MoCA, DirecTV brewing up more trouble for cable

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Jim Barthold It was a small item like most news releases, issued by the Multimedia over Cable Alliance (MoCA) announcing an extension to its MoCA 1.1 specification for satellite operators. It became ominous in the second paragraph: "DirecTV will become the first to deploy the MoCA mid-RF frequencies as they bring multi-room DVR capabilities to their subscribers throughout the year."

The new specification features additional MoCA channels from 500 MHz (from the previous low of 850 MHz) that enable simultaneous operation with DBS signals (L-band and PSK) on the same coaxial cable, the release explained.

Multi-room transport is the Holy Grail for DirecTV, a provider that puts the 'oner' in onerous when it's time to connect devices throughout a home. MoCa has found a way to give DirecTV a more direct route between in-house devices.

"The mid-RF MoCA technology meets DirecTV's needs for robust in-home signal distribution and can be supported in the same device as the hi-RF MoCA (used for cable TV) with no additional cost," said Romulo Pontual, DirecTV's CTO. "MoCA is at the foundation of DirecTV's vision for enabling connectivity between DirecTV servers and RVU thin implemented in consumer electronic devices such as TVs and media players."

Verizon, which has always asserted the sanctity of the home network, is a long-time (four years is a long time in telecom terms) MoCA supporter. Cox and Time Warner say they're going to give MoCA a shot. And the rest of the cable industry? The silence is as deafening as a rocket booster in outer space. (For those of you who watch too much science fiction, there is no sound in space since space is a vacuum.)

Verizon's Sanjay Udani, a principal member of the technical staff last year emphasized Verizon's ongoing commitment to "simplify the home management as much as possible. As customers plug more and more stuff in, you're going to have to have some way of configuring all this stuff."

While Udani also pointed out that this is a "huge question (and) the whole industry is looking at it," he made it clear with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge that Verizon considers this an area of advantage over its cable competitors.

DirecTV has also recognized the value of the home network but, without its own cable coming into the home, has had a tougher time moving things around efficiently. The eye in the sky, though, knows a whole-home DVR is worth double a half-home DVR and has taken steps to do something about it. Cable remains slower to chase the opportunity than a one-winged hawk with a broken beak in a chicken coop.

Of course cable has other priorities, but then so does DirecTV, whose big boss John Malone has set his sights on conquering Europe. Verizon, which has made it clear that it's backing away from FiOS, has always pursued the last-100-feet inside a residence as the gold ring and if, as some have it, Verizon and DirecTV will cozy up even more as network and entertainment partners, it makes perfect sense that DirecTV adopt a similar worship of home networking.

This forebodes no good for cable which will continue to be seen as a laggard in a space where one would have thought it would have the built-in advantage. Multimedia over coax, after all, requires coax and that's the mainstay of a cable network even if MoCA is modifying it to meet DBS needs.

The announcement last week suggests that the traffic crossing the cable coax won't necessarily be driven by cable operators. - Jim