MoCA Stirs Bandwidth

Need more oomph on your home network?

The Multimedia over Coax Alliance aims to kick up the speed of its home-networking technology to more than 400 Megabits per second with the second major iteration of its spec, targeted for completion next year.

“We've never stated that MoCA is the be-all and end-all,” said Anton Monk, the consortium's chief technology officer, as well as co-founder and vice president of technology for silicon supplier Entropic Communications. “But if you have coax, it's the highest-capacity network you have in the home.”

According to Monk, MoCA is expecting to complete and ratify the 2.0 spec in 2009 with products set for 2010. “It's really service providers that are going to drive these technologies,” he said.

Topping 400 Mbps would represent a significant expansion over the previous MoCA specs. The first version delivered 100 Mbps of net throughput, and version 1.1 upped that to 175 Mbps. Today, according to Monk, well more than 10 million MoCA nodes are deployed and operational in the field.

The biggest members of MoCA include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Verizon Communications, DirecTV, Motorola, Cisco Systems, EchoStar Communications and Broadcom.

One of MoCA's key applications is multiroom DVR, which allows subscribers to access any of their recorded programs from ancillary set-tops. Verizon launched the feature two years ago using MoCA — but big cable operators have yet to move on this front.

“It goes to the philosophy of the cable companies. They're moving at different speeds,” Monk said. “They're not a greenfield like Verizon is, and Verizon has had to stake a claim and take market share.”

MoCA recently notched another feather in its cap: The Digital Living Network Alliance, a consortium of consumer-electronics companies, has added MoCA as an official network interface in the next version of the DLNA digital-media sharing specification, due in early 2009. That puts MoCA in the company of two other well-established home-networking technologies: Wi-Fi and Ethernet.

“To us, that's obviously a natural fit for a technology that was designed to move multimedia within the home,” Monk said.

But MoCA may find itself being challenged by a competitor. Earlier this month, the International Telecommunication Union published a standard, called, that promises to provide three times the throughput of existing wired technologies over power, coaxial, phone and other home-network wiring.

The HomeGrid Forum, an industry group backing, anticipates products based on the spec to be on the market as early as 2010. HomeGrid's major members include Intel, Infineon Technologies, Texas Instruments and Panasonic.

Rob Gelphman, chair of MoCA's marketing work group, pointed out that HomeGrid doesn't count any major cable or satellite providers in its camp. “Right now this looks like a telecom play,” he said.

Meanwhile, MoCA is forging ahead to scope out version 2.0 of its specification. Service providers are looking for even higher-speed home networks that can deliver HD video to as many as 10 rooms, Monk said.

“If you're talking about distributing high-definition video, with high-speed trick modes, being able to scale to eight to 10 rooms, then you need a lot of bandwidth,” he said.

The next version of MoCA, which operates in the spectrum above 1 GHz, may be able to get to higher throughputs by using a channel-bonding technique similar to CableLabs' DOCSIS 3.0 spec, Monk said: “Channel bonding is going to be discussed as part of 2.0.”

Nearer on the horizon, Monk expects several retail products that support MoCA 1.1 to be rolled out at CES in Las Vegas in January.

Products will include MoCA-to-Ethernet bridges, to provide a high-speed link between networked devices in the home and a cable modem.

Last week, Netgear announced just such a product, the MCAB1001, but did not release pricing.

“You don't have to worry about your Wi-Fi coverage — with MoCA it's a 100-Mbps connection to my cable modem,” Monk said. “This completely removes the bottleneck in the home.”

At some point, MoCA-enabled cable modems and gateways will be available, he added, eliminating the need for one extra box.

“You're going to see the gateway model propagate throughout the industry,” Monk said. “Ideally the user doesn't even know there's a home network in there.”