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Technology: Retrofit MoCA Home Entertainment Networks for Fun and Profit (2/5/2012)
By Rob Gelphman, MoCA
The digital media revolution has presented a unique opportunity for consumer electronics installers to help customers navigate the rapidly- blurring boundaries between traditional media, digital content, and the Internet. Thanks to Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) technology, installers can add broadband IP (Internet Protocol) capabilities to customers’ existing coaxial infrastructures, creating home entertainment networks that deliver any and all types of digital content including: multiroom DVR, user- generated and stored, over-the-top (OTT) from the Internet, gaming or just high-speed Internet and wireless extensions.
When properly designed and installed, a MoCA technology-enabled network allows advanced services and capabilities such as multiple Wi-Fi access points, multiroom content sharing (gaming, DVR, smart TVs, etc.), and OTT media such as LoveFilm and YouTube. The robust architecture of MoCA technology and its ecosystem of networking products help installers quickly add these popular and profitable capabilities to a customer’s home network using existing structured coaxial wiring.
MoCA in a Nutshell
MoCA is an open, standards-based technology that transforms a building’s existing coaxial cable infrastructure into a dual-channel conduit to deliver both traditional video content and high-capacity Ethernet connectivity to every coaxial connection in the home.
The MoCA architecture establishes a 'virtual Ethernet network' within the building’s existing coax wire plant, by creating a separate channel for IP data in the frequencies above the 500MHz band that is typically used for off-air and CATV /IPTV and satellite programming. This allows MoCA to peacefully co-exist with frequencies occupied by standard CATV and DBS satellite services as well as expanded IPTV services.
Each MoCA channel occupies 50MHz and uses adaptive constellation multi-tone (ACMT) modulation to achieve useable data rates of 175Mb/s. This is more than enough bandwidth to stream multiple channels of HDTV content while providing several computers with Internet access at the maximum speed afforded by the home’s broadband router.
MoCA Network Architecture and Elements
A MoCA data channel can support a full-mesh, peer-to-peer network of up to 16 nodes. This can be any combination of MoCA-based set top boxes (STBs), routers, or adapters, or in-wall units for example. In most systems, one node device (typically an STB or router), is designated as the network controller (NC). The NC’s role is to act as a 'traffic cop', enforcing the time-slotted media access control (MAC) protocol which divides the channel’s available bandwidth into individual data streams that carry voice, video and data between nodes.
A MoCA-based adapter or in-wall unit splits the Ethernet stream from the cable plant’s video signals and delivers them to separate RJ45 and coax output connectors. Regardless of whether you plug in an external adapter or mount an in-wall unit, installing rarely requires cutting any new holes and few, if any, tools are involved.
Upgrading a Coax Plant to MoCA
Adding MoCA technology to the coaxial cable plants found in most homes and commercial buildings is fast and straightforward because it works with the network’s existing hierarchical (branching tree) physical topology. As shown in the image below, a MoCA network’s root node is the first passive splitter connected to the service provider’s drop cable, satellite receiver, or optical network terminal (ONT). Branches flow from secondary splitters and outlets in the home.
The first step in installing a MoCA network is performing a careful inspection of the cable plant to identify any non-standard topologies, substandard components or line amplifiers which may interfere with MoCA’s two-way capabilities. The inspection should also verify a maximum cable run of 60 metres from demarcation of the side of the house to the first root, and then an additional 60 metres from root to the last outlet.
After inspection, use a line tester to verify that the system’s maximum signal attenuation is within MoCA’s 25dB limit. If you don’t have a cable tester to verify signal strength, a standard HDTV can serve as a surprisingly useful tool for giving you a quick first-order test of the building’s line conditions.
If the cable plant is connected to a CATV or MSO coaxial cable system, a MoCA Point of Entry filter must be inserted between the cable drop and the root splitter to block your clients’ signals from exiting the home cable plant.
Next, install a MoCA adapter or in-wall MoCA device at the network router and at each location where an Ethernet connection is needed. This is also the time to attach any other MoCA products to the cable plant such as MoCA-enabled routers or DVRs.
After all of MoCA devices are powered up and connected, it is time to check for Ethernet activity at each node you’ve installed. There are several excellent testers on the market which simplify this task and provide a detailed analysis but, if one isn’t available, an ordinary laptop computer and a standard Ethernet 'speed test' program will provide a quick first-order indication of the building’s line conditions.
Finally, attach all of the customer’s computers and Ethernet-enabled electronics to the MoCA network and enjoy their satisfaction as they explore the new possibilities you’ve unlocked for them.
The MoCA Equation: More Services + Less Labour = More Revenue
MoCA technology lets installers upgrade a home’s coaxial cable plant to support high-speed Ethernet and IP-enabled entertainment services in a fraction of the time it takes to install conventional Ethernet cabling. Home entertainment specialists can add new revenue streams to their business by offering customers high-speed home entertainment networks to support advanced services including:
Ethernet Over Coax – Homeowners can now enjoy the speed and security of a hardwired Ethernet connection without the cost of running new wires.
Improved Wi-Fi – Using MoCA to add an Ethernet-connected Wi-Fi access point to a patio, kitchen or public area makes it easy to deploy robust localised wireless coverage throughout even the largest home or commercial space.
Over-The-Top Services – MoCA technology enables direct access to web-based media sites such as LoveFilm and NetFlix that bypass traditional pay TV providers and deliver another source of content.
Multiroom/Personal Content Sharing and Gaming - Your customers can share licensed content (and the pictures, music and videos that they create) from virtually any piece of personal electronics gear with any compatible playback device on the network, including tablets and other mobile devices. MoCA technology also allows home networks to support distributed multi-player environments for computer game enthusiasts.
By Rob Gelphman is the Chair of the Marketing Work Group for MoCA. Established in 2004, MoCA is an open, industry consortium. MoCA technology is a worldwide standard for home entertainment networking and is used for cable, satellite and IPTV.
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