Will Powerline Plug Installers?
HomePlug and Powerline Communications provide simple connections for complex applications that normally require whole-house wiring. But is the technology really viable?
By Cliff Roth
Imagine plugging a TiVo or Media Center PC into an electrical outlet and it instantly connects to the internet.
Imagine plugging a TV or set-top box into an AC wall outlet in a bedroom, and it instantly and automatically connects to a media server in the living room.
Imagine it also instantly connects to the living room cable or satellite box, and displays all these choices as soon as you first turn it on.
Does this sound a bit threatening to the custom installation business? You bet. From a consumer's perspective, this is very appealing technology—just plug it in and it connects.
What's it called? HomePlug—for the most part, at least.
HomePlug is the best-known of a number of similar powerline-based networking technologies. It's the "Kleenex" or "Xerox" of sorts of what is more generically called PLC: Powerline Communication.
Your customers probably haven't asked you about HomePlug or PLC yet, but soon they might.
Some may already be asking about a related technology called BPL (Broadband over Powerline), which delivers internet access not through cable, phone lines or satellite, but ordinary AC power lines. In October 2004, Manassas, Va., became the first U.S. city completely wired for BPL, kicking off what proponents hope will become a nationwide rollout that would expand to three the options for high-speed internet access to the home (DSL and cable being the other two).
BPL, however, is about getting the internet to the home over the powerline. Conversely, HomePlug AV—the new audio-video HomePlug spec, released this past summer—is about communication within the home.
The simplicity of the HomePlug/PLC-type connection cannot be overemphasized. There are no inputs, outputs, color codes, connector types or other details for the consumer to comprehend. Just plug into the AC wall outlet and you're all set.