Intro: How to Set Up a Coax (MoCA) Network
Like many existing homes, my parents' home has a limited wired Ethernet network and a wireless (Wi-Fi) network covering the rest. My mom, who has rented Netflix DVDs for a while, wanted to start streaming her favorite shows in the family room and bedroom rather than waiting for disks. Prior to me coming home for Labor Day, they set up an Apple TV on the wireless network. I recommended that they switch to a wired network connection for a faster and more reliable solution.
My parents' Ethernet network is limited to the home office and a small bedroom directly above it. With the family room and bedroom on the opposite side of the house, expanding the wired Ethernet network conventionally would have been labor intensive. Fortunately, there's a wired networking solution that allows high speed Ethernet to bridge over the existing coax cable (cable TV) network in the home. It's called MoCA.
Before I get into the installation, the next step will cover a quick overview of the coax networking technology.
Step 1: What Is Coax Networking (MoCA)?
A coax network is an extension of the existing home network onto the coax cable network in the home. Just like Wi-Fi is the ubiquitous standard for wireless home networks, MoCA is the nearly ubiquitous standard for coax networks. MoCA stands for the Multimedia over Coax Alliance. If your cable service provider offers a service called Multi-Room DVR, they are almost certainly using MoCA to enable it.
The current standard for MoCA is 1.1 and the equipment used in this project is standards compliant.
A MoCA network is broadcasted roughly between 500MHz and 1.5GHz (1500MHz). The technology is designed so that it does not interfere with the broadcasts of traditional cable TV service. However, satellite TV, which runs on different spectrum, is not compatible with the 1.1 MoCA standard. For their respective multi-room DVR services, they use a proprietary coax networking technology. The MoCA 2.0 standard in development is expected to work for all service providers.
To get the most detailed and updated information about this technology, visit the MoCA website.
Step 2: Bill of Material
For the simplicity of photography, I included one each of the products used in this installation.
At the core of the installation is the coax network (MoCA) adapter, which I purchased from Legrand through Amazon.
I needed three adapters for my installation because I was installing in three rooms. The adapters come with a coax cable (~6.5ft), a twisted pair Ethernet cable (~3ft) and a power supply. You may need additional, or longer cables for your installation, which can be easily picked up online or at a home improvement store.
You may also need coax splitters. I plan on using one in each room. It's important to purchase a standards compliant splitter. One of the most reputable brands is Antronix, who has a partnership with Legrand for cable splitters.
Side story: A few months ago, my parents upgraded to digital cable. Not long after the installation, they were experiencing audio and video issues. When the Time Warner Cable technician came over, he replaced all the cable splitters in the home with Antronix brand splitters and an Antronix amplifier at the center of the system. The technician commented that many of the splitters installed into homes today are substandard. The Antronix brand is one of few that are pre-approved by the cable company to be standards compliant. Sure enough, the issues were resolved with the new splitters and amplifier.
The Legrand splitters are also "optimized" for coax networking, meaning that they have better performance in the 1-1.5GHz band than a standard 1GHz splitter. However, your network should be okay with 1GHz splitters as long as they are standards compliant.
If you are adding any new streaming devices in your installation, you will need HDMI cable. You can also find cable up to 20m long through Legrand too.
Step 3: Wiring Diagram
I recommend that you draw a wiring diagram prior to purchasing and installing product.
The attached line drawing shows my intentions for a three room installation. The first room to start is where you'd find both an Ethernet and coax drop in the home, which is in the home office for this project. I have starred (*) wherever I am adding equipment or cables that was not there previously.
The following steps will explain the room by room installations.
Generally speaking, I am adding a coax splitter to each room. One outbound port will go to the cable set top box (STB) while the other port will go to the coax adapter. The coax adapter is then connected by an Ethernet cable to the respective connected devices.
Step 4: Home Office: Converting Ethernet to MoCA
This installation started in the home office.
The existing equipment was the modem, SonicWall security device, router (4 port), switch (5 port), and power strip.
The first thing I did was find a power outlet for the coax adepter's power supply. When the adapter is plugged in, a light will come on.
Second, I unscrewed the coax from the modem and attached it to a splitter. I used the coax jumper cable provided and attached it to the "Cable in" port of the adapter. I used a spare coax jumper cable to connect the splitter to the modem.
Third, I used the provided Ethernet jumper cable to connect the router to the adapter. Any one of the four Ethernet ports of the coax adapter can be used. It was also inconsequential whether I used a port off the router or the switch for the connection. A light should come on the adapter showing Ethernet is plugged into one of its ports.
Step 5: Family Room: Converting MoCA Back to Ethernet
The next room for the installation was the family room, where the home entertainment center is.
The key equipment already installed is the set top box and Apple TV. The Apple TV was installed the week prior on the wireless network. The equipment I'm adding is the coax adapter with its power supply, a coax splitter, two coax jumper cables (the second is not shown), and an Ethernet jumper cable.
The first step here again was finding a power source and plugging in the adapter.
Second, I unplugged the coax from the set top box and attached it to the splitter. I ran one of the coax cables from the splitter back to the set top box. The other coax cable was run from the splitter to the adapter (cable in port).
Last, an Ethernet cable was connected between the adapter and the Apple TV.
With two nodes of the network set up, the system was now able to be tested. Upon turning on the TV to the Apple TV source input, I knew the system was connected properly when the Apple TV showed it had switched from the wireless to the wired connection.
Step 6: Bedroom: Converting MoCA Back to Ethernet
The bedroom had the unique challenge of distance between the power source, the streaming device (Blu-ray player) and set top box. The entertainment furniture also makes access behind it incredibly difficult, and my dad and I were in no mood to move it.
After a short brainstorm, we settled on putting the coax adapter on the floor next to the power strip. There was already a splitter on the floor of the bedroom, so there was already a long run of coax on the floor between the splitter and the set top box.
I replaced the splitter to add an additional port. I then used that additional port to attach the network adapter.
Fortunately, there was enough room with this placement for the Ethernet cable to connect between the coax adapter and the Blu-ray player.
Step 7: FAQ
Please leave questions or comments that would help you or others do a coax network installation of their own.
Here are some key questions that come to mind:
Q: Do you have to add a splitter to each room you add a MoCA network?
A: Not necessarily. For the simplicity of instruction, I did not write that we first tried the installation without the splitters in the bedroom and family room, meaning that the coax network adapter was placed between the incoming signal and the signal receiver (e.g. set top box). We saw that the MoCA network was competing with the multiroom DVR signal, which also uses MoCA. The use of splitters resolved this issue.
Q: How do you prevent a MoCA signal from leaving the home for security purposes?
A: There are inexpensive MoCA signal blockers that can be placed at the point of entry of the coax system in the home. They prevent the MoCA signal from leaving the home premises.
Q: Would a powerline solution have worked in place of MoCA?
A: Powerline is another viable solution to extend a wired network. However, I think a coax network is a more robust solution due to the bandwidth and signal integrity provided by coax.
Q: Where can I learn more?
A: There are many resources online to learn about the respective technologies. Legrand has a piece that explains all the available home networking technologies in one article.