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MoCA Access presented as the only solution for 1 Gbps broadband between MDU basement and apartments

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MoCA Access is being promoted as the solution for telcos and other FTTH providers who need to deliver 1Gbps broadband from the basement of shared apartment buildings into the individual flats. The new specification was announced last month and marks an important step for MoCA the organisation (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) as it turns its attention to access networks as well as home networks. The MoCA Access specification is designed for use worldwide. The European markets most likely to benefit are Germany, France, Italy and Poland, where there are a large number of MDUs (multi dwelling units), primarily in cities.

Rob Gelphman, VP Marketing and Member Relations at MoCA, says broadband providers with MDU deployments came to the organisation asking for this solution, which is based on the current MoCA 2.0 standard for home networking over coax, and which uses the same silicon. “They are laying fibre all the way to the basement in these buildings. They want to deliver 1Gbps today; that is now the table-stakes. The question is how they take these 1Gbps speeds to the rest of the building and the individual units.”

MoCA dismisses the chances of G.fast over copper or even G.fast over coax providing the answer. “They need high performance and reliability and a solution that is proven, using existing infrastructure. They do not want to resort to something new and untested,” Gelphman declares. He believes this leads to the use of coax rather than existing phone lines running around a building, and it points to MoCA over coax.

Helge Tiainen, who chairs the new MoCA Access working group that was formed this spring, points out that the new specification is not really aimed at the cable market, which can achieve its 1Gbps ambitions using DOCSIS 3.1 all the way into an apartment. For the cable industry, MoCA remains primarily a means to deliver media on the home network. But the new access network standard will be suitable for hospitality environments and commercial buildings, like restaurants and offices, as well fibre providers.

Tiainen works for InCoax, a Swedish company that provides solutions for high-speed broadband over in-building coax. He says the realistic alternative to MoCA Access for 1Gbps broadband is Ethernet, but few MDUs have Ethernet around the building and it is expensive and time consuming to install it, requiring everyone in a building to agree to the works at a cost of EUR 200-300 per apartment.

“If you have to pull new cable, it delays roll-out. Service providers just want to start selling [higher-speed] services to the apartments, whether those people own or rent,” he continues. “In many European countries service providers prefer to sell fibre connections to private homes rather than go after the MDU market because that takes too long.”

Gelphman says MoCA Access is generating lots of interest. “We have been talking to operators across Europe. The market is here, now, meaning that everyone wants to talk now and they want it to happen now. There is a huge market opportunity.”

MoCA expects MoCA Access to be standardized by early next year, anticipating that it can be deployed as a standardized technology in the summer of 2017. The MoCA 2.0 specification that it is based upon supports 1 Gbps broadband throughput. In May MoCA approved MoCA 2.5, the latest specification for in-home media distribution over coax, which can handle speeds up to 2.5 Gbps, and this will be incorporated into MoCA Access.

The assumption that MoCA Access is the only game in town for in-building distribution requiring Gigabit broadband should not go completely unchallenged. G.fast is viewed as a solution for 1 Gbps speeds over copper for short distances. Huawei is among the leading proponents of G.fast and trialed the technology in Panama for two months with Cable & Wireless Communications, although the high average speeds reported were 500 Mbps in the downstream.

Last year at Broadband World Forum, Calix, which provides a portfolio of broadband communications access software, systems and services, was showing live demonstrations of G.fast bonding technology, delivering over 1 Gbps on existing copper infrastructure over distances up to around 250 metres. Speaking this week, Craig Thomas, Director of International Marketing at Calix, said the company is achieving speeds of over 800 Mbps (asymmetrical) in live networks today on existing copper pairs, or indeed, on existing coax. 

“MDUs are an ideal environment for G.fast,” he claims, predicting that future amendments will enable speeds beyond 1 Gbps on a single copper pair over the distances needed for this marketplace. “When looking at other copper technologies, such as existing coax and CAT5, it means that this kind of performance can be realized [with G.fast] at even greater distances. Performance is distance-related but in MDU environments the copper loop length is around 250 metres or below.” 

Huawei claims the honour of having launched the first ever G.fast over coax multi-user access solution with a prototype technology in late 2013. It stated at the time that “by flexibly allocating unoccupied frequency bands for G.fast access, the technology provides a 1 Gbps downstream shared bandwidth to serve up to 32 users over coaxial cables.” 

Helge Tiainen argues that copper lines will have difficulty supporting speeds greater than 1Gbps and he stresses that this is why MoCA is a solution for the MDU market. “Using G.fast over the traditional copper phone lines in real life deployments, operators expect to achieve 500Mbps services. In some cases, speeds close to 1Gbps are achievable at 50 metres.

“Because of distance challenges, G.fast suppliers are considering the use of coax. The G.fast standard uses up to 106 MHz or 212 MHz. This requires a coaxial structure of point-to-point and there cannot be any DOCSIS services running concurrently because this is the same spectrum that is used by cable operators. This spectrum can also be very noisy. Due to the current coaxial structure in Europe, which is a tree-branch structure, it is not possible to use G.fast as it is now specified.”

He adds that MoCA uses the 400-1675 MHz frequency spectrum, with the possibility of using up to four RF channels, each providing 1.2Gbps. “By using this frequency spectrum, MoCA can co-exist with cable TV if MoCA uses the higher end of the spectrum, which uses the full spectrum without the ingress noise problem.”

Noting that G.fast was designed for twisted pair copper but has been trialled over coax, Gelphman also questions whether this technology will achieve 1 Gbps and also deliver the stability needed. “It is certainly not going to happen overnight,” he suggests.

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