With the growth rate of multi-PC homes increasing to nearly the rate of new single PC homes, equipment for networking the home is under high demand and new technologies are emerging to help consumers and businesses make their networks faster and more portable.

The most substantial problem for homes that are preparing to network their PCs is cabling. Although new homes are occasionally wired with in-wall Ethernet, such homes are very uncommon and the task of running Ethernet through the walls of an existing home is both difficult and expensive. For many readers, the simple option is to run CAT5 cabling under the carpet or along the baseboards, but for people who do not want to deal with visible and exposed cabling, wireless and phoneline networking may be a perfect alternative.

The development of wireless and phoneline networking has become a hot topic in the recent year as new technologies are emerging at a very rapid pace. Currently, the most widely used standards in wireless and phoneline networking are the IEEE 802.11b (WiFi) and HomePNA 2.0 standards, respectively.

Older standards, including HomePNA 1.0 and the old wireless standards HomeRF and IEEE 802.11 were both mildly popular but have been phased out of most manufacturers' product lines. Also, standards based on other technologies have been attempted, including several proprietary powerline networking products which were unsuccessful because of frequent compatibility and reliability problems.

New technologies for non-Ethernet networking are just emerging. The new 802.11a standard operates at 54Mbps, eclipsing 802.11b in performance. It aims to replace 802.11b in the near future, however; it is just now making its appearance in high-budget corporate locations and test labs. Dual-mode options are also available for those with a need for backwards compatability, but the 802.11a standard is not directly compatible with 802.11b.

New standards for powerline networking have been released and appear competitive with current technology for other mediums. Both HomePlug 1.0 and the upcoming CEA R7.3 are technologies that will vie for acceptance in home powerline connectivity within the next 6-9 months.

Phoneline Networking
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