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Integrating HPNA and HomePlug with
Your Wireless Home Network
Wireless networking is great ” so great that we wrote a book about it. But in
many instances, wireless is but one way to do what you want; and often, wire-
less solutions need a hand from wireline (that is, wired) solutions to give you
a solid, reliable connection into your home network.

A common application of wireline and wireless networking is a remote AP
that you want to link back into your home network. Suppose that your cable
modem is in the office in the basement, and that™s where you have your AP as
well. Now suppose that you want wireless access to your PC for your TV,
stereo, and laptop surfing in the master bedroom on the third floor. Chances
are your AP™s signal isn™t going to be strong enough for that application up
there. So how do you link one AP to the other?

You could install a wired Ethernet solution, which would entail running new
Cat 5e cables through your walls up to your bedroom. Pretty messy if you ask
us, but this approach certainly will provide up to 100 Mbps if you need it.

A more practical way to get your cable modem up to the third floor is to run
an HPNA or HomePlug link between the two points. Think of this as one long
extension cord between your router or AP in the basement and your AP in
your bedroom. HPNA, as we discuss shortly, does this over your standard
phone lines; HomePlug does it over electrical lines. Although the effective
throughput won™t match 54 Mbps, it will likely exceed the speed of your
Internet connection. So if that™s your primary goal, these are great, clean,
and very easy options for you. Check out the next two sections for more.
58 Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals


Home Phoning (ET Got It Backward!)
Using your home phone lines to network devices together is (you guessed it)
phoneline networking. This is a fairly mature technology having grown up
about the same time as the digital subscriber line (DSL) industry, around the
mid-1990s. Phoneline networking standards have been developed by an
industry group called HomePNA or sometimes just HPNA (Home Phoneline
Networking Association; www.homepna.org).

You™ll find several types of HPNA available:

HPNA 1.0: The first HPNA standard operates at a slower speed (1.3 Mbps)
and is disappearing from the shelves.
HPNA 2.0: Much faster than 1.0, the 2.0 version can reach speeds similar
to those of an Ethernet LAN. It™s advertised as 10 Mbps, but the maxi-
mum speed is actually 16 Mbps. This version is backward compatible
with HPNA 1.0.
HPNA 3.0: A 3.0 version of the standard that will allow much higher
speeds is in the works. The goal is to reach speeds of up to 128 Mbps ini-
tially, with later versions reaching 240 Mbps ” enough speed to carry
even high-definition video signals. These were not available as we write
but are coming soon, so check stores for which version is available when.

Although the newer 2.0 products can talk to older 1.0 ones, having even one
HPNA 1.0 device connected to your phone lines slows all the HPNA 2.0
devices down to 1.3 Mbps. Make sure that all of yours are 2.0 if you want that
technology. (We hate it when we buy five of something only to go home and
find that one of the boxes is an older version ” yech!). The new 3.0 version
will have improved backward compatibility so that HPNA 3.0 devices (when
they show up) won™t be slowed down just because older HPNA endpoints are
connected to the phone lines.

HomePNA products are available in several different form factors. You will
likely encounter them in two major ways:

Built into the AP, router, or other device: These are installed in periph-
eral or entertainment devices (such as Internet-enabled stereos) right
from the factory.
A standalone adapter: There are HomePNA Ethernet and USB adapters
that are external devices that connect to a computer™s Ethernet or USB
ports by using a cable. You can also get internal Network Interface Card
(NIC) adapters in PC Card and Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI)
Card formats for laptop and desktop machines.
59
Chapter 3: Bluetooth, HPNA, and HomePlug

The typical HomePNA interface has a regular RJ-11 phone jack that you plug
into your nearest outlet. The HomePNA system operates on different frequen-
cies than analog or DSL telephone services, so you can simultaneously use a
single phone line for your computer LAN and for all the other things you cur-
rently use it for (making phone calls, sending and receiving faxes, or connect-
ing to the Internet).

To connect your HomePNA endpoints (the computers or audio systems or
other devices using HomePNA in your home) back onto your Internet connec-
tion, you need to connect the HomePNA network through your router to your
Internet connection. The good news here is that HomePNA is built in to many
home routers, such as those from NETGEAR (www.netgear.com), Linksys
(www.linksys.com), and 2Wire (www.2wire.com), so if you think that you
might want to use HomePNA, choose your router accordingly.




Network Power(line)!
Companies have been talking about powerline networking for some time, but
only recently have they really gotten it right. In 2002, several networking com-
panies (including Siemens/Efficient Networks [www.speedstream.com],
Linksys, NETGEAR, and D-Link [www.d-link.com]) began releasing high-
speed powerline networking products based on a standard known as
HomePlug (www.homeplug.org).

The powerline networking concept takes a little getting used to. Most of us
are used to plugging an AC adapter or electrical cable into the wall and then
another Ethernet cable into some other networking outlet for the power and
data connections. With HomePlug, those two cables are reduced to one ”
the power cable! That electrical cord is your LAN connection, ” along with
all the rest of the electrical cabling in your house. Cool, huh? To connect to
your computer, you run an Ethernet cable from the HomePlug device (router,
AP, and so on) to your computer, hub, or switch.

Networking on power lines is no easy task. Power lines are noisy, electrically
speaking, with surges in voltage level and electrical interferences introduced
by all sorts of devices both within and external to the home. The state of the
electrical network in a home is constantly changing as well when devices are
plugged in and turned on. Because of this, the HomePlug standard adopts a
sophisticated and adaptive signal processing algorithm, which is a technique
used to convert data into electrical signals on the power wiring. Because
HomePlug uses higher frequency signals, the technology can avoid some of
the most common sources of noise on the power line.
60 Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals

The current version of HomePlug can offer up to 14 Mbps networking over
the power line ” faster than 802.11b or HomePNA but slower than 802.11g or
a and the higher-speed, wired Ethernet solutions. Besides the speed,
HomePlug offers other benefits:

Ubiquity: Power outlets are all over your house and are more plentiful
than phone jacks and Ethernet outlets. With HomePlug, every one of the
dozens (or even hundreds) of power outlets in the house becomes a
data-networking jack.
Integrated: HomePlug can be built right into many networked appli-
ances. The almost legendary Internet refrigerator that we discuss in sev-
eral places in this book is a great concept, but even we don™t have a Cat
5e outlet in the dark nook behind our fridges. However, we do have a
power outlet, and so do you.
Encrypted: HomePlug has a built-in encryption system. Because power
signals can bleed back into the local power network and because you
might not want to share your LAN with your neighbors, you can turn on
HomePlug™s encryption. In that way, only devices that have your pass-
word can be on the network.
Like the wireless systems that we describe previously, most HomePlug sys-
tems come with encryption turned off by default. We recommend that you
get your network up and running first . . . and then turn on encryption after
you™ve proven to yourself that your network is working.
The most common application for HomePlug is as an Ethernet or a USB
bridge. These devices look and act a lot like the external USB Wi-Fi NICs that
we discuss earlier. You™ll need two of them: one to connect to an Ethernet
port on your router (or any LAN jack in your home) and another to plug into
the wall outlet where you need LAN access.

The bridge typically has a power cord on one side of the box and an Ethernet
or USB connector on the other. Plug the power cord into any wall outlet, plug
the Ethernet or USB into the computer or other networked devices, and you
have a connection. Pat has been using a NETGEAR Powerline Ethernet bridge
like this for a spot in his house that has neither Ethernet nor good wireless
coverage, and he loves it. Danny has a Siemens/Efficient Networks
SpeedStream router connecting his office (where the cable modem is) to a
SpeedStream adapter in the kids™ computing area (where all the screaming
is). Figure 3-5 shows a typical use of HomePlug bridges.
61
Chapter 3: Bluetooth, HPNA, and HomePlug



Home router

PC



Cat 5e



HomePlug HomePlug
bridge bridge


Power cable

Figure 3-5:
Plug your
computer AC electrical outlet
into the
wall ” and
that™s all.



Powerline networking through HomePlug is a great complement to a wireless
network, but we probably would never use it to replace our wireless LANs.
Use it where you need it. HomePlug is quick, cheap (bridges cost about $80
each, with prices dropping rapidly), and perfect for networking on demand.

We hinted at this already, but we™ll just come right out and say it. We think
that HomePlug will have a huge effect in the non-computer market ” stereos,
TVs, gaming machines, Internet fridges, and other pieces of electronic equip-
ment that might benefit from an Internet connection. And when HomePlug
becomes incorporated into new generations of appliances, you™ll need just a
power cord to make it work.
62 Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Part II
Making Plans
In this part . . .
This part of the book helps you plan for installing your
wireless home network ” from deciding what you™ll con-
nect to the network, to making buying decisions, to plan-
ning the actual installation of wireless networking
equipment in your home.
Chapter 4
Planning a Wireless Home
Network
In This Chapter
Determining what to connect to your network and where to put it
Putting together a wireless home network budget
Connecting to the Internet
Planning for security




W e™re sure you™ve heard the sage advice that, “One who does not plan is
doomed to failure.” On the other hand, management guru and author
Peter Drucker says, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately
degenerate into hard work.” Because you™re going to be spending your hard-
earned money to buy the equipment necessary for your wireless network, we
assume that you want to do a little planning before you actually start building
your network. But if you prefer to shoot first and aim later, feel free to skip
this chapter and also Chapter 5.

In this chapter, we show you how to plan a wireless home network ” from
selecting a wireless technology to deciding what things to connect and where
to connect them to budgeting. You™ll also find out about other issues that you
should consider when planning your home network, including connecting to
the Internet; sharing printers, other peripherals, and fun, non-computer
devices; and security. When you™re ready to begin buying the wireless home
networking parts (if you haven™t done so already), head to Chapter 5 where
we give some detailed advice about buying exactly the equipment that you
need. In Part III, we show you how to set up and install your wireless home
network.
66 Part II: Making Plans


Deciding What Is Connected
to the Network
Believe it or not, some techno-geeks have a computer in every room of their
house. We have some close friends that fit into that category. You probably
don™t own as many computers as we do, but you might own more than one,
and we™re guessing that you have at least one printer and probably other
peripherals as well. You™re wirelessly networking your home for a reason, no
matter whether it™s to share that cool, new color ink jet printer (or scanner or
digital video recorder), or to play your computer-based MP3s on your new
wide-screen TV, or to give every computer in the house always-on access to
the Internet. Whatever the reason, the first thing that you must do when plan-
ning a wireless home network is to determine what you want connected to
the network.



Counting network devices
When deciding how many computers or other network-aware devices that you
want to connect to your network, you can easily get your answer by counting
all the computers and networkable devices that you own ” if you have the
dough to buy the necessary parts, that is. Fortunately, the prices for wireless
networking equipment have dropped enough that cost probably won™t deter
you. If someone in your house regularly uses a particular computer to access
the Internet and/or to print information, that computer should probably be
connected to your network. Bottom line: You™ll almost certainly connect to
your network each of your computers that you use regularly.

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