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Powerline adapters affecting bandwidth & WiFi

Posted on 2013-12-12
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Last Modified: 2013-12-23
I just installed a TP-Link powerline network of 2 adapters on a home network. Everything seemed to be working great. Only 1 Windows 8 computer connected to this network.

The evening after I installed it the owner emailed me that his wifi was very slow. He ran one of the online speed tests & saw that his download speed was between 2-3Mbps. So he unplugged the powerline adapter that was plugged into the router from the wall & said that his speed went up to 45Mbps.

I don't think I have heard of this happening before. Of course he never said that he plugged the adapter back in & the speed dropped again, so I will need to get him to do that.

It just hit me as "What?" This doesn't make any sense. Other than the computer connected with the powerline network was doing updates, Windows, AV, etc., would it make any sense.
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Question by:Blinkr
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by:Craig Beck
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What's at the other end of the powerline adapters?
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by:Davis McCarn
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I smell an infection and the PC on the powerline adapter is using up his bandwidth.
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by:Blinkr
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Well, 1 adapter is connected via RJ45 to the Verizon router. The other one is to a Windows 8 computer that I just installed with AV.

Very little has been done on as it was having a terrible time staying connected with the wireless network.
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by:Rob Williams
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I started in IT the early part of this century after spending many years diagnosing physical network issues.  I had >$30,000 in test equipment that the largest installers and ISP's did not have.  Over those years I discovered how fragile network cabling is and how a simple kink in a wire, or proximity to a power cable can bring a network to a crawl.

I also have implemented X-10 home automation in my home since 1998 which works on a somewhat similar principle to Power-line.

Based on my experience the last technology I would ever use for networking is Powerline.   I know that is of little help, but the possible problems introduced to the network by it are endless.  Any extraneous signals on the building wiring can cause issues, having one powerline adapter on one 110V leg of your 220 wiring and the other powerline adapter on the other 100v leg can cause a complete loss of signal, and actually turning on the stove (a 220v device) may cause it to work.

I suspect there is a lot of “noise” being introduced by the building wiring.  You may find it works sometimes and not others as devices are turned on and off.
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by:Blinkr
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Thanks Rob!
So this sends me back to the drawing board.

Things I have tried so far for this installation in a home. No networking cabling & would be costly to add it.

1) Installed a wireless adapter on new computer & got a very low signal, &, of course, it wasn't stable (kept dropping out)

2) After doing the above, installed a wireless repeater upstairs (where the new computer is, the Verizon router is downstairs). This did increased the signal a small amount, but still continued to drop signal the same.

3) Installed the powerline adapters to the router & to the upstairs computer. Signal was much better & it was not dropping connection. BUT for some reason the bandwidth, according to the client, dropped tremendously while the powerline network was connected. This seems to be the best solution, if I could just solve this bandwidth problem.

As I said in my original question, this doesn't seem to make much sense. But what I am able to take from your comment is that due to just using the electrical wiring in the house this would maybe be an issue.

Is this correct??
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by:Rob Williams
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Yes, the house wiring can be the problem.

Powerline sends the signal over the house wiring.  In theory that is OK, the receiver can then extract the signal.  The problem occurs when there are power spikes, noise, EMI, and other forms of interference.  The receiver often cannot separate the network traffic from the noise and loses the packet.  The way TCP/IP works is to keep sending a packet until the recipient acknowledges receipt.  Thus a packet may be retransmitted thousands of times and brings communications to a crawl.

Networks are very sensitive.  Just as an example if you use a male to male adapter to extend a patch cable, network performance can drop by as much as 90%.  This happens because in that adapter the 8 connections run for ¼” in parallel and uninsulated.  Just the amount of electromagnet cross talk that occurs in that ¼” degrades the signal drastically.  Though cross talk within 110v wiring is not an issue as it uses different technology, you can have cross talk at the termination points or as mentioned, noise introduced in the line.  In short it is lost packets that cause the performance issues and loss of bandwidth.  You can get a meter that will analyze that for you for about $22,000  :-)

I may be totally wrong and they have found some miracle solution but I can’t imagine how.  Powerline has been around since the 90’s and died a horrible death, but for some reason seems to be back.  The 3 networks where I have seen it performance was terrible and we ripped it out.

If there is any way you can get a wire from the primary router to a second and/or third it would be your best solution.  I have never found a building or house where I couldn’t do it, but I have cabling and carpentry training :-)  You cannot run normal CAT 5 exposed outdoors but you can even pull off siding and run it behind.

The ISP’s router is probably not an type N wireless router but if not you could add one of those and N adapter to remote PC’s.  My daughter uses my wireless in the basement of the house across the street, 150’ away, when babysitting.

Houses are always a challenge.  I did one that every wall was 6” speed tile filled with concrete and the floors about 4” concrete.  Wireless wouldn’t reach the next room :-)
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by:Craig Beck
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So the issue isn't that the Powerline kit is causing an issue, but rather that it's just giving poor performance??

Have you installed the TP-Link Powerline utility to see what link speed the adapters are linked at?

I had a pair of TP-Link AV200 units that would only link at ~15Mbps until I upgraded the firmware on them, but after that they were giving me a link of ~130Mbps.
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by:Blinkr
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So you are suggesting installing a wireless N router to the Verizon router (makes sense since ISP routers aren't that great anyway), & connect a wireless N adapter to the computer upstairs?

What's the difference in wireless N & others?

As I stated in the list of what I have tried, I connected an wireless adapter to the computer & installed an access point/repeater in an upstairs hallway, which improved everything somewhat, but not enough. But you are suggesting using wireless N devices.

What brands do you recommend? I have always used Linksys over the years, but I know the newer devices from other companies have improved quite a bit.

Thanks again, "Master" ;))
Grasshopper
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Davis McCarn earned 200 total points
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Agreat utility for inspecting routing and packet loss is PingPlotter http://www.pingplotter.com/freeware.html

I'll set it to 2.5 second sample intervals and point it to www.microsoft.com , for example.  It will then display all of the hops (visual traceroute) and the PL% (packet loss)  If the powerline is having issues, you'll see it.

Another issue is that USB wireless adapters suck.  USB was never meant to handle the packet structure of TCP/IP and I have often seen one clobber a printer, screw up a shared database, etc...

A PCI adapter is much better; especially if it has a wire leading to the antenna base which allows you to move the antenna and bypass obstructions: http://www.meritline.com/edimax-ew-7128gn-pci-adapter---p-67769.aspx?source=fghdac&gclid=COiL-J_frbsCFW9nOgodGGgAtg  (I never heard of this brandl but, posted it for the picture AND you need to know PCI or PCIE slot)
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by:Rob Williams
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I may be wrong on the type N and extended distances.  I was just talking to a colleague who is more up to date on wireless routers.  He says it’s not just the protocol but also the strength of the transmitter and the antennae.  Though more type N routers have a better distance rating it is not just because of the N protocol.  B and N do have a longer distance than A.   Best to check the specs of an individual router.  My wireless/guest network uses a Linksys WR300N (I think) and it advertises 300’ outdoors (i.e. unobstructed) and 150’ indoors.   I prefer units with multiple antennae as the signal radiates outward like a donut.  With multiple antenna you can have 1 upright and one horizontal which helps upper floors.

Of course if you want to buy $800 Cisco Access points you can even control the direction/area of coverage.

As for brands I can’t really say, at least not in the residential class.  I used to like Linksys/Cisco, but D-link and Netgear have some nice units now.

You could also change the antennae for better transmission strength.  I have a 2’ $100 Yagi antennae at my cottage to boost 3G internet reception  :-)
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by:Craig Beck
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N is not a frequency - it is an enhancement of G and A.  N provides better range and throughput by using multiple transmitters and receivers at the same time on the G or A band.

However, due to the fact that the frequency is the same whether you're using 802.11n at 2.4GHz or 802.11g at 2.4GHz (for example) there's not really much of an improvement as you're still having to propagate a signal through the same materials over the distance throughout the area you're serving.  The thought that 802.11n offers better range is actually something of a myth - it just gives you faster speeds over a greater range.  This is something which is misinterpreted to mean 802.11n lets you go further.

If you're after some good home units have a look at something like the Ubiquiti UniFi UAP 802.11n MIMO Access Point
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by:Blinkr
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Thanks for the input craigbeck!! Some really good information. Do you have any suggestions for wireless routers?? I just purchased one of the Ubiquiti AP's to test. But haven't had a chance to do it yet. Those may be a little expensive for home use. That's a reason for using the best router that I can locate. I read an article a while back about Asus' newest router & how well it performed.

I mentioned that I used a repeater on their wireless network but I was actually using a range extender. I tried both a D-Link & Linksys. The Linksys seemed to setup much easier gave a better signal. Are these any good?

You mentioned that the USB weren't very good. Would it work better to use another small wireless router at the computer end & connect it via the RJ45 ports? I'm too clear on how to do this as most of these usually need to be connected to the network thru a cable to the ISP 's modem/router Any thoughts??

Thanks Rob for your additional input. It appears you favor the same brands I have used for years. I don't think I can get away with installing an $800 AP.

Those Yagi antennas look like the old TV antennas. How does that work for you?? I occasionally would like to have a little boost in my cell service when I'm at my brothers river place.
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by:Rob Williams
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The Yagi I have connects to a Netgear 3G router.  I actually only saw minor improvement in signal strength but I saw an enormous improvement in consistency.  I have clear line of sight to the tower, many miles away, but the signal strength would often drop with weather changes.  The Yagi seems to have eliminated any fluctuations.
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by:Blinkr
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There is a ton of great info in this discussion. The internal wireless adapter with a corded antenna seems to be the best solution so far. Its working quite well with a very small amount of signal drop. I think I have finally given up on the USB dongles.

Thanks for the discussion guys!!!
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