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2 May 2019

MoCA resurfaces with security emphasis to address closing window

We had to pinch ourselves when news from the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) arrived this week, ending an extended sabbatical from the WiFi technology backbone body with the release of MoCASec – a security layer for MoCA links supporting its entire portfolio of specifications.

Given the increasing investments in fiber infrastructure and related technologies, it’s clear to see why MoCA has been quiet of late, alongside technologies such as G.fast and G.hn, in a similar vein to how the incessant 5G noise has been drowning out WiFi. Yet we know full well that WiFi will never realistically be replaced by 5G, and the same is true for backhaul options like MoCA for premises where fiber simply cannot penetrate.

The launch of MoCASec therefore suggests emphasizing security is key to securing the legacy of MoCA Access broadband technology, while the window of opportunity is closing on use cases where FTTH is sliding in as a more desirable long-term network infrastructure option.

So, the idea of MoCASec is to provide point-to-point link privacy allowing for integration of MoCA technology into home networks supporting EasyMesh, the mesh networking standard released by the WiFi Alliance last year.

While vague, the release says a firmware update for MoCA Home 2.0 and 2.5 devices will enable MoCASec access, becoming part of the MoCA Home 3.0 standard. In a nut shell, MoCASec aims to integrate additional privacy into the EasyMesh network without disrupting devices already in use.

“It is not enough to just provide huge amounts of bandwidth anymore. Network operators must address the entire user experience including expanded security and privacy. MoCASec ensures the secure and private transport of data over the in-home coaxial cabling, further enhancing the home networking experience,” said MoCA President Charles Cerino.

It’s worth noting how DOCSIS 3.1 is an exception to the trend of FTTH replacing the MoCA Access and other technologies mentioned, as DOCSIS 3.1 is triggering 1 Gbps installation in the US. DOCSIS is seen as too expensive outside the US and Western Europe and while fiber is picking up, the MDU situation for home broadband is still up for grabs, and multi-drop protocols like MoCA and G.hn offer a lot.

Importantly, MoCA Access 2.5 can coexist with DOCSIS as both operate in a point-to-multipoint design in different parts of the spectrum.

MoCA Access was first announced in 2016, and the standard version serves up to 63 modems and, as well as DOCSIS, is designed to co-exist with legacy services such as TV and cellular (4G/5G) technologies. The operating frequency range is 400 MHz to 1,675 MHz, although most cable installations have some overlapping frequencies which have to be left untouched, reducing the capacity slightly.

Additional highlights of MoCASec include support for standard authentication protocols such as Pre-Shared key and Push Button Configuration, peer to peer link privacy for unicast traffic and network-wide privacy for multicast traffic, and dynamic pairwise encryption keys.