Computers, How to Guides, Networking, News

How to: Improve Your Network Speeds With MoCA Adapters

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.

actiontec-moca-2

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.

actiontec-moca-adapters

 

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.

actiontec-moca-1

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.

actiontec-moca-3

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.

actiontec-moca-4

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. 

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Terry Walsh is the founder of We Got Served. He started the community in February 2007 with a mission to help families, tech enthusiasts everywhere figure out the technology needed to run the modern home and small business. He's the author of a number of guides to Windows, Windows Server and OS X Server and runs his own successful publishing business. Born and raised in Liverpool, England, Terry has been awarded Microsoft's prestigious Most Valuable Professional Award each year since 2008 for his work on We Got Served.
  • bx20852

    If you have not signed for a digital cable TV but rather have an OTA or satellite, a TRENDnet TPA-311 would be a good option. It is way cheaper then Actiontec but can give you the same (or higher) throughput.
    TPA-311 is HPNA3.1-compliant, and occupies the band 12-45MHz, which
    overlaps with the “sub-band” or “return” portion of the cable TV spectrum
    making them incompatible.

    I had walked down the same path, trying to make Powerline adapters work in my house. Never got more than 21 Mbps. With TPA-311 I get 70 to 90 depending on the switch port speed.

  • Terry, my experience was even more dramatic – the Powerline adaptors I tried (and I’ve tried all of yours and more), just couldn’t reliably keep a signal up. I invested in the Tivo Roamio ecosystem last year, and remembered MoCA because of that. So great. I will add that I love the Tivo solution if one has more than one TV (or a tenant in the basement) as it does Tivo, Pandora, Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime and much more, with a Spouse friendly remote… And as you pay once for the remote TVs ($120 for the boxes from Amazon) with no monthly fee – it saves money over Comcast. The main connection is a dollar more/mo, but the experience is excellent. No need for a separate streaming solution… Nice.

  • Rui Belo

    Truly helpful and informative articles Terry, welcome to Canada!

  • brcothran

    I use MOCA with the Verizon Fios advanced router and it works great. The newer quantum gateway supports both MOCA 1.1 and 2.0.

    I use the same MOCA adapters mentioned here as well as a network extender, which extends wifi to wherever it is placed. The advantage with a MOCA extender is that it has two wired gigabit ports and extended wifi without wasting wireless bandwidth. All of these adapters synced with the existing router without any configuration. Truly plug and play.

    I also have a home theater MOCA adapter that provides four gigabit wired ports.

    • What kind of speeds are you getting with the gigabit adapters? Would love to hear more about the home theater MoCA adapter too – what’s the model?

      • brcothran

        I will try to do a speed test this weekend but I’m not sure if I have two computers up to the task of testing the actual network. I do know they work great with Xbox 360s acting as media center extenders. I also run two extenders off of the home theater MOCA adapter. Here is the Amazon link for that:
        ACTIONTEC Home Theater Coax Network Adapter (ECB3500T01) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CZ6WC3A/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_2s3Wvb27MR6BE

        Verizon fios customers interested in using MOCA should check the website to see if they can order an adapter for less than the price at retail. And I highly recommend the network extender. Instead of using half of its wifi bandwidth to communicate with the home router, it uses MOCA to send the data, leaving all of its wifi bandwidth available for wifi connections.

      • brcothran

        I finally got around to doing some speed testing of the various moca adapters I have around the house. I only did an internet speed test, because I’m not sure if a file transfer would be an accurate measurement of the network speed due to my laptop being so old and slow.

        I have Verizon fios internet 50 down/50 up service, but fios is commonly faster than the advertised speed(I should note that I work for VZ, but I am speaking for myself in these comments). The speed I am getting directly at the router (model MI424WR) is 58.7 down / 56.7 up and a 10ms latency. Plugged into the home theater(model ECB3500T) I get 58.3 down / 40.0 up with a latency of 12ms. Plugged into the wifi extender/dual gigabit port (model WCB3000N) I got 58.0 down/ 41.1 up with a latency of 12 ms.

        Model/ Down/ Up/ Latency
        MI424WR 58.7 56.7 10ms

        ECB3500T 58.3 40.0 12ms

        WCB3000N 58.0 41.1 12ms

        A couple of things to note: These were not scientific tests. I only did one test on each moca adapter. I have seen higher upload speeds on these in other tests, closer to 51 up in both cases. I also did not take any other systems off line, smart bulbs, game systems, tablets, etc.. were not active during the tests, but they were on. All speed listed are in megabits per second.

        • Thanks for the speed tests – looks like the setup is working well for you!

  • autodrivel

    I’m based in the UK, so the MOCA adapters aren’t necessarily relevant here – FYI I’m happily using Powerline to bridge my upstairs and downstairs networks.
    One question, that may be of interest to any potential MOCA users – With Powerline, if a third connection is needed, you simply add a third Powerline adapter. Can you do the same with MOCA? In your article you had 2 endpoints, but is it simply a case of adding a third MOCA unit if you needed network access at another location (e.g. basement workshop)?

    • Autodrivel –

      I love MoCA. Discovered it because of Tivo (connecting Tivo Mini’s to my Tivo Roamios in our Airbnb houses). The Tivo Mini can use use MoCA or Ethernet to connect to the internet/the Roamio. I have used the Actiontec Adaptors for remote Wireless Access Points too. I don’t know why, but I haven’t had reliable connectivity with the Homeplug/Powerline stuff. 🙁

  • BigEasy50

    Great article and information; thank you. I’m having Time Warner wholehome with enhanced DVR installed in a few days and would like to setup a MOCA network. I’ve done a lot of research, but am still unclear as to some details. So a few questions for anyone with answers. 1) I’ve purchased an Arris sbg6782 cable modem/router along with the same actiontech adapters in this article. The Arris modem/router is MOCA capable. I assume this means that I don’t need to place a Moca adapter between the coax and the modem, correct? 2) A lot of articles talk about the need to place a MOCA POE filter at the point where the coax cable enters the house/condo before any splits etc. Any thoughts on this? 3) For the 2nd (or more) adapter, if I intend to use the same coax outlet to go to a set top box, I need to split the signal before the adapter, one split bypasses the adapter and goes to the STB, the second split goes into the adapter and functions as the Ethernet bridge, is this correct? 3) Can I attach a second wireless routers (in bridge mode ofcourse) to the second adapter to create additional wireless access points?

    Sorry for the long post, answers would be greatly appreciated.

    • N Leonard

      I have the Arris well with Comcast and could not get the Moca to work until I turned off Moca on my modem and added an adapter. I didn’t set up the POE filter but I’m renting and don’t have access to it. Other than issues with my printer my set up has been great.

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