MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) used to be a really big deal for extending broadband throughout the home with no new wires. Guess what: It’s still a big deal but you just don’t hear about it much.
It always seemed like a great concept: take all of that shoddy old coax run by overzealous cable and satellite companies who used cheap splitters to deliver their services throughout a home … and use it to distribute TV, data and control signals over a single already-existing pipe.
Even though the chatter died down, MoCA is still a force, incorporated into many satellite and cable settop boxes and modems/routers. Even TiVo includes the technology in its DVRs and extenders in cases where there is no Ethernet connection nearby.
Until this year, I never had a reason to use MoCA. Our living places all had cable and Ethernet in all the right places.
Our new (old) condo, however, has no Ethernet connections except for the incoming service. Furthermore, our house is haunted. Standard consumer-grade Wi-Fi reaches about 35 feet. Even our coax is nutty, possibly due to the electric storm that is our chicken-wire-wrapped stucco abode.
So I finally decided to try out this MoCA stuff and gave my old friends Bill Thompson and Ted Place a call. Thompson founded the structured-wiring company UStec in 1992 (eventually acquired by Legrand) and went on to launch Wi3 with long-time colleague Place.
Wi3’s Elegant Design
Of all the MoCA providers in the market Wi3 (Wired, Wi-Fi, Wideband) has the richest feature set and, by far, the best industrial design.
The product line, called WiPNET, includes a MoCA-enabled distribution point (WiPRISM) and a couple of coax-connected endpoint modules, each of which includes a hardwired Ethernet port and a coax output. The WiPWMR (“W” is for wireless) doubles as a Wi-Fi access point (not a repeater) for extending the range of the home’s Wi-Fi network. The WiPMR has no Wi-Fi but includes a second Ethernet port to add a game console, Apple TV box or other IP-enabled device to the entertainment center.
As for the industrial design, the modules come with a couple of different options for mounting on the wall or in a standard single-gang box or hole.
The in-wall option is super-slick. Simply remove the wallplate from the existing coax wallbox, and slide the WiPNET cartridge in the space. The only thing jutting out from the wall is a box about the size of a deck of cards, obscured with a white cover plate.
That box has the ports for Ethernet, coax and power.
The only (potential) eyesore is the wire and wall wart for power, but it sure beats the other options on the market.
It Works, it Works!
First, here’s my disclaimer: Whatever configuration was required of my WiPNET system … the boys took care of it back at the factory. All I did was log into http://config.mywi3.com/ to change my passwords. So, yeah, it was easy to set up.
At first, I kept getting IP conflict warnings, which occurred because the cable company had incorrectly configured my modem as a router, when I had a separate router connected. That was easy enough to fix in the modem settings.
Wi3 has joined the Home Technology Specialists of America, making its products available to elite home systems integrators in the HTSA group. Through its partnership with PCT International, Wi3 also will make available to HTSA members a complete line of signal delivery and bridge components from that vendor.
“It only makes sense—the more devices, the more users, and the higher bandwidth requirements in the home demand constant attention, and Wi3 products will be an important new tool for HTSA members,” says HTSA managing director Bob Hana.
Initially I also had challenges (as it turned out) with the splitters I was using to break out service from the CATV and/or Wi3’s MoCA enabler (WiPRISM). They were either too passive (not strong enough to consistently deliver CATV and IP simultaneously) or too active (injecting noise into the TV signal). Wi3 tells me this is an unusual problem, possibly due to my RF-infected home.
Any problems disappeared like magic with a coax distribution hub from Wi3’s new partner PCT International. The PCT-VC-F15U bypass amplifier takes cable in from the service provider, and connects to the cable modem and router via the WiPRISM hub. The device features and integrated MoCA filter and offers gain control to ensure all traffic arrives in good order at the right places.
The coax out of the PCT distribution hub runs to WiPNET modules in remote rooms of the house.
I happen to have a TiVo Premiere DVR and a couple of Minis that extend TiVo to remote rooms. The Minis have an option to use either Ethernet or MoCA for IP, and of course I selected the MoCA option because no Cat 5 outlets exist by our TVs. It works beautifully on the Wi3 backbone.
In my home office, I have a WiPMR module with the Ethernet connected to my computer and the coax running to a sad old TV. The second Ethernet connects to a Roku box that runs to the TV so I can, um, watch educational technology shows on the TV as I work on my computer with dual screens.
The real problem solver, however, is the WiPWMR with Wi-Fi. I have two of them being used as Wi-Fi access points to cover our cursed condo and spacious decks.
I’m sure that enterprise-grade wireless networking devices would have done the trick, but why not use consistently reliable coax if you’ve got it?
More on MoCA
MoCA 2.0 is available now and is the first specification developed by the entire Alliance. It offers two performance modes of 400 Mbps and 800 Mbps actual throughputs, packet error rates (PER) as low as one in 100 million with a nominal latency of 3.6ms, and standby and sleep modes for help in overall power management in the network. The Alliance has 153 certified products and 51 members worldwide. More at http://mocalliance.org