Is a Crappy Wi-Fi Signal Ruining Your Netflix Streams? Hy-Fi Routers Promise to Fix That

By Brent Rose on at

The nerdiest thing our Matt Buchanan ever wanted was an awesome powerline router. I'll see your nerdiness, Matt, and raise you one. Hy-Fi Routers crossbreed Wi-Fi, ethernet, powerline, and MoCA to give you a mutant baby of ultimate internet reliability. The dream of consistently fast 100Mbps internet all over my apartment is so close I can almost taste it.

Hy-Fi is basically a hybrid of all the different ways we connect to the internet at home. Wi-Fi and ethernet you probably know. Powerline basically it transmits data through the electrical wiring already in your house -- yes, those standard electrical outlets — so it essentially gives you your own isolated, wired home network. Hy-Fi can use all of those together to give you a super reliable data-stream. If your Wi-Fi suddenly sucks (like it does sometimes) it'll switch over to powerline. If powerline is spread too thin, it'll switch to Wi-Fi or ethernet. You'll never know it's doing all of this. All you know is that your movie you're streaming is playing just like it should.

Hy-Fi (not to by confused with Hyphy) is starting to gain ground, thanks to a new standard recently blessed by the IEEE (IEEE 1905.1 draft standard). The standard aims to ensure that your Hy-Fi devices will play nicely together regardless of brand, etc. Qualcomm Atheros has been at the forefront of this newer technology, and their new QCA6410 chip should make powerline/Hy-Fi gear smaller, cheaper, and better. I stopped by the Qualcomm Atheros booth at CES to see this gear in action, and it did something extremely surprising: it made me legitimately excited about home networking. And they said it couldn't be done.

Is a Crappy Wi-Fi Signal Ruining Your Netflix Streams? Hy-Fi Routers Promise to Fix That

Watching the software in action was like seeing a symphony being conducted by a robot. The demo was pulling four separate video streams at once using a Hy-Fi router with Qualcomm guts. The information could be coming through Wi-Fi, ethernet, and powerline all at once (though they only had Wi-Fi and powerline set up). When the Wi-Fi would suddenly be diminished by interference, it would seamlessly switch over to favour powerline, and there wasn't so much as a dropped frame in the four video streams. Data rates instantly adjusted, and performance remained wonderfully consistent. Soon Qualcomm chips will also be incorporating MoCA (MoCA (multimedia over Coax Alliance, pretty much same thing as powerline, but with the coaxial cable you already have in your walls).

My TV is on the far side of my apartment from the office where my router lives. Often, when Netflix streaming craps out on me, I curse my ISP. Often if I go closer to the router, it turns out I was just having Wi-Fi problems. I want those days to be behind me, now. Qualcomm is updating all of its new and existing Hy-Fi devices to the new IEEE 1905.1 draft standard this quarter, and others will be hot on their heels. I can't wait for more devices to adopt this. And yes, I recognise that I am a total and complete geek right now. I've made my peace with that, but please don't pants me. [Qualcomm Atheros]