Seeing as Catherine and I finally bought our own house and it looks like we might be staying here for much longer than we have ever stayed anywhere else, we are looking at options for home networking, our current solution involves a 802.11b Wireless Network for laptop connectivity and a cable for my PC, that has to be removed each night to close the living room door.
1) Wireless Network
802.11g provides a maximum wire speed of 54mbps which results in a typical throughput of 25-27mbps, our existing 802.11b network gives us a typical throughput of about 4mbps which is below that of our broadband service (6.6mbps - Zen Internet ADSL Max Service)
In terms of costs Amazon has a Linksys Wireless-G Router for £38.00, we would need to spend a further £14.99for a Wireless-G PCI Card. There may be cheaper options available and I expect shopping around would get the cost in at about £50.
2) Wired Network
Cat 5 or ideally Cat 6 provides the fastest speeds available, as we can implement Gigabit Ethernet giving us a theoretical throughput of 125MB/sec although some of this is lost due to TCP/IP overheads. To be fair with only one computer Gigabit is not required, all of my existing equipment is 100MB/sec compatible. The main cost will be the installation of the wires which would be require going through two walls and covering about 30 metres of wire.
Maplin sells Cat6 at £99 for 305m (~33p/meter) or 79p per meter of custom lengths, wall plates, of which I would need two of to cable between my computer and the utility room, are available from Maplin for £4.49, a crimp tool comes in at £21.99) and a punch down tool at £12.95 from Cable City. In total this comes to £67.62.
3) Power line communication HomePlug Network
This is a fairly new technology and there is no official standard so interoperability between manufacturers is not good now, and is not guaranteed in the future. These devices suffer from interference generated from the products connected to them, so for example anything that “dirtys” the ring circuit, i.e. speakers, amps, desk fans, vacuum cleaners, will affect performance.
Prices range from Solwise 85Mb HomePlug at £27.22 adapter to a Solwise 200Mb HomePlug adapter at £50.61, other than a selection of cables to connect between the adapters and the sockets you don’t need anything more than the adapters.
Of the three options the Wireless Network is cheapest, closely followed by the HomePlug Network then the wired network, it could be argued that you could borrow the crimp and punch down tools making the wired network cheapest at £41.14.
The wired network is the least flexible by far, further connections require further runs of cable and terminating boxes, you can future proof to an extent by buying lots and lots of cable and using a Patch Panel at the hub of your network. HomePlug networks can be extended by adding extra HomePlug kits, they should all work together as long as they are similar products, however it is still unsure as to what would happen when a product is no longer available, without clearly defined standards it is difficult to tell, there is however a HomePlug Powerline Alliance who define the specification for HomePlug 1.0. The Wireless network is the most extensible as there is no practical limit to the number of people you can have on your network, most Wireless Routers and Wireless Access Points support 25 or more users.
Being a gamer, and particuarly an online gamer means that Lag or Latency are important to me, higher latency means that things I do in a game take longer to reach the server, so the lower the latency the better. Wired networks come out by far the best, along my existing 100MB Cat5e cable I get <1ms response times to the router, on the 802.11b wireless network I get about 3-5ms response times. HomePlug networks claim that they are low latency, however without one to test I can not say how low it actually is.
I have not decided what I want to go for yet, I am leaning towards the wired network for the low latency properties, however this HomePlug network has peaked my interest.