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Newest Broadband Spec Takes Flight


The newest broadband spec on the block has been ratified – the cable-industry-backed Multimedia over Coax Alliance’s (MoCA) MAC/PHY v1.0 that specifies speeds as fast as a blazing 270 Mb/s – along with the first flush of products certified to meet that spec.

Formal ratification of the specification was hardly a surprise or ever in question, as is obvious by the fact that the products certified to use the MoCA emblem already had been in test. The only surprise was that it has taken until March. MoCA certifications had been expected to begin flowing at the end of last year (TelecomWeb news break, Nov. 7, 2005).

MoCA is based on using the coaxial cable originally installed to deliver cable TV for data and voice as well. The allure to broadband vendors is that most homes in America already have coax installed for cable television, but they don't have Cat 5 wiring to network data as well as video. The MoCA spec is designed to support from 100 Mb/s to 270 Mb/s data rates.

MoCA also is in a race with competing technologies to grab a slice of the in-home high-speed networking market. Similarly using wiring already in the home, the HomePlug Powerline Alliance and Europe's Open PLC European Research Alliance (OPERA) are based on pushing broadband over the electric wiring in a home. HomePlug and OPERA are also in a battle over which group’s specification should form the basis for a formal standard (TelecomWeb news break, Feb. 22). And all of those are battling The HomePNA Alliance, once known as the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance and, as the name implies, they are focused on pushing data on the phone lines that, like coax and electric, already are in the walls of most homes. HomePNA, which also works over coax, is already on Version 3 of its specifications, which have been formalized by the ITU. Last week, it announced plans for a Version 3.1 that will one-up the other technologies by reaching 320 Mb/s.

Finally, there is, of course, the wireless community that wants to compete with all of the wired solutions, particularly with the new IEEE 802.11n high-speed Wi-Fi standard that supports as much as 600 Mb/s. That standard was just approved in draft form (TelecomWeb news break, Jan. 20).

MoCA claims, however, that it really is in the lead when the state of all the competing technologies is considered. “MoCA is now the only wired multimedia home networking standard that has all of the key ingredients, including an open specification, a valid RAND licensing environment, active certification waves and interoperable products deploying in high volume,” bragged Ladd Wardani, MoCA’s president.

The MoCA specification is not, though, what could be called a standard because it was promulgated by a trade group. However, MoCA members Motorola and Tellabs have made a joint MoCA submission to the ITU, MoCA says. Not surprisingly, the membership rosters of all of the groups include substantial overlap, especially among larger players that don’t want to take the risk of pinning their futures on any one technology.

The initial flush of MoCA products certified today includes offerings from Actiontec, Entropic, Linksys, Mototech, Motorola, Panasonic, 2Wire and Westell. Those companies had all been at a MoCA plugfest in November 2005. Testing of the offerings was done at Verizon Labs in Waltham, Mass. That in itself is interesting, because MoCA is the brainchild of the cable industry. Verizon, which sits on the MoCA board, is planning to use the technology as part of its vaunted FiOS fiber-to-the-home deployment, co-opting the cable installed in homes by cable industry competitors to deliver its own broadband and video.

A second wave of MoCA certifications is expected to be complete next month. Some time in the second quarter, MoCA says, at least two independent test labs should be certified to test for MoCA compliance.