In March, we moved from the UK to Canada. Having spent a few years reworking our UK home to get Ethernet cabling in every room, it was a bit of a shock to relocate to a temporary, four-storey rental home without a wired network.
“No problem”, I thought. “I’ve reviewed tons of Powerline adapters – I’ll pick some a few and sort this problem out!”
So, over the last few months, I’ve experimented with various adapters, each with bolder promises of faster throughput. But the terrible electrical cabling in this (relatively new) house made short work of them. The D-Link PowerLine AV 500 Network Kit was my first choice – I’m not a fan of D-Link’s kit as a rule, but it’s everywhere here in Canada. It mustered just 16 Mbps – barely sufficient for a decent video stream over the network.
TP-LINK’s TL-PA6010KIT AV600 Powerline Adapter Starter Kit shortly followed. With throughput of 35 Mbps, it performed much better than the D-LINK kit, but file transfers from the QNAP TVS-871 NAS we’re using were slow and streaming from Plex was still jumpy if the network was congested.
Last week, I picked up a pair of NETGEAR Powerline 1200 (PLP1200-100PAS) adapters. Now, these are probably the fastest adapters you can buy today, with real world speeds (over decent cabling) around 350 Mbps. These would definitely solve my network issues! Alas, a result of just 45 Mbps confirmed that Powerline was not going to be a great solution for me – in this house anyway.
It was then I remembered about MoCA Adapters – Multimedia Over Coax, if you wish to be formal. Launched way back in 2006, MoCA adapters never caught on with consumers, but the standard is popular with cable providers. The concept is similar to Powerline, but rather than using your electrical cabling, MoCA adapters use the coaxial cable installed in many North American homes for cable TV.
Always eager for a new project, I hunted out a pair of MoCA adapters. The Actiontec Ethernet over Coax Adapter Kit (ECB2500CK01) looked like it would fit the bill.
Again, much like Powerline adapter kits, this Actiontec MoCa kit works by placing an adapter on either side of your network connection. I’ve bridged the router/modem supplied by my cable company so it works solely as a modem. That allows me to use a standalone (faster) router, the ASUS RT-AC87U to control the network.
As a result, hooking up the MoCA adapters correctly between the incoming connection from my cable company to the modem and router requires some head scratching. But, work methodically and the routing makes sense.
First, disconnect the coaxial cable that runs between your modem and the wall outlet. When I say that, I mean disconnect the cable from your modem, not from the wall outlet! Take one of the two MoCA adapters supplied in-box and connect the coaxial cable from your wall outlet into the adapter’s Cable In port.
Next, connect the adapter’s TV/Cable Out socket to your modem’s Cable In socket courtesy of one of the supplied coaxial cables. Your cable internet signal is now running in-line through the adapter to your modem. Now, connect (or, re-connect) your cable modem to your router using an Ethernet cable – traffic can now pass from the modem to the router. To complete this part of the setup, run a second Ethernet cable between your router and the MoCA adapter’s Ethernet port. Your data can now pass from the router, back into the adapter to be transmitted internally through your cable wiring.
Now, all you need to do is connect the second adapter to the network device you wish to hook up to the network. In my case, this was the QNAP TS-871 NAS I’m using to stream media around the house. This connection is more straightforward. Connect the adapter to your wall outlet using a coaxial cable, and run an Ethernet cable from the adapter to the network device.
Power everything on, and then it’s time to check out your speeds. Again, I’ll preface revealing my own result my reminding you that the speeds you’ll achieve are like to vary based on the quality of cabling at your home. Just like my dodgy electrical cabling installation, there are plenty of examples of poor-quality cable installations out there, I’m sure.
In my case, I found the 45 Mbps I was able to achieve via a Powerline connection was doubled to over 90 Mbps over MoCA. That’s a big uplift and more than sufficient to stablise high definition streaming around my home network.
If you’re in a similar position and suffering with poor network speeds over Wi-Fi and Powerline, give MoCA a try. It’s possibly become the “forgotten man” of consumer networking technology, but it can still do a great job in homes with problem wiring.