconductors (now, Gigle Networks) was the first to introduce a Gigabit powerline networking chipset by adding proprietary extensions to the base HomePlug AV standards (which correspond to the 200 Mbps PHY). The only product using this chip in the US market is Belkin's GIgabit Powerline Network Adapter Kit, reviewed in detail here. As can be seen, there is an increase in the available bandwidth. However, this increase in performance is not uniform or reliable enough across various locations in the house. The situation with the proprietary extensions to the base standards is such that Gigle Networks is now advertising (PDF link) design wins for their 200 Mbps PHY chipset. Unless Gigle's proprietary extensions become part of the HomePlug / IEEE P1901 standards, it looks likely that we will not be finding many Gigabit powerline adapters in the near future.

The main competitor for the IEEE P1901 standard comes from the ITU. The standard promoted by the HomeGrid Forum, and also pushed by the ITU, aims to propose a single standard for networking over electrical wires, phone lines and coax cables. While the Wikipedia article suggests that the standard can network at rates upto 1 Gbps, a detailed perusal reveals that the June 2010 sitting of the ITU committee had decided to reduce the baseband operational spectrum. This further strengthens the criticism of the standard mentioned towards the end of the article. That said, it would be interesting to see whether Marvell puts its weight behind, now that it has purchased one of the four initial silicon vendors, namely, DS2. There are other big companies introducing silicon too, such as Sigma Designs. However, the fact that there is no proper standard yet, coupled with the issue of lack of demonstrated silicon, doesn't bode well for the technology.

Having setup the required background for powerline networking products, we now proceed to review the WD Livewire.

Introduction Unboxing & Setup Impressions
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  • PlcBooster - Saturday, September 11, 2010 - link

    Hi Souka,

    Firstly, I would like to convey my Big KUDOS! to Mr. Ganesh T S on his good and inside report on the Powerline Networking with the Western Digital Livewire. He furnished us with very informative good and un bias reports.

    I bet many people, end users or rather consumers are quite dismay after they use the PLC adapters and put them into real action ie use at home or at their office.
    But hold on your dismay, cos, there is a company in APAC that I know can help or overcome this 10 years inherent issues that have been plaguing these PLC manufacturers, they will be planning to launch their product once they find the right business partner, may be Western Digital Livewire, if WD are keen to explore with them. So that the PLC adapters adoption and acceptance rate will surely flourish worldwide with an affordable price of course. :)

    Cheers! to Mr. Ganesh!
  • PlcBooster - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    There is light at the end of the tunnel for all PLC adapters manufacturers, distributors & end users

    Kindly feel free to view these three short informative videos at the following links below:

    PLC-adapters have been proven to perform better with Surestreamer

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Thank you very much & Merry Christmas!
  • casteve - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    Ganesh, thanks for the review. Since WD wants this device to be plugged into the wall and not into a surge protector power strip or UPS:

    1) How much AC power do the two units use?
    2) Do they have an on/off switch?
    3) Is there surge protection circuitry built in and are there any guarantees to it? Seems like there would be a surge path via the ethernet ports.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link


    The device acts as a router of sorts, consuming around 3 - 3.5 W. Load or no-load didn't make much of a difference with the Kill-a-watt I was using (it is not really accurate at such low power numbers).

    It does have an on-off switch right next to the power connection point.

    I will get back to you on the surge protection circuitry in a bit.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    casteve, I have unofficial confirmation from outside sources that the board design also has surge protection circuitry built in. I am still waiting to hear back officially from WD PR.
  • casteve - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the power usage info.
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - link

    Yes, sometimes it is very hard to fish cabling though a wall to get what you want exactly where you need it but come on folks. There are so many neat and tidy ways to run cabling, surely most anyone can find a way to get it done.

    Such as pulling the floor trim off of the wall, and running cable behind it. Wont work for you ? Raise it up a bit, and run the cabling just under the floor trim(sometimes all that is needed is a wedge, and a screwdriver). Or how about; Under the carpet in the corner of the wall . . . all that is required is a little imagination, and wiliness to spend some time to get it done.

    *Or* if things are extremely tough, you can drill a few strategic holes where you *know* you will not cut into anything important ( like power runs or plumbing, etc ), and fish from point A to B to . . .Z. It is not as though doing wall patch work is all that difficult. Again, all that is required is a bit of imagination, and time to achieve. Anyone can make excuses.

    I shudder to think of the alternative. Which is *hoping* your electrical is clean / noise free enough to use something that in this persons humble opinion should never have even been given a second thought.
  • Brucmack - Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - link

    I've been using two Amitech home plugs for a while to connect my media box under my TV to the rest of my network. There are a couple of "gotchas" to consider. First, if you have a house with really old wiring, don't expect to get a very stable or fast connection. Second, some chargers can interfere with the signal, especially if you use the homeplug on a power strip. But basically if you can get a stable signal, it's quicker and more reliable than wireless.
  • kwlinca - Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - link

    Powerline technology only works when connecting 2 locations on the SAME circuit. My computer is located on one circuit in the front of the house and my AV equipment is located on a different circuit in the back of my house. It is only when you read the fine print that you find this out.
  • Welshtrog - Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - link

    The problem with these units is that they are effectively broadband transmitters and cover a large section of the radio spectrum which is why radio users object to their use and objectors can cause them to be removed. by ofcom

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