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The Challenge of the Last 10ft

As you know we’re partnering with D-Link this fall to release the Boxee Box. We also recently completed a trial of MoCa (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) Ethernet to coax bridges with Entropic Communications for 50 of our users. Over the last month we’ve met with press to talk about the Boxee Box and what it’s going to mean for users this holiday season. More specifically, we talked about what people can watch and what they’re going to need to get the best experience out of it. One of the issues that some people will be confronted with is the ability to transfer content quickly across your home network into your living room.

With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of the most popular ways to get Internet into every room in the house and what each technology is best suited for.

Ethernet

Ethernet ImageIf your house is already wired with Ethernet cables then please proceed to Go and collect $200, you’ve already won. If you’re looking for the best possible speeds then cabling your house with Ethernet cable (the one that looks like a big telephone cord) is your answer. “Cat 6” cabling is the preferred cable today, which has improved performance and allows you to reach speeds of over 1Gbps (that’s with a G!) which is the fastest speed you’re going to get inside the home for a reasonable price. It’s great for HD streaming, and if you’re building a house, this should be standard in every room for any hardcore techy.

Typical Cost: We recommend monoprice.com where you can get a 75ft cable for less than $10 and a 1000-ft spool for under $100.

WiFi 802.11n

img_89371_dlink_dir_655_printEverybody loves them some Wi-Fi. It’s easy to install and has good range, up to 100 ft or more in some cases. The latest “N” routers have what’s called multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology that utilizes multiple antennas to broadcast and collect signals which makes it possible to reach actual bandwidth speeds over 100Mbp/s (your mileage may vary) - good enough to stream HD movies from your computer or NAS to a Boxee device without a problem. MIMO also provides better performance in the presence of factors that interfere with wireless. While older “802.11 g” routers may be able to handle most streaming Internet content without a hitch, they’ll start having trouble if you want to play extremely high quality video from your home network. Using an “N” router for streaming HD content provides higher speeds over longer distances which means your copy of The Dark Knight streams in beautiful 1080p with no buffering or blocky spots from your network.

However if you’ve got a house made of concrete, metal, or brick (or you’ve got lots of mirrors - are you listening Louis XIV?) you might have trouble getting the signal to extend very far at a reasonable speed which is where our next few options come in.

Typical Cost: $40-80 for WiFi router (check out D-Link’s Extreme N WiFi router at Amazon)

MoCA (Coax)

actiontec_300For people with homes wired for cable, MoCA is a good alternative to Wi-Fi. MoCA runs over the same wires your cable does, but on a different frequency (850-1550 MHz) so there’s little interference from Cable TV or Cable Modems (although satellite issues might pervade). Depending on the MoCA product you choose, speeds range from 100Mbps to 270Mbps which make it capable of delivering 2-3 streams of HD content without breaking a sweat. Typical MoCA adaptors are about the size of an iPhone and about twice as thick. Since coax cable is pre-installed in many homes, MoCA can be a very convenient way to get Internet from your office to your living room.

I’ve been using it in my house for 6 months now and it’s made it easy to quickly access files from my NAS as well as get the Internet into an upstairs bedroom that had a hard time getting a Wi-Fi signal. I’m looking forward to getting a MoCA / WiFi router that lets me blend both technologies for each of their strong suits.

Typical Cost: $149-199 / pair of MoCA adaptors

**From now through Oct 16th, ActionTec is offering Boxee users a pair of MoCA Ethernet to coax bridges for $99 (half the regular price of $199) with the code “BoxeeMocaDeal”.**

Powerline

PowerlineFinally, if your home isn’t wired for cable and doesn’t seem a good fit for Wi-Fi, then Powerline may be your answer. By plugging a Powerline adaptor (similar in size to a MoCA adaptor) into your wall, you create an instant, encrypted wired network throughout your house. Each Powerline-to-Ethernet adaptor makes it possible to extend your network into presumably any room in the house. Previous versions of Powerline have had some issues with interference and compatibility, but most of those have now been solved by innovation and standardization. Today’s Powerline adapters are rated for 200Mbps and are HD compatible.
**Update - look for the HomePlug AV2 or HD standard to ensure you’re getting the latest technology

Typical Cost: $80 - $159 / pair of Powerline adaptors

This is a topic that I’m sure a lot Boxee users have experience with so I’d love to hear about your home setup (square footage, throughput, # of devices, etc.) and what you’ve found works best for your home in the comments.

October 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm

59 Responses to “The Challenge of the Last 10ft”

  1. jorge says:

    I use a powerline adapter to get a net connection to a machine that is out of wifi range. They work pretty great. I’ve gotten another adapter for my living room to prepare for the Boxee box.

    • JetSet says:

      As for ethernet over powerlines the standard is not simply called “Powerline” like Boxee write in this article but the official IEEE standard it called “HomePlug” from the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, and just as WiFi and twistered pair cables there are several version classitionations so you want to be sure that your users get a “HomePlug AV” or better yet a “HomePlug AV2″ based solution (also sometimes referred to “HomePlug HD”), in fact “HomePlug AV2″ is the only IEEE P1901 certified standard and it was only made public this year so there are not so many products available yet that uses that stanrard. So if you just get a product that is marked as just “HomePlug” or “HomePlug 1.x” then it will not be able to handle streaming high definition videos.

  2. John Barker says:

    I too use a powerline adapter on my network for a computer that is out of wifi range. It works great and I get around 130 Mbps.

    • John Barker says:

      However, I have noticed that there is quite a bit of packet loss using a powerline adapter. While this isn’t really a problem for a lot of case uses it is VERY noticeable when you try and stream any sort of high bit-rate content.

      • JetSet says:

        Get a “HomePlug AV2″ based solution, as the “HomePlug AV2″ is the only IEEE P1901 certified standard and it was only made public this year so there are not so many products available yet that uses that standard.

        So if you just got a product that is marked as just “HomePlug” or “HomePlug 1.x” then it will not be able to handle streaming high definition videos, however what you got sounds like a “HomePlug AV”, but you probably do not have a “HomePlug AV2″ as then you would get a better connection then 130Mbps.

  3. Zerokul175 says:

    I have a cisco valet plus on my computer desk, and one cat6 cable from there to my home theater located 50 feet away. Where the cat6 ends I have a lynksys gigabit switch spreading the signal between my dish box, blu-ray, iomega media player and one extra waiting for the BOXEE BOX.
    IMO theres nothing better than wired cat6 networking, 802.11g wifi is great(for my iphone or other portable devices) but in order to stream 1080p files from my computer to my tv using my media player, wired is the best bet, hands down.

  4. Rusty Myers says:

    I wired my house with cat6 so I could put a computer behind each TV to run Boxee. I’m very excited to replace them with the Boxee Box! WiFi (G) worked fairly well, but didn’t have the bandwidth for HD. It was pretty easy after I bought a fish tape to find my way through my walls. The wall boxes were designed to fit into existing construction and look great! I suggest doing the first one in a less visible area, just to get the hang of it. Trust me, it’s worth it!

  5. Matt Sloopka says:

    If you have cable internet in where you modem is connected to a coax already, what would I need to do here. My speed is around 10 mbvps with my providers plan, but what would this box do for me MOCA

    • andrew kippen says:

      Matt - this is the setup I’ve got at home. The part that’s slightly confusing is that your Internet signal has to pass through a Cable Modem before it can be sent out across your coax via MoCA. (IE You can’t just plug one of these into your coax network and expect to get Internet with a modem).

      Here’s a quick breakdown of how I’ve got it setup:
      (a) plug your cable modem into the ethernet port on your first MoCA adaptor
      (b) plug your first MoCA adaptor into your coax network.
      (c) plug your second MoCA adaptor into another wall plate on your coax network.
      (d) plug your computer / Boxee Box / Blu-Ray player / etc. into the second MoCA adaptor.

      Voila - you’ve got Internet anywhere you’ve got a coax cable in your house, and you’ve got a really fast local network to transfer or play stuff between devices connected via MoCA.

      • Matt Sloopka says:

        Well i am a student so my apartment doesn’t really have cable in other rooms, and I use a time capsule as my router + some local storage (which is a pain in itself due to a lack of PnP or proper USB connectivity for transferring, meaning anything I want to put on there I have to transfer using a ethernet cable), which is part of the reason i am getting a boxee box (unless i turn to dark side and go googletv and cancel my preorder). But i am just trying to figure out if springing for the 2 MoCA boxes is worth it, plus the triple splitter ill need to feed my cable box, unless i can feed my cable box and boxee box through the second MoCA

      • Matt Sloopka says:

        bummmp

      • Adam says:

        Hey Andrew, I’ve got the same setup as Matt - my internet connection comes into the house via coax. I’m following your suggested solution using two Moca adapters (modem on the first, and boxee on the second), but on the first Moca adapter I’d also like to attach a wireless router. Is that possible or do I need a third moca adapter for that?

        • Jamie says:

          Adam,

          If you have a wireless router, then instead of plugging Ethernet from the cable modem to the MoCA adapter, you can connect one of the LAN ports of your router to the MoCA. Your cable modem is probably connected to the WAN port of the router already.

          One note, for the coax connection - connect from the wall to the IN port of the MoCA adapter and then go from the OUT port of the MoCA adapter to the Cable Modem coax port. The MoCA adapter has a filter on it’s COAX OUT port that helps your cable modem get a clean signal.

          • Matt Sloopka says:

            So, if my cable modem, time capsule router, set top box, and tv are all within 5 feet of eachother, and my boxee box will be taking another spot, does it not make sense to just have the boxee box plugged into a port on my time capsule. Seem like having the moCA for me is doubling up or something

  6. bmoura says:

    I’m using Powerline 200mb here as well for rooms beyond where the cable modem is located. Works great !

  7. Puerco says:

    Great, I’ll run and connect my Boxee Box as soon as it ships! Wait, its not available in mExico, oh well.

  8. JMS says:

    Hi Andrew,

    this isn’t related to networking at all, but i wanted to know how boxee intends to roll out firmware updates on the boxee box. Couldn’t find anything on the net but will the boxee box support OTA updates for firmware? if not, then how would one update boxee on the boxee B when newer versions are released?

    cheers!

    • andrew kippen says:

      you’ll get an update notification whenever there’s a new version. if you choose to upgrade, it will be done automatically over the web.

  9. locu says:

    Where can i collect my 200$ ?

  10. JetSet says:

    As a ceritied network engineer I recommend a few changes to that article:

    Firstly, Cat6 twisted pair copper ethernet cables is almost only used for enterprise classed server computer rooms, instead Cat5e (category 5 enhanced) twisted pair copper ethernet cables is the most common for private houses and residential appartment buildings, and Cat5e (which is about a third the cost the cost of Cat6) work just as well for Gigabit Ethernet for your home and is thus the better and cheaper option.

    Warning here though, the American market was flooded with copper clad aluminium cable imported mostly from China and falsely presented in the market as being a 100% copper Cat5e cable. With less copper involved in the manufacturing process, the cost to the consumer is lower, yet the consumer is not getting a true 100% copper Cat 5e cable.

    As for ethernet over powerlines the standard is not simply called “Powerline” like you write in your article but the official IEEE standard it called “HomePlug” from the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, and just as WiFi and twistered pair cables there are several version classitionations so you want to be sure that your users get a “HomePlug AV” or better yet a “HomePlug AV2″ based solution (also sometimes referred to “HomePlug HD”), in fact “HomePlug AV2″ is the only IEEE P1901 certified standard and it was only made public this year so there are not so many products available yet that uses that stanrard. So if you just get a product that is marked as just “HomePlug” or “HomePlug 1.x” then it will not be able to handle streaming high definition videos.

    • andrew kippen says:

      JetSet - thanks for the comments. Regarding Cat 6 vs. Cat 5e - with both cables being extremely cheap (<$2 for 10ft) it made sense to go ahead and recommend Cat 6, but you’re right Cat5e is cheaper and will get the job done.

      While the standard is called HomePlug, the consumer term is still Powerline. I’ll make sure to update the article with the standards information though.

  11. JetSet says:

    More Question;

    You recommend Cat6 (or Cat5e) twisted pair copper ethernet cables to to reach speeds of over 1Gbps, but according to the Boxee Box specifications that you posted previously is it is only capable of 100Mbps speeds. If that is the case then why recommend your customer to get Cat6 or Cat5e ethernet just for the Boxee Box?

    Also, is the Boxee Box WiFi even capable of taking advantage of MIMO?

    Just because the Boxee Box features a 802.11n WiFi chip does not mean that it is equipped with a MIMO antenna array, as even though it has a 802.11n WiFi chip it is quite possible that it only has one antenna and if so it is not capable of taking advantage of MIMO and is probably only capable of 144Mbps at best over WiFi.

    I actually highly doubt that the small Boxee Box has s equipped with a MIMO antenna array judging by the size of the box and the FCC report that was made public about it.

    • andrew kippen says:

      While I talk about the Boxee Box in the intro paragraph, I didn’t mean for this to be Boxee Box specific - it’s really for anyone who has Boxee running on a PC, Apple TV, Boxee Box, Microwave, whatever.

      The Boxee Box has only 1 antenna since 144Mbps is easily enough for high profile HD streaming - if you’re using a MIMO 802.11N router, you’re still going to see improved range and throughput as compared to a non-MIMO router.

  12. LouDiamond says:

    I use Powerline adapters for my entire house & they work great.

    I can even stream HD video to one in my disconnected garage at the back of my property.

  13. Ann O'Leary says:

    excellent discussion on the new challenges of networking presented by the new streaming apps. We’re biased - Plaster Networks - but also check out the isolator we provide to help cut interference across electrical circuits. sometimes caused by something as simple as a phone charger or dimmer switch.

    http://www.plasternetworks.com/products/products-isolator.html

  14. Matt Maher says:

    I have another vote for powerline (and I know it’s technically called “Homeplug,” but it’s too late, everyone refers to it as “powerline networking,” so who cares?).

    I looked into it, and it would have cost me about $350 for someone to run ethernet through the walls that I needed. Wireless is no good if you live in an apartment setting, there’s just too much interference (I have four other networks on my WiFi’s channel alone, and that’s the least crowded one!).

    Powerline is great as long as you get 200Mbps adapters, and for that speed I’d have to say that I haven’t seen any in the $80 range that this article states. However, I do have a favorite and it turns out to be the cheapest I’ve seen. The Western Digital Livewire is 200Mbps (in theory), and will even network up to 7 devices on two adapters. This is great because now on the far end I can network my Boxee Box, Tivo, and bluray player without adapters or wireless bridges.

    http://goo.gl/HhXO

    I’m certain that I’m not getting anywhere NEAR 200Mbps, but I only need a fraction of that to stream HD video.

    The best part is that powerline adapters are the easiest of these options to set up. There’s zero configuration needed. You plug them in, connect the ethernet cables and you’re done.

    I was down on the technology for a while because it wasn’t keeping up with modern bandwidth requirements (at least not at reasonable prices), but $100 for two 200Mbps adapters is perfectly fine with me.

  15. Sleepy says:

    Slight noobie question here - but when it comes to streaming content from the interweb, e.g via the BBC Iplayer app, isn’t the question of which method is the fastest way to fling the content across the loungeroom moot because the broadband speed itself will be the bottleneck, by a long way?

    Or is the premise here that were talking only about streaming of local content (on a laptop or NAS or whatever).

    • andrew kippen says:

      Sleepy - yep, for most people the bottleneck is going to be their connection to the Internet so this is centered around local content, but the idea is if you’re going to upgrade anything in the next few months - you should make sure to pick up something in this post.

  16. Mike says:

    Hi,

    noobie question for me also;

    I have a Cat6 network at home with Gigabit router (Netgear WNDR3700), Qnap 419P NAS, and Linksys Gigabit switch to the home theater room. Now I am looking for a media player that can stream large BD-ISO and mkv files over a LAN so that I can put all my new BDs on my NAS as I have done with all of my dvds. The Boxee Box has a cpu that can handle the performance as I understand it, but if the box is limit over Ethernet to 100 Mbps, how will that affect streaming performance for large files (20+ GByte)? No support for jumbo frames to be able to buffer streaming?

    /Mike

    • andrew kippen says:

      Mike - checking with the CTO’s that be to get you an answer. Do you know what bit-rate the files are? We’ve tested up to 90Mbps with no problem.

    • Yuval Tal says:

      A high bit rate BD-ISO is usually up to 40Mbit which is way below the 100Mbit that is offered by the boxee box. Streaming BD-ISO is not a problem over 100Mbit Ethernet.

      • Mike says:

        Hi and thanks for the replies!

        As I have understood it, the problem is not the streaming in itself or the cpu performance but that FE-ports capacity does not allow buffering and that in return can lead to bad video and sound.performance?

  17. Matt Sloopka says:

    Andrew, i hate to be annoying but can you refer to my reply to your reply, just confused in the number of Adapters i need, or my exact setup…please advise

  18. Nic O'Connor says:

    What an excellent blog post, After recently purchasing a home I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to figure out just how I could wire it up. Researching tools and methods on Cat5e Cabling. I even went as far as to price out the whole project. While I would love to have gigabit speeds throughout my house. I’m more then happy to make the compromise and settle with the 200mbps MoCA solution. At $99 bucks it saves a ton of money for a small I took advantage of the the Boxee deal on the Moca adapters which have excellent reviews on Amazon.

    THANKS!

  19. Rich Heidtman says:

    Square Footage: 1900

    My strategy is to have physical network in the living room and wireless N everywhere else. This is based on the fact the family room will have the most video intensive needs. I also rely on wireless extenders to boost the signal. Luckily I don’t have any major structural obstructions for wireless.

    Wired from a Wireless N Router in main Living Room: HD-DVD Player, Apple TV, Boxee Box, Bridge to Internet
    Wireless N: (2) Airport Express for Audio and Printer, Mac Mini, HP Laptop, Dell Laptop, Nintendo Wii, a Destop PC, 2nd Boxee Box, iPhone, iPod Touch.

    • andrew kippen says:

      my plan as well : ) Airport Extreme Base Station + 8 port Switch in my living room with wireless / MoCA hitting the rest of the house.

  20. Joel says:

    Will the boxee be able to support cinemanow subscription content?

  21. hd_fan says:

    When is the Boxee Box coming out?! Getting anxious! Hoping it’s released earlier than expected, this month (October). Lots of media players competing in this space… PCH A-200/C-200, Dune, Netgear NeoTV550, Logitech Revue, Sony NSZ-GT1, and many other lesser-known brands.

  22. EricMat says:

    Very disappointed!
    ActionTec doesn’t offer shipping to Canada :(
    I was hoping to place an order today, but their website only offer US shipping.
    Thats a huge letdown.

    I’ll have to find a way to wire my house with Cat6…

  23. Mark Davis says:

    I have wireless N in my apartment and it’s what I plan to use for boxee box when it comes out. I also have a blu ray player with ethernet. is there a way I can have boxee box pass through ethernet to the bluray player from the wireless N? right now we use a laptop as a bridge and it’s a pain in the ass.

    thanks

  24. ben says:

    I also just bought a new house and am mulling over how to network it to enjoy some HD video. A lot of these posts are Greek to me but I know I will eventually home in on a solution - I’ll keep checking out the posts.

  25. dan says:

    Gount me among the disappointed with the decision to go with 100Mbps ethernet. I got Gigabit ethernet with my tv last year and with my ps3 over 3 years ago.

    What is this? 1997? I’d gladly pay the extra dollar for gigabit components.

    • andrew kippen says:

      since we’re streaming (not transferring) stuff to the Boxee Box, there’s no need for gigabit.

  26. Eric says:

    Hi, thank you for this very informative thread. What wireless router do I need to run a wireless network plus two ports for computers and a third port for the boxee moca/powerline connection? I have a wireless g mimo router and I think the ports are not adequate for the networking demands. Secondly, I currently have 10 gig of cabled connection coming into the house; is this sufficient? I worry about bottle necking as my connection runs from the cable through the modem into the wireless router and out of the ports to individual components.

    • andrew kippen says:

      Eric - unfortunately I haven’t seen routers with MoCA and Wireless N and Gigabit ethernet ports in the marketplace yet (if you know of any, please comment below).

      Best solution would be to pick up a 4-port Wireless N router (~$80 refurbed from D-Link: http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=530) along with a MoCA kit to distribute 200Mbps speeds throughout the house

      If you’re talking about having a 10Mbps cable connection to your house then you’ll get HD video without any issues. You can always check your speed with http://www.speedtest.net

  27. DennyC says:

    I just wanted to get some confirmation on home LAN’s and Gig-E switches/devices with mixed 100mb max devices…

    It is my understanding that many (D-Link DIR-655 is one) home Gig-E router/switches will not give you Gig-E speeds if there are any devices connected that are not Gig-E. i.e. I have a network printer on my lan and a couple of pc’s that only have 100mb interfaces. My understanding is that switch port speeds will be limited to the *slowest* device connected through the router/switches, i.e. 100mb in my case.

    Is this true? and if so, will the different devices mentioned here NOT be effected by this limitation?

  28. Awesome Information, thanks for this useful Post. I will come back later . Great information.

  29. evliçift says:

    So, if my cable modem, time capsule router, set top box, and tv are all within 5 feet of eachother, and my boxee box will be taking another spot, does it not make sense to just have the boxee box plugged into a port on my time capsule. Seem like having the moCA for me is doubling up or something

  30. swinger says:

    What is this? 1997? I’d gladly pay the extra dollar for gigabit component

  31. lawrence hordy says:

    lawrephord23@hotmail.com
    please put prices of fiberopticcables and transducerstowiring ?

  32. Mathieu Page says:

    I have my boxee box on pre order, can’t wait until ship date.

    Question: I have a dlink dual router (dir-825), will the box be able to run off the 5ghz channel. Its my understanding that not all devices can use the 5ghz, and are forced to stick with the 2.5ghz.

    Also, is the boxee software on the box identical to the pc version? Been using the pc software for awhile now and I like a lot, just wondering if it’ll be slightly different or not. Some improvements woud be nice.

  33. Mo says:

    any chance you can get actiontec to extend the coupon deadline? I just saw the blog post today, and moca is def the best option to get wired ‘net to my tv…