Ok, it’s taken a while – 2 months give or take – to get around to this, but I wanted time to fully evaluate these products. That’s my excuse anyway!
In case the title leaves you none the wiser – basically these devices transmit internet data along mains electric wires – allowing you to get the internet to far flung corners of a building without installing any existing wiring. I’ll explain our situation in a moment so you get more of an idea.
So what’s this got to do with caravanning? Well, admittedly not a lot. I doubt there is a caravan big enough that would necessitate the use of these – however I would think the majority of those of you reading this have a larger more permanent dwelling – and probably use the internet too. So this may just be of interest.
Our router – a BT Home Hub 4 sits in the lounge and is connected directly via the usual network cables to the YouView digibox and our networked hard drive which we use for backing up all our stuff – my collection of music – ‘archived’ versions of vinyl, cassette and CD recordings along with all our photos from our travels, films, TV series and now increasingly, video footage for our YouTube channel.
Thanks to the wonders of BT Infinity 2 we can get download speeds of anything up to 65Mbps while uploads top out at around 20Mbps. Speeds I’m perfectly happy with.
However in the ‘office’ also known as the spare room, dining room and caravan paraphernalia dumping ground it’s a different story. Downloads top out at around 7Mbps while uploads fare a little better at 11Mbps. Now I realise this wont garner much sympathy from those in more rural areas who are perhaps lucky to get half that and I do understand. Travelling around as we do we often come across areas where a 3G mobile signal is still a luxury and the lofty speeds of 4G are just a pipe dream. And it’s frustrating.
Fortunately, the good folk at Solwise – who’ve provided us with some great WiFi kit for the caravan – came to my rescue and sent me these:
First up is the bit that connects to your router – I think of this as the transmitter – it simply plugs into a mains socket and is connected to one of the network ports on the router with the supplied cable. It doesn't take up a mains socket – just as well considering the jumble behind our AV stand - as it has a socket at the front. The socket is ‘filtered’ which helps prevent anything connected through it from creating interference on your mains wiring and affecting the signal.
Set up was easy – you plug it in, then plug in the cable to the router – and that's it. The CD shown contains a copy of the easy start guide, a user manual and utility software – but for basic set ups you won’t need it – I’m no techie but I’ve not looked at it yet!
This is the other part – the receiver if you like – this was plugged in to a socket under the desk. You can connect directly to your computer with the supplied network cable – and that’s it – good to go. That’s generally how I connect my laptop. However the device does transmit a WiFi signal too. Setting this up is only the same as connecting wirelessly to a router – the network ID and password is printed on the device. Indicator lights on the front show the status of the device and we were up and running within minutes.
So, how did it perform? Over WiFi download speeds shot up to over 29Mbps – four times what I was getting before. A remarkable performance in my view. Upload speeds were a little less impressive with only a marginal increase to 12Mbps. Wired download speeds were a little better at 30Mbps but uploads were much more impressive at around 18Mbps – and this was perhaps the most important to us – it’s from the laptop that I back up our files and upload videos so this really made a difference.
In addition my pad – an old Hudl 2 - can pick up the WiFi signal from the Solwise device in that most important of locations, the smallest room in the flat. Something it couldn’t do with the router. So I can browse whilst erm, well you get the idea!
There was a time in the early days of these devices that in order to work they had to be on the same Ring Main circuit but that no longer applies. As long as they’re on the same phase – not an issue for the vast majority of households - they should work just fine. The wiring in our flat is all over the place – and probably due a re-wire too. There is a ring main but a number of other sockets are on radial circuits once used for storage heaters. I would suspect that with newer more standardised wiring results would be even better.
For more information and full specifications head over to the Solwise website where you can also purchase if you decide they suit your requirements. The first device - the ‘transmitter’ - is HERE and the second – the ‘receiver’ HERE. It’s worth pointing out that these are the faster of the two types available and that's worth bearing in mind when comparing pricing. I think they are great – and whilst hardly life changing – they have made negotiating the perilous path that is the 21st century just a little easier!
Like the sound of them? Like the idea of getting them for nothing? Well, stay put because the lovely people at Solwise have a pair to give away! Entry is simple – all you need to do is answer this question correctly: what female name do we give to our caravan? Pop the answer along with your name on an email and send it to: email@example.com by 9th December. The winner will be drawn at random and will be announced on the evening of Sunday 10th December. Good Luck!