MoCA wants to get cozier with Wi-Fi
The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) cut its teeth as a coax-based connectivity option for whole-home DVRs and was originally viewed as a competitor of sorts to Wi-Fi.
However, the technology has evolved to provide support to multiple types of broadband access networks, including fixed wireless and fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP). Now, the alliance is exploring ways to retool and enhance the specs to be a friend to the latest Wi-Fi standards.
Those efforts aim to keep MoCA technology relevant as requirements and use cases change. And they are among the priorities targeted by Marcos Martínez Vázquez, the recently-elected president of the alliance. Martínez Vázquez's day job is director of standards engineering at MaxLinear, a company that makes MoCA and Wi-Fi silicon.
At MoCA, Martínez Vázquez is taking over a role held by the group's previous full-time president, Jim Crammond, who recently retired.
Martínez Vázquez said in-premises backhauling is still core to the MoCA Home specifications, but plans are underway to enhance that capability in a way that improves its ability to backhaul new generations of Wi-Fi, including Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7.
"In the past, MoCA was seen as competition to Wi-Fi. We don't see it like that," Martínez Vázquez said.
Notably, MaxLinear is in both camps – it makes MoCA silicon (following its acquisition of Entropic Communications more than eight years ago) and is in the Wi-Fi game after snapping up Intel's Home Gateway Platform Division in 2020.
Wi-Fi already uses mesh technologies and extenders to reach into every corner of the home, but Martínez Vázquez said the broader idea being explored at MoCA is to ensure that the quality of the connections matches up with the speeds and capacities supported by the latest Wi-Fi tech.
"If access technologies are bringing in 1-Gig, the user expects to have to have 1 gigabit per second in all hubs," he said.
Opportunities for Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7
Martínez Vázquez views MoCA Home 2.5, a spec capable of throughputs up to 2.5 Gbit/s, as the right fit for Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7. Specs for MoCA 3.0, a version that envisions throughputs up to 10 Gbit/s, have been published. However, no supplier has stepped up so far to turns those specs into real products, a clear indication that cable operators and other service providers have yet to ask for the technology to be developed.
Martínez Vázquez also believes that service providers will be eager to explore MoCA for newer versions of Wi-Fi because they will be increasingly reluctant to waste valuable Wi-Fi spectrum for backhaul when they need to prioritize it for the fronthaul.
"This is a big priority for us," Martínez Vázquez said. "But we really want to understand the use cases of service providers to adapt the technology and try to solve real problems."
Another area of focus for MoCA is broadband extension. That includes the ability to bridge the access network – be it DOCSIS, fixed wireless access (FWA), satellite or fiber – to the existing coax network in a home or an apartment building.
Martínez Vázquez says a challenge for FWA, as one example, is to get to a gateway that is located in the center of a home. "Covering these last meters of broadband is difficult and expensive," he said. "And MoCA can help because you already have an infrastructure."
And that can also fit into FTTP deployments that run to single family homes or multiple dwelling units (MDUs). MoCA "can cover the last meters either by point-to-point or point-to-multipoint. It's much less expensive if you use the existing MoCA infrastructure than if you use a pure fiber approach," Martínez Vázquez said.
MoCA is also addressing some of that with MoCA Link, a relatively new specification that supports low latencies (down to about 1 millisecond) in locations that use a range of access technologies including FWA, PON and satellite.
Frontier comes on board
MoCA's refined focus comes as the composition of the organization's membership continues to change. Dish Network, DirecTV, Broadcom and Comcast, which is relying heavily on Wi-Fi-based content distribution for its latest line of X1, Flex and gateway devices, are among some big names that are former members of MoCA.
Verizon is now the lone "promoter" member of MoCA that is also a service provider (InCoax and MaxLinear are the other two). However, Frontier Communications, a telecom operator in the midst of a massive fiber network upgrade and buildout, has joined MoCA as a "contributor" member.
Frontier is deploying a lot of fiber, but Martínez Vázquez suggests that the company has use cases that could take advantage of MoCA's access technologies or could suggest features that would enhance MoCA's toolsets.
"We are inviting many service providers to bring us challenges," Martínez Vázquez said. "Then, together with the integrators and silicon vendors, we'll try to provide answers to these challenges … This is the kind of analysis we're doing with the service providers."
Update: David Curran, Frontier's VP, network architecture offered a bit more color on his company's plans and strategies for MoCA for both copper and fiber customers.
He explained via email that MoCA is playing a role in terms of improving the quality and speed of installs and that the company intends to keep using MoCA to drive higher speeds. In most cases, Frontier is using MoCA to connect ONTs (optical network terminals) to eero gateways for the company's 1-Gig and 2-Gig broadband services as well as connecting eero extenders to support hard-to-reach areas in large homes and MDUs.
Curran said Frontier also views MoCA as a part of a toolkit that also includes Wi-Fi mesh and fiber-to-the-unit technologies. Tied into that, he notes that Frontier is interested in the potential to use MoCA 3.0 as an inexpensive way to transport high bandwidth in the home. For now, Frontier will continue to use fiber to the unit or Cat 7 Ethernet cables for its 5-Gig broadband product.
"Not every install in every geography and in every size unit goes the same way," he wrote.
Working outside the Alliance
MoCA is also looking to evolve the way it works with other industry organizations. That includes its collaboration with the Broadband Forum. With initial work focused on weaving the Broadband Forum's data modeling and managing standards with MoCA Access, the organizations have also worked together on a low-cost fiber extension standard using the Fiber to the Extension Point (FTTep) architecture.
The alliance also remains committed to MoCA Access, a technology that delivers up to 2.5 Gbit/s down and 2 Gbit/s up with latencies of less than 5 milliseconds. MoCA Access is largely focused on providing relatively low-cost, high-speed connectivity in apartments, offices and other types of MDUs.
A recent example of MoCA Access in action is a 256-apartment complex in Austin, Texas, that uses InCoax Network's fiber access extension technology based on the MoCA specs. According to a case study of that project, initial calculations found that the re-use of the apartment building's coax cabling infrastructure could cut costs to $125 per unit, down from an average cost with fiber of roughly $440.
- MoCA prepares to 'Link' up with 5G fixed wireless, satellite and PON broadband
- What's next for MoCA?
- Broadcom backs out of MoCA
- MoCA, Broadband Forum connect on low-cost fiber extension
- MaxLinear snaps up Intel's Home Gateway Platform unit for $150M
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading