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MoCA delivers itself as a credible challenger in coax broadband

Anga in Cologne in Germany this week is the focus for cable technology updates, and MoCA is no different, pushing the next step as its aim to move from being an in-home LAN connection, to being used for last mile broadband access.

Obviously the last mile has somewhat shortened as the twisted pair of the telco has had to inch ever closer to the home and what was once 6.5 kilometers in twisted pair in ADSL, now becoming anything from 1,500 feet down to 70 feet in G.fast. But, of course MoCA Access, which launched at Anga this week, after being mooted as long as one year ago, last June, is only for coaxial cable and reaches 150 meters, which makes it fine for most US homes, but a much more likely bet is the transport for Multi-Dwelling Units in Europe and Asia Pacific.

This MDU market has become one of the bones of contention in broadband over the past 12 months. As long ago as February 2014 a trial with Korea Telecom let G.hn into this same MDU coaxial broadband domain, although in the long run this technology, we understand, lost out to a cheap ethernet system last year. AT&T has talked about a system which uses G.fast chips with coaxial cable, and Sckipio has both announced such a system, operating at around 1 Gbps, promising about now a 212 MHz version at almost double that speed, and also pushed out a different system with Calix, over twisted pair. There is even a version of this G.fast system which coexists with millimeter-wave wireless backhaul from up to 2.5 miles away that Sckipio has perfected with Siklu for MDU delivery.

The MDU is the last bastion of broadband, and lots of things have been tried, Ethernet over Coax among them, bendable fiber to help with retrofitted installations, but the most frequently discussed systems will use the wiring that’s already installed. Most MDUs, when they are built have a twisted pair installed to bring in telephony, and a coaxial cable originally to bring in analog cable which may have two way repeaters and may not. Both tend to reach with fiber from the basement up, although that is only a general rule and there are instances of dragging backhaul in half way up a building from overhead cabling.

Most MDUs have already been fitted with two way repeaters, so that they can handle broadband, but that too is not a given, certainly not in the poorer parts of the world. So we are in a race against the clock to landgrab over 500 million or so homes which do not even have broadband available to them, over the next five to ten years, and the system that wins much of this, can use this base as an economic platform to attack other types of homes.

MoCA Access is based on MoCA 2.5 a new version of MoCA which uses 5 100Hz slices each way in spectrum from 400MHz – 1675MHz multiplexed to deliver around 2.5 Gbps down and 2.0 Gbps up, and devices are available as of this month. The way MoCA sees this working is that a fiber ONT splits the fiber perhaps 4 ways for an MDU of about 24 homes. That puts six homes on each path, which means they share 2.5 Gbps down and 2.0 Gbps up, and this can be backhauled on GPON or any other fiber.

One of these access systems can take signal up to 150 meters away from the backhaul split without a repeater, and it can drop it into up to 63 devices on a point to multipoint two way topology. So those 6 homes can have around 10 modems each to connect directly into something like a TV or can be split further using WiFi. The IEEE 1905.1 protocol supports that WiFi connection and there are plenty of devices already available.

MoCA suggests that latency is less than 5ms which makes it perfect for 5G backhaul. It also has 8 classes of traffic for different QoS guarantees, so traffic can be layered.

The other market which MoCA thinks may give MoCA Access a good head start in are hospitality/hotels, restaurants, offices – where these already have coax installed.

“MoCA Access leverages our core strengths in high performance, reliability and no new wires,” said Charles Cerino, MoCA President. “Service providers around the world can take advantage of a proven high-speed technology that is designed for all future installations. It is also the perfect complement to a wired backhaul architecture for upcoming cellular technologies such as 5G as it has very low latency.”

We have been amazed at how resilient MoCA has been as a technology, given that it began life with one chip provider Entropic, and it took years before anyone committed sufficient silicon resources to emulate it. Broadcom was next to come out with a chip, but it yielded several years head start to Entropic and it hasn’t really caught that.

Interestingly Entropic was acquired by MaxLinear, which went on to acquire both Marvell’s G.hn technology as well, and then bought specialist mixed signal business Exar, which works closely with mostly large tier 1 Chinese customers.

To us this looks like there is the potential to merge the two systems. G.hn has some acceptance in China, so buying Exar and Marvell’s G.hn will make MaxLinear a trusted supplier there. It can then supply whichever component the Chinese like the best for any given application, MoCA Access for access, and perhaps the powerline version of G.hn for in home backhaul backup?

If a Chinese partner prefers DOCSIS, MaxLinear is also suited for this because it provides RF components to create multiple DOCSIS tuners in one piece of silicon. It has all bases covered.

We understand there is a major RFP now out in China, relating to G.hn over Coax versus MoCA – and we are unsure of how MaxLinear can lose this, as it now dominates both technologies (although in G.hn there are at least some credible rivals such as Sigma Designs).

While US cable equipment suppliers may remain rigidly faithful to DOCSIS, this is not necessarily true of Chinese cable operators, and they could switch to MoCA Access, if it can promise cost and performance advantages over DOCSIS.

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