Home Network Technology Standard Comparison
MoCA®, HomePlug®, and Wi-Fi® are all home networking standards in common use, and each have different benefits and drawbacks. G.hn, managed by HomeGrid, is also promising to emerge as a fourth home networking standard although it has yet to achieve mass deployment. Each of the governing bodies for each technology makes claims about the performance and reliability at which their technology operates. However, these claims are often out of alignment with what happens in the real world, and many times there is no proof or field test to back it up.
This article outlines and compares the performance claims by the 4 home networking standards identified previously. Operators need to know actual data rates in the home, and how often these advertised rates could realistically be expected. They cannot design a network topology and forecast bandwidth requirements based on personal opinion or a brochure.
How Fast Do These Networks Have to Be?
To accommodate the proliferation of devices and services in the home, including over the top (OTT) and ultra HD, operators are continuously trying to forecast and manage bandwidth requirements. Home networks need to cope with peak loads generated by streaming to and from multiple devices, general increases in Internet traffic in and to the home, the emergence and adoption of UHD-formatted content, increase home automation and emergence of IoT, and advertised WAN or network access speeds, all at the same time.
For example purposes, we offer the following scenario. First, we identify a home with 3 TVs (common in the US though not necessarily in all other countries) each with UHD capability, plus 3 additional video streams on smaller screens. We also add 5 Mbps for other Internet traffic to create a “peak” home environment.
The minimum requirement for a home network in this scenario is 3 UHD streams at 25 Mbps each, 3 portable device streams 2.5 Mbps each, with the additional 5 Mbps for “other” activity. Even though international use patterns are about 2 years behind the US, data requirement will rise to 171 Mbps by 2019. We will use this number as our target performance for in-home performance. (See Figure 1.) There should also be some headroom built in as some consumers use patterns and requirements are beyond the average.
Performance vs. Claims
Figure 2 charts the claims and corresponding real-world speeds by each technology standard.
Note: There are unconfirmed reports of G.hn over Coax reaching from 400 Mbps to 850 Mbps, but these are point-to-point figures, and none are measured across multiple outlets in a single home or across 90% of outlets in multiple homes.
Rethink Research uses 90 percent outlet, or node, coverage as the benchmark for performance reliability. Performance and reliability are joined at the hip, as operators need to know both prior to designing their networks.
It is recognized that if an individual were to conduct tests in their own home with a device that embeds any of these technologies it is possible to achieve different speeds than identified above. For instance, 350 Mbps with a Wi-Fi connection is possible but is also dependent on the number of devices in use, distance from an access point and construction materials. If there are 4 or 5 devices, or more, on a wireless network, with desired access in different rooms with thick walls in between, data transfer rates are likely to suffer.
The results identified for MoCA 2.0 in Figure 2 are based on recent tests conducted by 108 homes around the US. Tests were conducted as randomly as possible, and all homeowners were volunteers. There were no stipulations for condition or age of the in-home, coaxial wiring, or type of pay-TV service (i.e., cable, satellite or telco/IPTV). The Alliance also announced results publicly. Sources for the other technologies are based on public records; each source is listed at the end of this article.
It is our hope that this article and the data in Figure 2 can be a helpful starting point for discussion and deliberation about the performance claims of the various home network standards bodies.
Average numbers of TV homes (registration needed), MoCA repeats field test that rocketed it to initial success, Just how big is China’s Cable and TV market, HomePlug White paper page 9, HomePlug PC Advisor Review, CENT Review of HomePlug, HomePlug Broadband buyer Reviews, CNET Powerline Review, G.hn Powerline speeds, More G.hn Powerline data, Trusted Reviews 802.11ac review, The Register 802.11ac routers, CNET Gigabit router, Qualcomm Atheros HomePlug claims, 4K good to go over HomePlug, Powerline Adapter Review at Rider Research, HomeGrid Forum Presentation 250 to 500 Mbps, Average Telco Wi-Fi RFP speeds, Average Broadband speeds.
This article includes Rethink Research sponsored by MoCA®. More information, and a PDF version, is available at http://www.mocalliance.org/marketing/performance-and-reliability.htm.
For more information about Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA®), visit www.mocalliance.org.