Entropic, Verizon Serve Up MOCA

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading
1/5/2006



The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) got a shot in the arm to start this week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), as founding member Entropic Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ENTR) picked up $25 million in funding and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) trotted out MOCA-compliant equipment for Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) to use with its FiOS TV service.

But Verizon is making it clear that it's not giving an exclusive blessing to MOCA. "We're going to continue to look at everything," a Verizon spokesman says. "This doesn't rule out other home networking types of technologies. Specifically, our folks talk about wireless."

MOCA is one of several groups pushing schemes for transmitting broadband around the home -- in MOCA's case, using the coaxial cable installed for TV. At CES, MOCA is claiming to support speeds up to 270 Mbit/s.

Motorola and Verizon are both MOCA members, so it's no surprise that the companies are using the technology. In yesterday's announcement, Motorola unveiled a MOCA-compliant set-top with Verizon as its first customer. MOCA will replace Verizon's original FiOS scheme, which involved installing Category 5 cable in every home. (See Motorola Unveils QIP Family.)

Verizon might not be dedicated to MOCA, but Entropic certainly is. The 55-employee company has now raised $78 million in three rounds dating back to 2001. The latest round was led by Focus Ventures , with several prior investors contributing: Anthem Venture Partners , Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), CMEA Ventures , Comcast Interactive Capital , EchoStar Satellite LLC , Intel Capital , Mission Ventures , Motorola Ventures , Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), Redpoint Ventures , Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), and YAS Broadband Ventures . (See Entropic Raises $25M.)

Entropic is a chip vendor founded by Conexant Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CNXT) veterans, including Itzhak Gurantz, Entropic's CTO. Aiming to develop signal processors for in-home broadband, the company settled on coax as its medium and helped create MOCA two years ago to promulgate the technology.

To speed up its development, MOCA didn't bother attaching itself to any standards body. "It just slows everything down," says John Graham, Entropic's vice president of marketing.

Entropic's chip would be the heart of a MOCA gateway or set-top, but the company doesn't expect to have a monopoly on the market. Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) has joined the alliance, and any day now, MOCA expects to publish the specifications that would let chip makers produce compliant silicon. "We'll have other chip players in this business in another 18 months," Graham says.

Of course, other types of wires inhabit nearly every household's walls, and standards have formed to make use of them as well.

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance advocates using electrical wiring to carry Ethernet signals, turning every electrical outlet into a network jack. The HPPA announced a standard in August for 200-Mbit/s transmission, which would yield 70 to 140 Mbit/s to end devices.

The Home Phoneline Networking Alliance thinks copper phone lines could do the trick. HomePNA 3.0, also standardized by the ITU as G.9954, claims speeds up to 240 Mbit/s.

A proprietary coax-cable transmission is being pitched by startup Coaxsys Inc. , which is demonstrating a 200-Mbit/s transmission this week. And then there's wireless, with companies including Ruckus Wireless Inc. trying to adapt WiFi for broadband video.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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