MoCA Changes as Home Networks Evolve

MoCA Changes as Home Networks Evolve A funny thing happened to MoCA since it was introduced a decade ago. Its primary mission - ferrying signals around the home - grew orders of magnitude more complex and interesting. The reason is simple: The typical home has been transformed into a far denser telecommunications hub in which many more devices are using a greater variety of techniques to keep subscribers connected and content.

A decade ago - when the network in the home featured little wireless - Multimedia over Coax was perceived as one of several candidate technologies for home networking. MoCA has responded to the radical changes of the past decade by gradually expanding its role. It certainly still connects devices. Since home networks have become far too complex for winner-take-all approaches, however, the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (from which MoCA gets its name) is positioning itself as the focal point in the home. “We fulfilled the backbone role and evolved into that role as it became needed in the modern world,” said Rob Gelphman, the consortium’s vice president of marketing and member relations.

The role has not been conceded to MoCA. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, the HomePlug Alliance announced the first HomePlug AV2 products and kicked off its certification program. The goal of the HomePlug Alliance is to use home electrical wiring to achieve the same goals as MoCA.

The need is great. It is driven by the great increase in home networking speeds, the growth of competition from telcos and other service providers, the explosion of untethered devices, and the general acknowledgement by providers that coverage must be fast and clean within the entire home - no matter what the subscriber is doing, where he or she is doing it, and what device is being used. This means that wireless and perhaps more than one wired approach is necessary, and there must be a base network upon which they sit. “It is absolutely the case that the communications in the home is a selection of solutions that complement each other,” said Matt Rhodes, Entropic’s senior vice president.

At CES, MoCA released preliminary results from ongoing field tests of the updated spec. MoCA 2.0 is simultaneously being certified in equipment, said MoCA President Charles Cerino. Currently, 11 vendors have had a total of 16 MoCA devices certified.

The organization said the trials - which will conclude in March in the United States and subsequently conducted overseas - proved out MoCA 2.0 at 400 Mbps of throughput in 90% of all cabling and paths. Throughput was 350 Mbps in 95% of the paths. The measures are at layer 1 - the PHY layer - of the Open Systems Interconnection model.

In addition to quadrupling the speed - the usable speed in MoCA 1.0 and 1.1 is 100 Mbps - MoCA 2.0 adds standby and sleep low power modes, Gelphman said. It doubled the bandwidth used from 50 MHz to 100 MHz and introduced channel bonding capabilities that enable 1 Gbps operation. The new iteration of the spec also improved the packet error rate to 1 in 100 million packets and reduced latency to 3.6 milliseconds.

A good example of how MoCA will be positioned at the base of the home network is Bright House Networks' use of MoCA 2.0 - via the inclusion of chips from Entropic - in its Echo home networking service.

Echo was introduced last July in Florida and has gradually been launched across the operator’s footprint. It uses MoCA chips from Entropic that are embedded in gateways from a variety of vendors. The bottom line is that Echo is equal parts WiFi and MoCA. “MoCA is not a replacement for WiFi,” said an executive familiar with the project. “MoCA is a complement to WiFi that extends its reach."

The approach is straightforward. Entropic’s Rhodes said the Echo-enabled access points linked by MoCA simply copy users’ credentials and SSID and forward them to other APs as the user moves around the home. Rhodes said Bright House is using ActionTec’s WCB3000N wireless to coax adapter, Rhodes said.

At CES, Entropic and Qualcomm released a reference design for a chipset aimed at the market. A system on chip (SoC) capable of housing all the functionality in one chip is technically feasible but, due to the quick evolution of WiFi, may not be produced, Rhodes said.

Cerino and Gelphman said that early conversations with its members on the next version of MoCA are being held, but that it is too early to say anything definitive.

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