MoCA Makes Play for Broadband Access
Seeking to carve out a bigger role in the expanding global broadband market and compete against other emerging access technologies like G.fast, the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) has come out with a new access technology designed to fill in the coverage gaps left by fiber and coax networks Now the big question may be how much will it end up competing with those fiber and coax networks as well.
Based on the latest MoCA 2.5 home-networking spec, which can deliver up to 2.5 Gbit/s downstream and 2 Gbit/s upstream speeds using in-building coaxial cabling, MoCA Access informally made its debut at the ANGACOM show in Germany late last month, two weeks before the Alliance's board formally approved it. With a booth stationed right near the middle of one of the two exhibit halls, MoCA executives sought to demonstrate how European cable operators could use the new technology to wire apartments in multiple-dwelling unit (MDU) complexes, offices in commercial buildings, guest rooms in hotels and other individual units in buildings more cost-effectively, leveraging fiber or HFC lines already running to the buildings. (See MoCA Introduces New Broadband Access Spec.)
"We're positioning this as a fiber extension," such as "coax to the apartment after fiber to the basement," said Rob Gelphman, VP of marketing and media relations for MoCA. "But it could also be an extension for DOCSIS."
MoCA officials see particular promise for the new MoCA Access spec in such densely populated markets as Europe and China, which each have hundreds of millions of apartments. Europe alone has an estimated 227 million apartments, while China has 240 million cable subscribers who still lack broadband connections, according to the alliance. But officials also see promise in North America's growing MDU market, especially for smaller operators.
"It's filling a gap," said Helge Tiainen, who's in charge of product marketing for InCoax Networks Europe and chairs MoCA's Access Committee. "It can also scale."
Crafted to co-exist with such legacy services as TV, DOCSIS, and cellular (4G/5G) technologies, MoCA Access is a point-to-multipoint technology that can serve up to 63 modems (or client devices) over coax. The spec operates in the 400MHz to 1675MHz frequency range, and supports latency of less than 5 milliseconds, according to the Alliance.
MoCA officials -- whose trade organization counts leading cable operators, telcos and satellite TV providers among its 40 members worldwide -- stress that the new broadband access spec is designed to complement the DOCSIS family of cable broadband specs, not compete with them. "It's not a DOCSIS replacement," Tiainen said. "It's a complementary technology to DOCSIS."
But they concede that some cable operators could wind up using MoCA Access instead of the new DOCSIS3.1 spec because it's cheaper to set up and operate, at least in certain situations. "It can't replace a DOCSIS headend for a whole city," Tiainen said. "But it could fill a gap" for smaller installations, he added, noting that "a DOCSIS hub costs several times more."
While no field trials or pilot commercial deployments of MoCA Access have been announced yet, Alliance executives say they're seeing strong early interest from network operators in Europe and China. They admit, though, that they face an uphill battle in selling the new spec as yet another broadband access technology in an already congested market.
"We don't underestimate the challenge but we think we have a really good opportunity," Gelphman said. "We're not going to upend DOCSIS 3.1 but we'll provide a viable alternative."
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading