dslreports logo
site
spacer

spacer
 
   
spc
story category
Alternatives to Wired Cat5e Networks
HomePlug, HomePNA, and MOCA
by ryan711 02:37PM Wednesday Jun 06 2012
While Wi-Fi is fantastic and getting better with every revision, sometimes you just need something a little more reliable and not dependent on distance from a base station. Whether that reason is that you move large files across computers regularly, or you do heavy media streaming to multiple computers simultaneously, or any other scenario where you need a good amount of speed that won’t get saturated easily or degrade when you walk too far away from your access point.

You might think that your only other option is wired Cat5e/6 cable, and you would be wrong. It is true that Cat5e is the best thing for wired networks, but sometimes you just don’t have the option to wire the place you’re living at, or perhaps you just don’t want to have to do the wiring at all, because trust me when I say it is a pain to retrofit Cat5e into a house.

The good news is that there are a few options out there that can use existing wiring in your house to use as a wired network. It won’t be as fast as Cat5e using a gigabit switch which will give you 1gbps (1000mbps), but, depending on the standard, it should give you a couple of hundred megabits per second transfer speed which should certainly be more than enough for most home users.

HomePlug

Click for full size
HomePlug, current version "HomePlug AV," allows you to create a wired network using the electrical wiring in your home. The basic setup consists of two adapters that plug into any two electrical outlets in your home, and that gives you a wired Ethernet connection between the two points.

These devices, and really all the devices in this article, will cost a bit of money. They average $100-150 for the starter packs, which usually have two of whichever device you’re buying, and then another ~$75 for each additional adapter. Certainly expensive compared to traditional wired network equipment, but it may be worth it just based on convenience alone. Just something to keep in mind. HomePlug will give you a theoretical max of 200 Mbps, which will of course vary depending on the quality of your home’s wiring.

HomePNA

HomePNA has probably been around the longest out of the three presented here. I remember it being a feature of my old 2Wire DSL modem from 2003, and I know it had been along sometime before that. The newest iteration, HomePNA 3.1, support up to 320 Mbps depending on the product.

This standard used to run over the typical phone lines found in homes, but with the introduction of 3.1, it has moved to coaxial cable to provide higher speed. This does not interfere with Cable TV or Satellite as it runs on different frequencies. The downside to this technology is that it is not compatible with DOCSIS, which means that if you have cable internet, it will not work for you. Another downside is that there are not many manufacturers of the equipment, so it tends to be on the more expensive side.

MoCA

MoCA stands for Multimedia Over Coax Alliance. It is similar to HomePNA 3.1 in that it uses coaxial lines in your home to establish the network. You might already have MoCA devices in your home as it is often used by cable or satellite providers to transfer video between rooms say for a multi-tuner box providing video to more than one room.

Because it is being actively being used by many companies, there are more devices and it has a more active development than probably the other two options presented here. MoCA 1.1, the most common type that you’ll see when buying MoCA Ethernet adapters, offers rates of up to 175mbps. MoCA 2.0, introduced in 2010, offers throughputs of 400-800mbps depending on the mode that is selected. As with the other two options, these devices cost around $150 for two MoCA Ethernet adapters.

So as you can see, there are some drawbacks to using any of these devices, but if wireless isn’t cutting it for you and you don’t have the option to wire your home with Cat5e, they can be a very good, albeit a tad bit expensive, option.

This article is part of an effort to solicit content from the Broadband Reports community. If you'd like to participate, please contact us.


61 comments .. click to read