Extending connectivity in MDUs using MoCA Access technology

Consumers are becoming more expectant, and in turn, unforgiving when it comes to broadband experience. They expect a high quality of experience (QoE) regardless of their location, whether that be connecting to the internet while at a coffee shop, at an airport, or at work or home. The latter has become the most important location for ubiquitous and reliable connectivity, as homes now act as a place of residence and office following the global pandemic.

As end users stream Over-The-Top (OTT) services, game online, and undertake video conferencing, these applications bring more demanding requirements for lower latency and delay, and higher bandwidth. Fibre-To-The-Home/Premises (FTTH/P) deployments have rolled out at pace over the last half a decade, bringing ultra fast connectivity to the end user’s doorstep. Governments across the globe have expressed and outlined their goals to connect as many consumers as possible with fibre technology, regardless of location or building type.

MDUs – a focus area

While a single-family unit (SFU) can be easier in terms of installing fibre and the respective approvals and cost, operators are turning their attention to addressing the challenge of multi-dwelling unit (MDU) connectivity. MDUs are apartment blocks, hotels or offices within one building. For MDU building owners, renters or hotel guests residing in such settings are there for more of a temporary period as opposed to SFUs. Therefore, it is imperative that they can provide connectivity that is good enough to keep hotel guests returning and apartment tenants satisfied.

With legacy technologies such as cable or DSL not having the ability to support new applications, fibre is being universally deployed by operators. But fibre technology may only serve a small number of customers and brings a raft of issues that need addressing, including receiving approvals from both building owners and tenants, and the local government for the respective civil works. Only then can work begin on installation of cabling to multiple units from the ground floor of the building upwards.

FTTep over coax, phoneline or radio

Fibre-To-The-extension-point (FTTep) is an architecture that can deliver multi-gigabit broadband and ensure fibre connectivity is rolled out quicker and more cost effectively over existing coaxial cabling, phone wires or radio for the last hundred metres up to the customer premises and inside the building. An FTTep architecture involves an optical signal being converted to an electrical signal travelling over these complementary technologies and enables fibre to be shared across an increased number of customers.

Large brownfield multi-tenant environments have existing coaxial networks and operators are armed with an alternative to installing expensive and labour-intensive fibre. FTTep deployments within an MDU building involve fibre running from the optical line terminal to a distribution point unit (DPU) in the building basement or outside the building, and optical signals are transmitted over existing wires at the premises using copper-based technologies such as G.fast, G.hn Access and MoCA Access. The integration of these complementary access technologies can allow operators to extend fibre networks and cost-effectively roll out fibre-grade symmetric and asymmetric multi-gigabit services. This is opposed to FTTP deployments that involve an ethernet signal travelling from an optical network unit (located on the outside wall of a building) to the residential gateway inside the home.

FTTep can easily complement operators’ existing FTTP offerings and by using the existing coaxial or phoneline infrastructure, it provides reliable connectivity from the DPU to each floor of the building. No technician visits are required at the premises to install cabling and equipment inside or near the building for the multiple apartments within.

FCC ruling to aid US tenants

Operators have already exploited the potential of the locations that could be seamlessly deployed with fibre, but for underserved locations, FTTep could be a viable solution as it negates the need to dig up roads or pull cables to each home as FTTP requires. It can be economically or physically impractical to deliver fibre all the way to the premises for MDUs, and by utilising broadband access using existing copper or coaxial wiring inside the premises, the same QoE can be provided as achieved by fibre. These wire-based technologies can also provide sub-millisecond one-way latency and low jitter at high speeds. Therefore, the customer experience is not neglected.

Earlier this year, the FCC adopted rules that are designed to provide tenants in apartments with more transparency and choice for broadband services. The FCC’s ruling is a great opportunity to open up the choice of operators to empower millions of US tenants as they weigh up their options. This more combative approach from the FCC addresses deals between building owners and providers that leave tenants with no or limited alternative options. It therefore enables operators to offer gigabit and multigigabit services at affordable pricing by harnessing FTTep architecture.

MoCA Access – the smart choice

Many US multi-tenant environments have a home-run coaxial network reachable from the entry point located in a basement, wall cabinet or pedestal close to the building. These cables are usually utilised by cable TV operators but can be used by rival operators in co-existence, by deploying fibre access extension nodes at the entry point.

InCoax Networks reuses the existing in-building infrastructure and its fibre access extension technology is based on the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) standard, providing a viable alternative to G.fast DPUs for fibre deployments. The MoCA Access standard provides management capabilities and low latency with multi-gigabit speeds that help operators cost-effectively deploy their fibre extension networks.

MoCA Access provides users with broadband access at the heart of the apartment, in the living room or bedroom media hub. Deploying other wired technologies such as G.fast, in or close to the building may improve data speeds, but it does not meet the multi-gigabit requirements. MoCA Access is currently considered the most future-proof alternative, providing greater throughput and stability, and with MoCA technology being widely used in the US, it has greater adoption than G.hn technology.

By reusing existing in-building infrastructure for broadband access, operators can combat the connectivity complexities for residents and businesses, and finally relieve the MDU broadband headache.

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