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So I get how a switch would allow you to connect multiple devices in a one location to a single powerline adapter, but I'm not sure how to connect multiple devices in different locations. The part that I'm confused about is how these devices connect to the router. Presumably each device has its own adapter, including the router, so how can it route between the devices if they are all coming through a single adapter into a single LAN port on the router?

My scenario is that I have a TV in the bedroom, a TV in the living room, and some computers in a office. All of these are in different rooms from the router/modem. Is this scenario even compatible with powerline networking?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, it's compatible with your scenario (designed for it, even).

The conceptual change you need to make in your thinking is that powerline networking is more like a hub, not a switch. That is, everyone is plugged into the same stream of data, and MAC addresses are used to tell which frame is going where. It can get chatty and data can collide, which is why a switched network is so much faster (and safer).

Before router/switches were so cheap, hubs were much more commonplace. Here's a good article explaining the difference.

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One wrinkle in this is that in some cases, if the power points are in different parts of the house and the electricity has to relay through the DB, the speed will be dramatically affected. In my case, Wi-Fi was faster than powerline for one particular point in my house. –  user3463 May 4 '12 at 21:15
    
So, just so I'm clear, the router can still route traffic to various devices through a single LAN port? Is there anything special I need to configure on the router (WRT54GL w/ Tomato) to make this work? –  jluce50 May 5 '12 at 1:21
    
Nope, nothing special - ethernet doesn't need a router. Back in the day, we were on all one long thinnet cable with T-connectors at each node... –  ckhan May 5 '12 at 1:39
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@jluce50: there are millions of messages transferred through wireless and wired lines all the time, which your device sees. That is why security is important. Your IP address is used so your machine knows which to listen to. Encryption is important to help deter other people from using their computers to listen to your messages. So even though there's one line and your computer sees all your devices traffic, it only tries to act on the ones that are in response to the messages it sends –  vol7ron Mar 9 '13 at 0:23
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Upvote because they ARE like a hub -- all packets on a given segment of electrical cable are seen by all adapters plugged into that segment. The adapter filters only packets going to that device but it's still a one-lane road. –  McGuireV10 Oct 17 at 15:17

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