I’ve always recommended using network cables to extend a (Wi-Fi) home network. I still do.
However, when running new wires is impossible, MoCA, where available, is the second-best alternative. In ideal conditions — fairly easy to achieve — it can deliver a real Gigabit or even 2.5Gbps network connection, equivalent to the entry-level of Multi-Gig. And faster speeds are possible in the future.
You’ll find out in simple terms what MoCA is in this post and tips on building a successful wired network with it. This connection standard is not as straightforward in real life as in principle.
Dong’s note: Since the post on Powerline, I’ve gotten many requests to write about MoCA. This post results from my extensive trial with the MoCA 2.5 standard in multiple homes and offices over a year. I first published it on April 8, 2023, and updated it on May 15 to clarify things further.
MoCA: Simple yet complicated
Short for Multimedia over Coax Alliance, MoCA is another way to build a computer network by leveraging existing infrastructure. It’s similar to Powerline networking, which turns a home’s electrical wiring into network cables.
In MoCA’s case, the existing infrastructure is the coaxial cable, or coax, originally laid to deliver TV signals.
While MoCA can be great, it’s not great enough to install anew. If you remodel your home, it’s best to remove the coax wires and run network cables instead.
You can think of MoCA as the local area network (LAN) side of data-enabled coaxial wiring. On the other side — the wide area network (WAN) — we have Cable Internet (as opposed to Fiber-optic, which requires new wiring completely).
MoCA vs Powerline
Powerline is ubiquitous — it’s available in all homes with electricity. MoCA is only available in those built with Cable TV in mind — new and modern homes no longer use legacy coax cables.
MoCA is reliable and can sustain at true Gigabit or multi-Gigabit in Full-Duplex.
Powerline is greatly susceptible to interference, wiring, breakers, etc., and always Half-Duplex — it generally can replace only Fast Ethernet (100Mbps) in bandwidth needs.
The MoCA evolution in brief
Like Powerline, MoCA has undergone a few revisions since MoCA 1.0 was first introduced in 2006. MoCA is initially also Half-Duplex, meaning data can travel one way at a time.
However, starting MoCA 2.5, first introduced in 2016 and became widely available a few years later, the standard features a Full-Duplex and, with that, becomes a true replacement for network cables.
Half-Duplex is like communicating via walkie-talkies, whereas Full-Duplex is a conversation over the phone.
A MoCA connection generally uses channels to deliver data signals. Each channel functions at a certain frequency, and the higher, the faster the data speed.
The initial standards (MoCA 1.0 and 1.1) use a single channel and caps at 175Mbps — that’s 100Mbps in real-world applications via a Fast Ethernet port. Starting with MoCA 2.0, the standard can bond two or more channels into one for higher bandwidth. MoCA 2.5 can bond up to 5 channels to deliver 2.5Gbps.
It’s important to note that using MoCA 2.5 doesn’t automatically give you the standard’s high speeds — 1.5Gbps, 2Gbps, or 2.5Gbps. That also depends on the network port of the hardware. Specifically, a MoCA 2.5 adapter with a Gigabit LAN port will deliver 1Gbps at most.
Considering the support for Full-Duplex, if you start with MoCA today, MoCA 2.5 is the way to go.
The table below summarizes the existing MoCA standards.
|Version||Number of |
|Max Channel Width||Max Sustained Data Rate||Max Nodes||Half/Full|
|Network Port||Advanced Features|
|MoCA 2.0||1 or 2||100MHz||500Mbps, or 1Gbps||16||Half||Gigabit||Power Saving|
|MoCA 2.1||1 or 2||100MHz||500Mbps, |
MoCA Protected Setup (MPS)
Network Wid Beacon Power
|MoCA 2.5||3, 4, or 5||100MHz||1.5Gbps,|
|Same as MoCA 2.1|
MoCA 3.0 — capable of 10GbE — is still under development with no estimate of availability yet.
Mixing hardware in MoCA
Generally, newer MoCA standards are backward compatible with the older ones. Additionally, adapters from different vendors are slated to work with one another. In reality, it’s best to use the same adapters throughout.
When you use different adapters, the MoCA connection speed will be that of the slowest one.
If you have to mix adapters, use adapters from the same vendors (different standards) or the same standard (different vendors). In my experience, mixing adapters of different MoCA standards and vendors can be problematic. It might work, or it might not. Your luck will vary.
Speaking of luck, in some situations, using the same adapters can still be hit or miss due to wiring and hardware setup requirements.
How to set up a MoCA network: Principle vs reality
In principle, MoCA is quite simple and is similar to Powerline.
The objective is to turn the existing coax wiring into network cables by adding MoCA adapters at different coax jacks around the home.
The rule is to get one adapter for each wired device (a.k.a MoCA node) plus one that links all of them to the network — this adapter is often called the main node (or controller node).
The controller node decides the bandwidth of the entire MoCA network — the rest of the nodes will share the controller node’s bandwidth when connecting to the main network or the Internet. However, MoCA supports direct peer-to-peer connections. So, two MoCA nodes can talk to each other without using the bandwidth of the controller node.
There are routers with built-in MoCA, such as the Asus ZenWifi Hybrid XC5. In this case, the main node adapter is no longer needed unless you want to change the standard.
MoCA setup: The simple idea
Here are the standard steps to set up any MoCA network:
- Connect the first MoCA adapter’s network port to your router (or switch) using a network cable and its coax connector to a service jack. This adapter will work as the main node.
- Connect another MoCA adapter to another coax jack and a wired device (such as a desktop computer or a Wi-Fi Access Point).
- Plug the adapters into power.
Repeat the process from step #2 to add up to 14 more nodes.
And that’s it! The adapters will turn the coax cables between them into the network cables to make the wired devices part of the home network. That’s the idea, anyway. And in many cases, that’s all you need to do to make things work.
But sometimes, things don’t work for reasons beyond the obvious such as a wire has been cut or disconnected.
Making sure your coax wires are intact and connected is the first step in building a MoCA-based network — that’s a given.
Let’s look closer.
MoCA setup with diagrams: The devil in the details
The coax wiring varies from home to home. In most cases, the Cable drop enters the house at one corner. After that, the Main Splitter immediately splits the line into multiple coax wires that go to different parts of the home and are further divided via more splitters.
TV and broadband signals are lenient with splitters, you can use splitters of any type, almost as many as needed, and cascade them however you want. For MoCA to work (well), things are more restrictive.
The tabs below include two diagrams for typical as-is wiring vs best-practice (re)wiring that will work for MoCA.
This setup is applicable when you don’t want to do any rewiring. It’s where the chances of success vary greatly.
There are two scenarios:
- If you don’t use Cable TV or broadband: Disconnect the service line from the Main Splitter. This is the best scenario since the entire coax network is available for MoCA exclusively.
- If you do use Cable TV or broadband: A MoCA Point-of-Entry (PoE) filter is recommended at the entry point to keep data signals from leaking in or out of the home. (This scenario tends to be hit or miss as-is — check the other tab for more options.)
Additionally, this setup only works if all of the following requirements are met:
- Behind the Main Splitter, there’s no more than one layer of additional splitters. In the diagram above, things will stop working as intended if you add one more MoCA device to Splitter 3. (In practice, this splitter should be removed or replaced by a coax coupler.) To increase the number of MoCA nodes, use large splitters, such as this 8-way splitter, instead of stacking them.
- There is no one-way coax amplifier or amplified splitter within your home. If you use an amplified splitter, replace it. (If you’re unsure, replace all splitters — they are relatively affordable.) Additionally, all splitters should have a frequency range above 1,000 MHz — higher than 1,500MHz is ideal. Technically, a lower-frequency splitter might work, but it often doesn’t.
- You don’t use coax cables for non-Cable TV signals like DirecTV, satellite Internet, DSL, or anything else. MoCA works best as the only application on the coax wiring and can share the same wiring simultaneously only with Cable TV and/or Cable broadband Internet.
- For the best MoCA performance, the maximum cable length between the Main Splitter and the farthest coax jack is 300 feet (90 meters).
This setup applies to those with TV or Cable broadband and is willing to do some rewriting.
The key to this setup is to separate MoCA from TV or broadband signals. For this setup to work, keep the following in mind:
- The Splitter 2 connected to the Main Node adapter is the only one used for MoCA. To increase the number of MoCA nodes, replace it with a larger splitter, such as this 8-way splitter. You can’t add another one on top.
- This splitter should be MoCA-ready. Specifically, it should have a frequency range above 1,000 MHz — higher than 1,500MHz is ideal.
- For the best MoCA performance, the maximum cable length between MoCa adapters is 300 feet (90 meters).
And that’s it. Your MoCA network should now work.
Undecided between two different adapters of the same specs? Get the less expensive one. Besides the hardware specs, MoCA adapters are generally very similar in functionality.
MoCA: The takeaway
MoCA, where available, can be an excellent alternative to network cables. But it may have a learning curve.
Here are a few recap bullet points to better the chance of success:
- Always get adapters from the same vendor and of the same standard (MoCA 2.5 or later is recommended). Also, mind the Ethernet port. A MoCA 2.5 adapter only delivers top speeds if it has a 2.5GbE network port — many have a Gigabit port, but that is enough in most cases.
- Use splitters with a large frequency range designed for MoCA.
- To host more devices, use large splitters instead of stacking smaller ones over two layers within the home.
- It’s best to use MoCA for the network signals alone by:
- If you don’t use TV or Cable broadband service: Disconnect the service line at the entry point.
- If you have TV or Cable broadband service:
- Separate the wiring and use MoCA independently (best). or
- Install a MoCA PoE Filter at the entry point (not ideal).
The easiest and best way to use MoCA successfully is to find the two ends (two jacks) of an intact coax wire for the two adapters(*). And often, that single MoCA link is all you’d need to have a mesh system with a reliable wired backhaul or place your standalone router at the ideal location within the home.
(*) Replacing the splitter that hosts two separate coax cables with a coupler will turn them into a single line ideal for MoCA — it’s separate from the rest of the coax network used for the original purposes, such as TV or broadband.
If you live in a home with extensive coax wiring and want to build a MoCA-based home network, picking the correct coax splitters and stacking them correctly is the key — that’s especially true if you don’t want to do any rewiring. Still, since it’s hard to trace the wires behind the walls, your chance of success will vary.
Finally, nuance is the key. Just because the standard can handle up to 16 nodes doesn’t mean you want to use them all. It’s best to keep the number of nodes below five and use network cables when possible.