Options abound when setting up a home computer network
Feb 22, 2009, 9:15 GMT
Hanover - Setting up a home internet network may not be your idea of fun, but there's one consolation. If you set it up from scratch, you can set up a system best suited for transmitting pictures, music and other computer data from inside your own four walls.
If you're building a brand new home or undertaking a complete renovation, laying local area network (LAN) cables and network boxes is advisable. If you're adding a network to an existing home, your choice is between LAN, wireless LAN, an optical fibre network or making use of the house's existing power network to transmit information.
WLAN is the best option, if mobility is high on your priorities, but you can make do with lower levels of available bandwidth. It's best suited for web surfing, internet telephony or music streaming. That's because the widespread WLAN standard can realistically reach 25 megabits per second (MBit/s), but a bad connection can slash that transmission rate to one or two MBit/s, reports c't, a Hanover-based computer magazine.
WLAN signals can be boosted with repeaters in poor reception areas. But that halves the rate at which data flows, since each data packet has to be transmitted twice. Anyone who has a stationary computer set up in a distant corner of the house or in a room where a signal has to penetrate concrete walls to reach the computer, might want to consider non-WLAN options.
Power line networks allow transmission of data via the house's pre-existing electricity system without major renovation work. Every power outlet becomes a potential connection to the internet, reports telecommunications company teltarif.de.
These networks are enabled with small adapters that fit into power outlets. Those are then connected to the router and the computer via LAN cables. The latest versions are touted as having data transmission rates of up to 200 MBit/s. In tests, depending on the distance covered and the quality of the electric network, they averaged between 15 and 85 MBit/s. A set of the latest generation of adapters can be purchased for about 100 euros (127 dollars).
Polymer optical fibres (POF) can also be used in certain situations. Transmitting light along their millimetre-thin wires, they can be a solution, if LAN cables prove too big and a building's electric system is incapable of transmitting data quickly or regularly.
At a cost of about 90 euros, POF sets consist of two small adapters that translate electric signals into optical ones, and a 30- metre cable. With this solution, a computer user can reach data speeds of almost up to 100 MBit/s. Just like powerline, the actual connection is made via a LAN cable.
'Broadcast is certainly the most elegant option, but the one that works least well,' says Stephan Breide, who teaches at a technical college in Germany. In theory, WLAN G standard and the upcoming N standard should be able to transfer data at a rate between 5 and 120 MBit/s, more than enough to send video data, which requires rates of 20 MBit/s, he notes
But the data flow has to remain constant to keep the image steady, and WLAN cannot guarantee stability in data transmission. Even a good connection can experience disturbances in data flow.
'It's dependent on a lot of contingencies,' said Breide.
For this reason, Breide prefers standard LAN networks, which can reliably deliver industry specified rates like Fast-Ethernet (100 MBit/s) or Gigabit-Ethernet (1,000 MBit/s). However, he also notes that modern construction companies often fail to install the necessary LAN cables during building.
'From a pricing perspective, it should be affordable,' he said.
Breide also notes that ethernet ports are available on most modern multimedia devices. What's missing are devices that are compatible with each other and easy for the average layperson to use.