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Relax, Enjoy a Cup of MoCA

Carol Wilson

5:25 PM -- One way to fill up your email inbox is to write about the competing home networking standards, as I did yesterday. (See Home Networking's War of Words Rages On.)

The home networking wars have been going on for years now, and everyone, not only has an entrenched position, but also a good reason for distrusting everyone else's position.

So I don't jump at every reaction to a home networking story. But Anton Monk, co-founder and vice president of technology for Entropic Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ENTR), made a few points worth sharing about Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) .

Because MoCA is acknowledged as the dominant player in today's US market, he believes there is little reason to see change any time soon, especially since MoCA has carefully built backwards compatibility into each new version of its standard.

"US service providers move very slowly for a good reason," Monk says. "They have to support tens of millions of boxes already in the field. Once they are down a path, they don't tend to change."

That's a statement tough to dispute.

With cable companies deploying Docsis 3.0 modems to support broadband service at up to 100 Mbit/s, Monk thinks the time is not far off when consumers will buy MoCA gear at retail to bridge MoCA with WiFi or Ethernet and use their in-home coaxial cable to create a 100-Meg in-home network for delivering over-the-top video from the PC to the TV, as well as other applications.

With MoCA entrenched at all but one major service provider, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) (which Monk says holds 3 percent of the US video market), is there incentive to move to a new standard, such as G.hn?

The one advantage the new standard purports to offer is self-installation, replacing the hundreds of dollars now spent doing technician-installs of new customers with much less costly consumer self-installs.

Monk argues that the professional-install model will continue for some time, for reasons that have nothing to do with the home networking methodology.

"Obviously, for satellite, it is not going to be self-install," Monk says. "I think we are far off [for cable and telco] because there are so many new things that are being added to the home. Cable companies are adding new features, and they always end up needing to show consumers how they work."

With the least little change, video service providers have to provide hands-on consumer support (Monk cites one case where a company changed the background color of its user guide and was flooded with calls) and he believes that tips the scales toward professional installation models for many years to come.

Can G.hn overcome the MoCA advantage? The folks backing G.hn think its status as an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standard will pull telcos offering video services in that direction and that the cost advantage of self-installs will win out.

I don't know which camp wins this war, but I'd agree with Monk that any US shift away from MoCA is going to be a long time in coming.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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