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Broadcom backs out of MoCA

Broadcom has bolted from the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) in recent weeks, a move that raises more questions about the long-term fate of an organization that specializes in specs and interoperability requirements for speedy coax-based home networking and access network products.

MoCA, which has also lost membership-level backing of service providers such as Dish Network and DirecTV/AT&T in recent months, might also see the silicon-making portion of its rolls shrink even further.

MaxLinear and Intel remain as MoCA members. However it's questionable how long Intel sticks around, as it nears the completion of the sale of its home connectivity business, which includes MoCA chips, to MaxLinear, which has its own lineup of MoCA silicon. If that were to come to pass, it would leave MaxLinear as the sole chipmaker to retain its MoCA membership card.

Broadcom did not respond to multiple requests for comment about its decision to leave MoCA. However, its exit is another sign that Broadcom, which continues to sell its existing line of MoCA products, is reducing its commitment to technologies that appear to be reaching the end of the line or represent a lower volume piece of its overall businesses.

Elsewhere, Broadcom, whose set-top silicon business is under pressure from the ongoing decline of the pay-TV industry, is threatening to halt investment in next-gen DOCSIS technology unless cable operators put more skin in the game by cutting a big non-recurring engineering (NRE) check for product development, according to industry sources.

Given that MoCA is in decline as Wi-Fi encroaches on its turf and Broadcom attends to other priorities, "You can't blame Broadcom for reducing their status with MoCA," said Jeff Heynen, research director for the broadband access and home networking unit with Dell'Oro Group.

MoCA, meanwhile, doesn't appear to be overly concerned with Broadcom's exit or the recent departure of other members, attributing the situation to a variety of market factors.

"Many companies that leave MoCA still continue to rely on MoCA technology in their networks or continue to manufacture devices utilizing MoCA technology," Dr. Leonard Dauphinee, the recently appointed president of MoCA and a MaxLinear executive, said in a statement to Light Reading. "The loss of members is primarily due to two factors. In one case, there is company pressure to reduce R&D operating expenses, especially for businesses that are having difficulty maintaining growth in their legacy markets. However, the largest factor in membership attrition for all industry alliances has been the significant consolidation of operators, OEMs and silicon providers in our industry. Despite recent reductions in membership, MoCA technology is relied on every day to stream, access or connect with world leading performance over existing coaxial cable."

But those aren't the only challenges that MoCA is facing. According to multiple vendors speaking on background, MoCA is being designed out of set-tops and other consumer premises equipment (CPE) and being replaced by Wi-Fi for connectivity and backhaul. Other suppliers have halted development on other types of MoCA-based products because they lacked buyers. However, there are still some other indicators that MoCA's access network technology is gaining a foothold in certain parts of the market and that there's still some decent demand for MoCA-based home networking adapters.

Dauphinee stressed that MoCA still holds some key technological advantages in the home and on the access network.

"MoCA Home has superior performance versus Wi-Fi for backhaul performance between access points and MoCA Access is able to support fiber speeds to residential gateways," he explained. "MoCA is still the technology of choice for operators that want to deliver the best customer experience without the high cost of installing Ethernet or fiber in the home."

Still, there are questions circling about MoCA's long-term product interoperability and whether products will ever be developed to support the new MoCA 3.0 specifications.

If the organization is reduced to one silicon vendor, the need for an organization to handle interops is greatly reduced and perhaps eliminated.

As for MoCA 3.0, a technology targeting networking speeds of 10 Gbit/s, Dauphinee acknowledged last month that commitments will be needed from cable operators and other service providers before vendors would move ahead with product development. However, he did note that some Tier 1 operators have asked for assurances that MoCA 3.0 silicon will emerge in the 2022-2023 timeframe.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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