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Atheros combines power line, Wi-Fi, Ethernet

Company intros a new networking solution that combines Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and power line into one robust product for the home.

The hybrid network solution from Atheros.
The hybrid network solution from Atheros. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

Wi-Fi is great, but unfortunately, the wireless signal oftentimes can't reach that far corner in the basement.

In this case, currently, the best solution is to get a pair of power-line adapters that turn your home's electrical wiring into data cables to extend your wired network without running network cables all over the place.

There are many different power-line kits on the market, such as the Plaster Networks PLN3, the Linksys PLK300, or the Western Digital Livewire. All of them work well but share a few common attributes: you'll need two adapters to make up one power-line connection, and each solution has its own esoteric way for you to set it up and manage it.

Wouldn't it be nice if the router itself had built-in support for the technology so you need just one adapter at the far end and have one central place to manage the wired power line and Wi-Fi network? It indeed would be, and more importantly, it will be available soon.

Atheros, maker of networking chipsets that power many networking solutions, announced today a new family of hybrid home-networking solutions that combines the popular consumer networking technologies into one. More specifically, the solution combines Wi-Fi, HomePlugAV Powerline, and Ethernet into an all-in-one solution for the home.

Atheros claims that the new solution not only boosts network bandwidth but also provides unprecedented simplicity to set up and optimize coverage. Its new family of network solutions includes:

  • Hybrid router (model AP98). This router has built-in support for Wi-Fi, power line, and traditional Ethernet. It is much like a regular Wi-Fi router, plus its power cord also works as a power-line data cable.

  • Power-line/Ethernet adapters: Power-line adapters are available in single-port (model PL18) and four-port (model PL48) designs. These are used at the far end of the power-line connection to support Ethernet-ready devices, such as televisions, Blu-ray disc players, set-top boxes, and network storage servers. These are HomePlugAV-compliant adapters and therefore offer throughput speed of up to 200Mbps.

  • Wi-Fi/Power-line range extender (model RE98): The Power-line adapter also works as a range extender for the existing wireless network. According to Atheros, by simply plugging this adapter into an electrical outlet, users can extend their wireless network further than the router's original range. The RE98 range extender can also connect Ethernet-ready devices.

Atheros also provides software that works with these hybrid solutions to help simplify the network set-up and management for general consumers.

All of Atheros' hybrid designs will be available in the fourth quarter. The company is currently working with its networking partner to bring retail products to market in the next two quarters.