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GroundUrMast 4-Feb-2013 11:01 PM

Mixing TV and Data on Coax
Re. the Actiontec ECB2500C

I recently moved into a house that's pre-wired with RG-6 to every room (YEAH!). They also left an all-channel antenna in the attic of the garrage (not great, but for the price...). There is also phone wire to every room, but it's not CAT-5 or even CAT-3 rated. (uh... thanks, I guess) The problem with this situation is that I would like to have wired Ethernet in several rooms and my detached shop, but I would need CAT-3 to support 10baseT, CAT-5 for 100baseT and CAT-5e would be needed to support 1000baseT.

I'm not adverse to crawling into the attic, to run CAT-5e or CAT-6 cable, though the blown-in insulation does curb some of my enthusiasm. I'm also not ready to say, 'never' about digging a trench, laying conduit and pulling wire out to the shop... though I'd like to avoid it if I can.

So, in an effort to avoid the unpleasant tasks mentioned above, I went on a search for alternatives. I quickly came upon some products that are based on the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCAŽ) standards.

I already have internet service from the local incumbent telephone company. I realized that the modem they supplied (an Actiontech MI424WR) has MoCA technology built in. I also found that Actiontec offers a product, the ECB2500C that can work with the MI424WR modem. It's purpose is to transport Ethernet data over coax cable to and from the router and other ECB200C units. It does this by sending and receiving data on frequencies ranging from 1150 to 1500 MHz. These frequencies do not overlap any OTA TV channels, so there is no interference or interaction between the data and TV signals.

This technology is targeted at consumers who have network enable devises such as TiVO, Roku, internet ready TV or disk players, etc. However, it is able to support any wired Ethernet devise.

The ECB2500C can be paired with another ECB2500C at the opposite end of a coax run. In this case the two units will form a point to point link supporting Ethernet, while leaving the DC to 1000 MHz bandwidth of the coax free for TV and FM signals. However, the MoCA standard anticipates that there will be splitters and / or taps in the cabling system in nearly all applications. The signal transmitted by each devise is able to pass through passive splitters in the forward direction, reverse and even output port to output port. So depending on the MoCA version implemented (1.0 or 1.1) a maximum of 8 or 16 nodes can be used, all able to send and receive to one another. Because the data needs to be able to flow in both directions in the coax and splitter(s), one way amplifiers will block the MoCA signal in one direction and, depending on the bandwidth of the amplifier, possibly both directions. So generally, no amplifier can be installed where it would block communication between any two MoCA nodes.

Because the MoCA standard uses frequencies above 1000 MHz, you may need to replace splitters that have limited bandwidth. By installing satellite grade splitters, rated for 5 MHz to 2350 MHz, you are assured that the MoCA signal will be able to traverse the splitter. As with traditional OTA installations, it's best to home run all the coax from the outlets to a single location, and then use a single splitter with the exact number of ports need to serve the connected TV's. The ECB2500C has a splitter/filter built in. This allows you to connect the devise to the wall, and then pass the OTA frequencies on to the TV with no additional splitter needed at the TV location. (Note that there is also a model ECB2500V. This has no internal splitter/filter. This model is intended for Verizin FiOS subscribers. The FiOS service requires that MoCA signals pass through to the set-top-box, so an unfiltered external splitter with adequate bandwidth specification is required when installing this model at the same location as an existing FiOS STB.)

I have two ECB2500C units running now. When I first installed the ECB2500C's, I left the frequency set to default (1150 MHz). I noticed that the MI424WR unit lost connection occasionally, so I reconfigured the MI424WR and ECB2500C units to operate at 1350 MHz. This seems to have resolved the problem. I also installed an Ideal 85-334 four port splitter at the distribution point where all the coax terminate. This improved the connection speeds significantly compared to the speeds with the existing 5-1000 MHz splitter.

The Ethernet port on the ECB2500C is capable of 10/100baseT speeds. The connection out to my shop over existing buried coax is the longest run I have (about 150' of RG-6 and a splitter between the shop and router). It's operating at 100 Mb/s and serving a PC and several HDHR tuners with no noticeable packet loss or delay. The other link serves a internet capable blue-ray disc player which also streams happily. I could have tried wireless Ethernet which the blue-ray player has built in, but my experience has been that delay and packet loss is often a problem. It may be OK for email and facebook updates but not streaming video.

Take care to avoid transmitting your data around the neighborhood

Because MoCA devises use RF to communicate, I opted to set a privacy key. I also use an amplifier such as a CPA-19 or CM-3410 between my antenna and the MoCA equipment. Alternatively, I could use a MoCA filter such as the Channel Master PCTLPF1002. This is to prevent the MoCA signal from back-feeding into the air through my antenna.

Judging from the reviews at Amazon, this can be a challenging product for some users to spec., install and configure. Given that not everyone has a working knowledge of data networking and RF distribution, that's to be expected. If you want to add reliable data capacity to your home network but aren't sure if this is an option that would work for you, feel free to ask questions. If you have experience using MoCA, feel free to share your thoughts and experience as well.

GroundUrMast 17-Mar-2013 10:08 PM

Other vendors offer MoCA compliant products.


Channel Master CM-6001 & CM 6004

D-Link DXN-220 / DXN-221

NetGear MCAB1001

There is also a competing standard, HPNA which uses much lower frequencies.

NetSys would be one example of the HPNA capable product.

In theory, MoCA and HPNA could operate on the same cable, though they would not be able to exchange data with each other directly via an RF link, given the difference in frequencies and signal formats. The loss in coax is less at low frequencies, therefore HPNA devises are able to operate over much longer sections of coax.

GroundUrMast 7-Apr-2013 11:12 PM

Be sure not to mix cable TV services with OTA...

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