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ZenWiFi hybrid XC5: Asus Debuts World’s First MoCA-enabled Mesh System

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Asus announced today the ZenWifi hybrid XC5, which it claimed to be the world’s first mesh Wi-Fi system with built-in MoCA backhaul. It’s a niche mesh Wi-Fi system that can potentially make many users happy.

The new hardware is not for everyone. Specifically, it’s not applicable in homes without coaxial cables, nor does it make sense in those with network cables. But for a place with those round wires, originally designed to carry cable TV signals, snaking from room to room, it’s an excellent choice.

And that’s the case for many Cable Internet-ready homes.

ASUS ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5 Left
An Asus ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5 router. The hardware is available in a 2-pack mesh set.

Asus ZenWiFi hybrid XC5: The coaxial version of the XP4

In a way, the ZenWiFi hybrid XC5 is the MoCA version of the Powerline-enabled ZenWiFi hybrid XP4 that came out in April 2022.

Both have a built-in option for alternative wired backhauling aside from using network cables.

MoCA in Brief

MoCA stands for Multimedia over Coax Alliance, an organization that publishes specifications for networking using coaxial cables. Generally, you can turn a coaxial wire into a network cable by attaching a MoCA adapter to each end. That’s similar to using two Powerline adapters at two wall sockets within a home.

The latest MoCA standard—MoCA 2.5—can deliver a 2.5Gbps Full-Duplex connection, effectively making it comparable to a CAT5e (or higher-grade) network cable. It’s an excellent starting point for those looking to turn coaxial wires into network cables.

The new XC5 enables the users to have coaxial wired backhauling, which is not as good as real network cables but still significantly better than the finicky and unreliable Powerline.

Backhauling in a mesh system

When you use multiple Wi-Fi broadcasters—in a mesh network or a combo of a router and an extender—there are two types of connections: fronthaul and backhaul.

Fronthaul is the Wi-Fi signals broadcast outward for clients or the local area network (LAN) ports for wired devices. It’s what we generally expect from a Wi-Fi broadcaster.

Backhaul (a.k.a backbone,) on the other hand, is the link between one satellite Wi-Fi broadcaster and another, which can be the network’s primary router, a switch, or another satellite unit.

This link works behind the scenes to keep the hardware units together as a system. It also determines the ceiling bandwidth (and speed) of all devices connected to the particular broadcaster. It’s the backbone of the system.

At the satellite/extender unit, the connection used for the backhaul—a Wi-Fi link or a network port—is often called the uplink. Generally, a Wi-Fi broadcaster might use one of its bands (2.4GHz, 5GHz, or 6GHz) or a network port for the uplink.

When a Wi-Fi band handles backhaul and fronthaul simultaneously, only half its bandwidth is available to either end. From the perspective of a connected client, that phenomenon is called signal loss.

A Wi-Fi connection between two direct parties occurs in a single band, using one fixed channel, at any given time. This principle applies to all existing Wi-Fi standards, up to Wi-Fi 6E.

When a Wi-Fi band functions solely for backhauling, it’s called the dedicated backhaul. Often, that means no other band will do this job, though that depends on the hardware.

In a mesh system, only traditional Tri-band hardware—those with an additional 5GHz band—can have a dedicated backhaul band without ostracizing clients of the same band.

Generally, it’s best to use network cables for backhauling—wired backhauling, which is an advantage of mesh hardware with network ports. In this case, a satellite broadcaster can use its entire Wi-Fi bandwidth for front-hauling.

In networking, network cables are always much better than wireless in speed and reliability.

Like the XP4, the XC5 still works as a fully wireless system or one where you use network cables as backhaul. The support for MoCA is available as a new option.

If you can use network cables as backhauls, the ZenWifi XD series (such as the XD6, or XD4), or any dual-band AiMesh broadcaster would make more sense in terms of cost.

Asus ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5: Preliminary hardware specifications

Details about the XC5 are still sketchy, but it seems to have better 5GHz specs than the XP4, which is always a good thing.

As for MoCA, Asus says the new hardware features MoCA 2.5. Each of the hardware units comes with a coaxial port—a.k.a an F-connector—similar to a Cable modem.

This port only works for a local peer-to-peer connection and not as that of a modem. In other words, each XC5 unit doesn’t have a built-in cable modem.

Antennas2 x internal antennas
Operating Frequency2.4 GHz, 5 GHz
Wi-Fi Data Rate2.4 GHz: up to 574 Mbps 5 GHz: up to 2402 Mbps MoCA: 2500 Mbps
Wi-Fi Channel Width 2.4GHz: 20/40MHz
5GHz: 20/40/80/160MHz
Network StandardsIEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g,
IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11ax,
IPv4, IPv6
Memory128 MB Flash, 512 MB DDR3 RAM
I/O Ports1 Gbps LAN/WAN, 1 Gbps LAN, 1 x F-connector
ButtonsReset Button, WPS/MPS Button
DC Power AdapterAC Input: 100~240V (50~60 Hz) 
DC Output: 18 watts
Package ContentsASUS ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5 RJ-45 cable  RG6 Coaxial cable Power adapter  Quick Start guide  Warranty card 
Dimensions 6.1 x 3.23 x 5.51 in (155 x 82 x140 mm)
Weight
(each router)
1.03 lbs (469 g)
The currently known specs of the Asus ZenWifi hybrid XC5

Besides that, like other Asus Wi-Fi hardware, the ZenWifi hybrid XC5 shares the same firmware as the rest of the AiMesh family. According to Asus, it’ll include the usual features, including AiProtection, Instant Guard, and Safe Browsing.

ASUS ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5 IO Port
The back of an Asus ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5. Note its MoCA F-Connector and the two-gigabit network ports—that WAN port works as a LAN at the satellite unit.

Availability and pricing

The Asus ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5 is excellent news for those living in large homes currently with Cable internet have used it.

Even when you have moved to Fiber-optic, the coaxial wiring can now be used to extend your network with excellent speed and reliability without separate MoCA adapters.

So the question is: when can you buy one? Asus says the ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5 is slated to be available in the first half of 2023, with pricing to be announced then.

Check back for more information and possibly an in-depth review.

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8 thoughts on “ZenWiFi hybrid XC5: Asus Debuts World’s First MoCA-enabled Mesh System”

  1. As a systems engineer with over 25 years of experience in computing and networking, I find myself in the unfortunate position of expressing my deep dissatisfaction with ASUS and their XC5 product line. My recent purchase of four XC5 units, which were launched in the first quarter of last year, has led to significant disappointment, primarily due to the product’s performance and the company’s technical support.

    The performance of the XC5 units has been underwhelming. Despite using the recommended cables and equipment, these units have persistently failed, often going offline permanently without a clear path to resolution. My attempts to seek support have been met with inadequate service. The technical support team, rather than effectively addressing the issues, seems to rely on a scripted set of questions, often shirking responsibility for the challenges faced by their products. This is compounded by long wait times and a cumbersome authentication process that requires serial numbers for each interaction, making the process inefficient for those managing multiple devices.

    Repeated interactions with the support staff have been frustratingly repetitive, with no tangible progress in resolving the issues. Despite ASUS’s claims of innovation and customer service, as heard through their on-hold messaging system, my experience contradicts these claims. The support team’s lack of firsthand experience with the XC5 units further undermines their ability to provide effective assistance.

    While I recognize the impressive design of ASUS’s mobile application and web interface, these aspects are overshadowed by the fundamental shortcomings of the XC5 product line and the lackluster support services. Based on this experience, I cannot recommend the ASUS XC5 routers. Their inability to provide adequate support or resolve significant software issues necessitates a reconsideration of their approach.

    In conclusion, I am now compelled to revert my wireless devices to their original configurations and return these units. This experience has been a letdown, especially given my expectations from a brand like ASUS. It’s a disheartening situation that leaves much to be desired in terms of product reliability and customer support.

    Reply
    • It’s likely your MoCA wiring, Shawn. More here. But yeah, Asus’s support is known to be sub-par. Also, don’t use the mobile app, but the web user interface.

      One more thing: your 25 years of experience don’t mean much with this stuff. Sometime, it makes things worse because you make wrong assumptions. I speak from experience.

      Reply
  2. Sounds great but where can I buy one? You seem to have reviewed hardware in January that still wasn’t available for [U.S.] purchase in November. While I’m aware Asus isn’t your personal company, 10mos is a significant leadtime — technology itself changes at this rate. There’s not even a “coming soon” mention of the product on its website.

    Reply
  3. Hey, thanks for this Dong …

    And if these were more like the XT8 in its WiFi capabilities I would be really kicking myself right now since MoCA in the D and E bands is almost all we use for wired networking around here (and even the one exception, a pair of “G.hn over coax adapters”, operate on the same principle as MoCA).

    So could have saved a lot of money on our MoCA D band adapters with this.

    Wonder why Asus didn’t name it “XC4”, as the “5” would imply 5 WiFi streams. But I guess they did something similar with the “XT9”, even though it has only 8 streams like the XT8.

    Reply

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