Coax-based home networks to pick up speed

Supporting throughput of up to 2.5 gigabits per second, the new MoCA 2.5 spec promises a speedy future for networks based on cable-TV cables.

The newest version of the MoCA standard for home networks based on the coaxial cabling used for cable-TV installations supports speeds of up to 2.5 gigabits per second—that’s more than double the maximum 1.0Gbps maximum throughput of MoCA 2.0.

The Multimedia over Coax Alliance, which develops the standard and announced the new version today, said the dramatic speed increase was just one of several improvements in MoCA 2.5. Others include a new push-button setup protocol (similar to Wi-Fi’s WPS); support for improved security; and various features aimed at ensuring smooth operation of networks that include legacy (e.g. MoCA 1.1 and 2.0) adapters.

Like its predecessor, MoCA 2.5 supports three different performance profiles. Only the fastest will support 2.5Gbps throughput; the slowest profile’s minimum speed is 400 megabits per second.

Why coax?

While Wi-Fi remains by far the most popular network medium, it’s not always the most reliable for streaming media—especially in crowded environments where multiple Wi-Fi networks must compete for limited bandwidth. Wired networks can do better, but most homes don’t have ethernet cabling, and installing it is expensive. So more and more consumers and Internet service providers are turning to networks based on pre-existing wiring—most commonly electrical circuitry (via HomePlug-based equipment) or coax (the basis for MoCA). Cable companies tasked with installing home networks as well as Internet service are the biggest backers of MoCA, and many features of the new spec were designed with those operators in mind.

Some do-it-yourselfers have already set up networks based on MoCA adapters sold at retail by companies such as Actiontec. Also, the new TiVo Bolt has MoCA 2.0 networking support built in; several older TiVo models support MoCA 1.1.

It will probably be at least a year before either operators or consumers have access to actual products based on the new spec, which is backwards compatible with MoCA 1.1 and 2.0.

MoCA Alliance spokesman Rob Gelphman says today’s announcement is not so much a call to upgrade as it is assurance to current and prospective MoCA customers—some of whom may already be dissatisfied with performance on a Wi-Fi-based network—that the MoCA standard is preparing for an ever more bandwidth-hungry future.

“This is a road map,” Gelphman said. “This is where it’s going. If you commit to MoCA, now you know there will be these faster speed grades.” As a MoCA customer today, Gelphman added, “I may not need the speed now. But I want to know that I have a migration path when I’m ready.”

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