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Powerline vs MoCA: Which alternative networking technology is the best?

Michael Brown | July 21, 2015
Ethernet cable (either CAT5e or CAT6) is the gold standard of home-networking technology. If you can string cable from your router to everywhere you need Internet access, do it. You'll get out-of-this-world speed and impeccable reliability.

I can't easily uninstall the whole-house surge suppressor (nor would I want to), so I walked over to the other side of my property and retested the pair of PLA5405 adapters in the house where my daughter lives. This is an older home, built in 1954, and most of its wiring is not grounded. But when we had a devastating water leak a couple of years ago, I took the opportunity to rewire the half of the house that needed its drywall replaced. If I'd been more sensible, of course, I would have hard-wired Ethernet cable through those walls so that I could get closer to gigabit speeds (coulda, woulda, shoulda...).

Anyway, when I plugged the PLA5405 adapters into my daughter's router, I saw TCP throughput of 91.8Mbps with encryption enabled. Not having a whole-house surge protector at that location made a huge difference in powerline-networking performance.

Let's see what MoCA can do

I went back to my own house to test Actiontec's MoCA adapters. These draw power from two-prong wall warts, so you don't need to have grounded wiring. Each adapter (the kit includes two) has one F connector that sends data and video over coax cable, a second F connector that outputs video to your TV or set-top box, and an RJ-45 jack for Ethernet. Here again, I connected one MoCA adapter to my router with an Ethernet cable, but I also connected the adapter's F connector to the six-way coax splitter that carries satellite TV signals throughout my home.

In my home theater, I disconnected the incoming coax cable from my satellite set-top box and connected it to the Coax-in F connector on the second MoCA adapter. I then ran an Ethernet cable from the adapter to my home-theater PC and verified that it was now connected to my network. But I got no signal from my satellite dish when I connected my set-top box to the MoCA adapter's TV/STB Out F connector. Hmm.

A quick look at the back of Actiontec's box revealed the problem: Actiontec says its MoCA adapters are compatible with most cable and FiOS installations, but that they're not compatible with most satellite installations. And since the DirecTV whole-home DVR system that I use depends on the primary set-top box feeding the rest of the TVs in my home, that meant I didn't get video anywhere else, either.

As for TCP throughput, Actiontec's kit delivered 62.9Mbps when run through the second splitter in my home theater (the second splitter is needed for DirecTV's whole-home DVR system). When I connected a laptop PC to other rooms with F connectors on the wall, TCP throughput increased to an average of 81.0Mbps.


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