Broadband where you need it

What would we do without data networks in the house and office? Like a skein of shining channels, your data network shares out your internet access to all your devices with hardly a murmur of complaint. In fact, the process works so well that it is easy to forget it is there at all. Until you cannot get access in your favourite spot or you notice something is just plain wrong.

Let’s start with the cornerstone of your network: your router. Almost-invariably a black box, this is the glue between your internet service provider and your unruly digital menagerie: phones, computers and, increasingly, all manner of internet-enabled devices. The router is responsible not only for maintaining the connection to the internet but also parceling out access to your devices. It does this through your choice of wireless or cables.

It seems to be almost a rule that the router has to be in the wrong place. Imagine that your router’s WIFI signal is like a standard lightbulb. The closer you are to it, the brighter it seems. As you move away, its brightness swiftly falls away. In principle, the right location would be in the heart of your house and preferably above the ground floor to save half of that globe of WIFI from going straight into the ground. In practice this rarely happens because the phone socket for your router is generally in some far-flung corner. So how can you get the signal to where you want it?

You have three main choices to distribute your internet signal: cabling, wifi or the curiously-named Homeplug. Like footprints in the sitting room, cables are all-too apparent. Wifi by contrast is incredibly convenient… and equally fickle when challenged to pass though just a few bricks and metal. Homeplug offers a brilliant combination of cabling and wifi.

Instead of running unsightly cables across your walls’ carefully chosen decoration, Homeplug harnesses your electrical wiring to transmit the internet signal to electrical sockets in your house. Here a sibling adaptor can then beam it to your devices – WIFI where you need it. When I worked in the summer house, Homeplug gave me a great signal 100’ down the garden. If you need a better signal elsewhere then simply relocate or supplement the sibling adaptor and, presto, away you go.

There are plenty of manufacturers producing Homeplug-certified adaptors. My favourite is made by Devolo. Despite hard use they seem to simply carry on working where others are made of more delicate stuff.