[Front Page] Article: Cutting the Useless Cable (Part VII): M.O.C.A.

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This is part s in the home theatre article series called Cutting the Useless Cable. This article will cover MOCA.

See Part I here.
See Part II here.
See Part III here.
See Part IV here.
See Part V here.
See Part VI here.

So you now have a home server setup. And you have a little HTPC connected to your television. How do you get the bits from one to the other. This step took me quite a while and quite a bit of money to figure out.

Wireless seems like its a perfect solution, right? For most hi-def video content (720p), you'll need at least 802.11n. In theory, it will give you ~100mbit connection, which would be plenty fast enough. If you download really large 1080p content, you'll require a wire. Anyway... 802.11n should be fast enough. So I went out and bought a fancy 802.11n router. It did what's called dual band, meaning it could communicate at that speed on two different frequency bands. I think this wireless router cost me like $200. Thinking I'd be good to go, I fired it up. Buffering, buffering, buffering. Terrible speeds. So I started testing various wireless NICs. And then testing the 5Ghz band in addition to the 2.4Ghz band. Needless to say, nothing helped me. I was frustrated. Then I found God. edit: Actually MOCA

In my case, the router is at one end of my house and the HTPC is at the other. I'd guess its probably 70 feet or so and really only goes through one wall. It should have worked perfectly. But it didn't. I know that others have had better luck, but it was beyond worthless to me. If you already have an 802.11n router, it's worth trying. If you don't, I'm about to tell you about a cheaper, faster, and more stable solution.

Enter MOCA. Or the less sexy, Multimedia Over Coax Alliance. The idea behind MOCA is that the majority of rooms that you might want to run networking to in your home probably already has a cable outlet. That cable outlet can turn into a dual purpose outlet. Not only will it run your cable TV, but can also carry network data!

The one 'problem' with MOCA is that it can only be used with cable TV and not satellite. The reason is this. There is limited bandwidth on that cable. This is going to get nerdy. The frequencies available are from about 5 mhz to 2100 mhz. This is broken down into two segments. Your regular cable TV runs in the first segment which is about 5-1000mhz. Satellite TV runs in the second segment which is about 1100-2100mhz. MOCA also runs in the 1100-2100mhz segment, so the two can't be done together. Other than that, you're ready!

Now its time to buy a MOCA device. Amazon sells some, but they are expensive ($80+). Screw that. Here's the trick. Verizon FIOS uses MOCA, which means you can use old FIOS gear. These boxes can be had for as little as $20 shipped on Ebay. You'll need two. This means that if you're patient ($20 auctions may take you a little time to win), you can have MOCA for half price. As a bonus, each FIOS router has four ports (and if you wanna get fancy, wireless). The ones for sale on Amazon only have 1!

On Ebay, what you need to look for is the Actiontec MI424WR. Here's an insider's secret on these auctions though. Apparently, the I in MI424WR looks like the number one. So some people list it that way. The misspelled auctions generally go for a lot less. So first look for Actiontec M1424WR. If you can't find any, then use the proper spelling of the model number. Note: Make sure you know what revision you're buying. The Rev. As seem to have a less than desirable lifespan.

Once you have your fancy new MOCA routers, follow the steps found here to set them up.
Once you have the routers, you need to configure them to just be a MoCA bridge. To do this:

1.Connect a LAN port of the Actiontec to one of your PCs.
2.Browse to 192.168.1.1
3.Enter 'admin' as the user and try 'password' or 'password1' for the password. If neither works, hold down the reset button on the back for 10 seconds, wait for the reboot, and try again.
4.First we will turn off the wireless – click the wireless button on the top, and disable it. You may need to go to the 'Basic security settings' to do this depending on your firmware version.
5.Next, go to 'My Network'->'Network Connections'. Go through each connection EXCEPT 'Network (Home/Office)' and disable them by clicking the little 'edit' icon and hitting disable.
6.Now – click on the 'edit' icon for 'Network (Home/Office)' and click 'Settings'
7.For 'Internet Protocol' select 'Use the following IP address'. For the IP address, you want to put something you are not currently using (like 192.168.1.18). For subnet mask, you probably want 255.255.255.0.
8.Under 'Bridge' select 'Coax' and 'Ethernet' and 'STP' for both. Uncheck 'Wireless' and 'Broadband'.
9.For 'DNS server', select 'No DNS server', for 'IP Address distribution' select 'Disabled'
10.Next, connect a LAN port of your main router to a LAN port of the Actiontec (NOT the WAN port).
11.Hit apply, and the router will reboot. To access the router from here on out you will need to browse to the address you selected in step 7.
12.Now, try to get to the internet. Your PC should bridge through the Actiontec to your main router and out.
13.If this all works, duplicate on the second router (assigning a different IP address of course).
14.Once you have both done, connect a coax cable directly between the two Actiontecs. At this point, one Actiontec should have a LAN port connected to your main router, and the other should have a LAN port connected to your PC.
15.Verify you can still get to the internet – now you have demonstrated connectivity through the coax ports.
16.Finally, move the Actiontecs to their final destinations, using splitters as needed to maintain cable modem/STB connectivity, and you should be good to go!

That's it! Now, you can get fancier from there, but I'll leave that to you. Anything from adding encryption, to additional wireless access points all over your house (where ever you have one of these Actiontec boxes). Most importantly, you've now got a fast connection from your HTPC back to your home server. For real world throughput, I generally see 80-90mbits/sec. Not bad for $40 worth of gear.