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The 6 Best Ethernet Cable Alternatives for Home Networks

Learn about Ethernet cable alternatives for your home network. Don't want to put holes in your walls? Need it to go a long distance? Here are some great options.

Cat 5e Ethernet Patch Cable Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Last Updated: November 24, 2021

Written by Kevin Jones

Typical Ethernet cable such as Cat 6a will provide the simplest to understand and usually the fastest solution for wiring your home network.

However, every home and set of requirements is going to be unique.

In some cases, you may not want to put holes in floors and walls.

In other cases, you may want to reuse existing in-wall wiring, such as coax cable or power outlets, for your network.

Standard wireless options can work great for medium distances, but you may need long-range wireless devices for others.

In some cases, you may even want an optical (light-based) solution that isn't susceptible to lightning strikes nor the lower latency of wireless options.

We'll dig into each of these alternatives below to determine the best for your situation.

Keep in mind that you can use a combination of these options to build your perfect home network!

Comparison of Ethernet Cable Alternatives

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Ethernet Cable & Alternatives Setup Complexity Supported Speeds Supported Distance Latency Reliability
Ethernet Cable - Ethernet over Twisted Pair (e.g., Cat 6a) Excellent Excellent Good Excellent Excellent
Powerline - Ethernet over Powerline Excellent Fair Good Fair Poor
MoCA - Ethernet over Coax Good Good Good Good Good
Wi-Fi - Wireless Good Fair Fair Poor Fair
Long-Range Wi-Fi - Long-Range Wireless Good Fair Excellent Poor Fair
Fiber Optics - Ethernet over Fiber Fair Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent
VDSL2 - Extends Ethernet Range using Ethernet or Phone Cables Good Poor Excellent Fair Fair

MoCA

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What Is MoCA?

Example MoCA Home Network Example MoCA Home Network Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

A pair of MoCA adapters allows you to use a coax cable for Ethernet communication. MoCA adapters behave like an extension for an Ethernet cable. Multi-node configurations can also function as an Ethernet hub.

For example:

  • Suppose you have a cable modem downstairs and multiple computers in various rooms upstairs which need Internet access.
  • You can share the downstairs coax outlet with the cable modem by using a MoCA-compatible coax splitter. The MoCA adapter is then connected to the modem using an Ethernet cable.
  • Upstairs, you can provide Internet access to each computer by connecting MoCA adapters to nearby coax outlets. The computers connect to the MoCA adapters with Ethernet cables.
  • That's it! MoCA adapters are typically plug and play, meaning that no additional configuration is required.

Some modems may include built-in MoCA support, making it so that you only need a single adapter.

Learn more about MoCA adapters in my article, Ethernet Over Coax?! A Complete Guide to MoCA Adapters.

Pros and Cons of MoCA

Pros:

  • Use a home's existing coax cables for wiring
  • Fast throughput of up to 2.5 Gbps
  • Plug and play setup (no configuration required)

Cons:

  • Requires a Point of Entry (POE) filter for improved security

Best MoCA 2.5 Adapter: Actiontec ECB7250 Bonded MoCA 2.5 Network Adapter

  • While older versions only use a 1 Gbps network port, the ECB7250 uses a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port, allowing for maximum network utilization.

  • I own a pair of these adapters, and they work great!

  • Includes most of what you'll need, including two adapters and power supplies, two network cables, two coax cables, and a coax splitter.

  • The manufacturer could improve the instructions regarding using the MPS button for encryption, but that won't be needed for most installations.

  • Initial installation is very straightforward.

  • Check the latest price of the Actiontec ECB7250 Bonded MoCA 2.5 Network Adapter on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Actiontec ECB7250 Bonded MoCA 2.5 Network Adapter Actiontec ECB7250 Bonded MoCA 2.5 Network Adapter Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • You'll probably want also to buy a MoCA POE Filter if your ISP didn't already install one (for improved security): MoCA 'POE' Coax Filter MoCA 'POE' Coax Filter Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Value MoCA 2.5 Adapter (1 Gbps Port): GoCoax MoCA 2.5 Adapter

  • This adapter should work almost as well as the Actiontec ECB7250 adapter, with a few exceptions:
    • The Ethernet ports only support a 1 Gbps Ethernet connection, rather than 2.5 Gbps.
    • It doesn't include a MoCA-capable coax splitter or coax cables. goCoax MoCA 2.5 Adapter goCoax MoCA 2.5 Adapter Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • You'll need the following additional accessories, if you don't already have them: MoCA 'POE' Coax Filter MoCA 'POE' Coax Filter Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link) Coax Splitter MoCA 5-2300MHz Coax Splitter MoCA 5-2300MHz Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link) 3FT RG6 Coaxial Cable (2 Pack) 3FT RG6 Coaxial Cable (2 Pack) Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Powerline

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What Is Powerline?

Powerline adapters behave much like MoCA adapters. You can create an Ethernet network by simply plugging a pair of Powerline adapters into your wall outlets. Powerline adapters can communicate over the same wires as you use for AC power transmission.

Pros and Cons of Powerline

Pros:

  • Easy wiring using existing power outlets (more straightforward wiring than MoCA)
  • Low cost
  • Encrypted (some products)
  • Up to a 300-meter range
  • Some models have built-in Wi-Fi
  • Plug and play setup (no configuration required)

Cons:

  • Often a low connection speed of 50-350 Mbps compared to the advertised 1-2 Gbps
  • Powerline devices need to be on the same electrical circuit
  • May cause noticeable electromagnetic interference with some devices such as speakers (static sound)
  • Power strip, GFCI outlets, and AFCI circuit breakers may degrade Powerline network signals
  • Some models block an outlet when connecting directly into a wall outlet
  • This model includes some great features:

    • An extra passthrough Ethernet port
    • An extra outlet (although the device will block part of a second wall outlet)
    • 2 Gbps (theoretical) speeds
    • Support for encryption
  • Check the latest price of the NETGEAR Powerline 2000 Mbps Adapter Kit on Amazon (affiliate link).

    NETGEAR Powerline Adapter Kit, 2000 Mbps NETGEAR Powerline Adapter Kit, 2000 Mbps Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Additional accessories you may need: Tripp Lite Cat6a 10G Patch Cable 3ft Tripp Lite Cat6a 10G Patch Cable 3ft Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Wi-Fi

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If you don't want to put holes in your walls to add new Ethernet wiring, then Wi-Fi can be a great solution. However, you may need a Wi-Fi repeater or mesh system to eliminate Wi-Fi dead zones if you have a big home.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Newer versions support high speeds

Cons:

  • Higher latency can be bad for gaming
  • Walls and other obstacles can block the signal
  • Wi-Fi 6 for some of the fastest Wi-Fi speeds
  • Supports up to 40 devices at once
  • Satellite extender helps to eliminate dead zones NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Tri-band Mesh WiFi 6 System NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Tri-band Mesh WiFi 6 System Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Long-Range Wi-Fi

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If you want to use Wi-Fi to provide a network connection to a second building, but typical Wi-Fi can't reach far enough, then long-range Wi-Fi may be a solution.

Pairs of these devices require line of sight between them, so they are often mounted on poles.

Pros:

  • Long-Range wireless devices can extend your network for many miles/kilometers!

Cons:

  • May need to mount them on a pole outside for line-of-sight visibility
  • Higher latency than other long-distance solutions such as fiber

Wireless solutions are limited to typical wireless speeds, which are often less than 1 Gbps. However, they can often be more than adequate if you're able to achieve full signal strength.

  • Can reach 29 kilometers (18 miles) and speeds of up to 867 Mbps
  • An excellent solution for buildings with a line of sight TP-Link 5GHz AC867 Long Range Outdoor CPE TP-Link 5GHz AC867 Long Range Outdoor CPE Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Ethernet Cables

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I know that this article is about alternatives to Ethernet cables. However, it's important to note that typical twisted-pair copper Ethernet cables offer some of the fastest speeds possible for a home network. If you feel like your Ethernet isn't fast enough:

  • Upgrade to 1 Gbps devices (routers and switches) if you haven't already.
  • Use at least cat 5e cable (go with cat 6a cable if you make a new purchase).
  • Replace cables if they are damaged.
  • Verify that your computers support 1 Gbps speeds if you want to make use of that capacity.
Ethernet Cable Max Speeds and Distances
Cable CategoryMax Speed and Distance
Cat 5
  • 100 Mbps @ 100 meters
Cat 5e
  • 1 Gbps @ 100 meters
Cat 6
  • 10 Gbps @ 55 meters (37 meters if high cross talk)
  • 1 Gbps @ 100 meters
Cat 6a
  • 10 Gbps @ 100 meters

Pros:

  • Fast and reliable connection

Cons:

  • Limited to 100 meters (without an additional Ethernet switch)
  • Ethernet Cable: Tripp Lite Cat 6a

    Finding Ethernet cables which comply with their category rating can be a little tricky. Some manufacturers use misleading or incorrect naming, and their cables do not allow you to get the maximum expected speeds. I recommend the Tripp Lite Cat 6a cable. Tripp Lite Cat6a Cable 10G-Certified Tripp Lite Cat6a Cable 10G-Certified Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Ethernet & Wi-Fi Router: NETGEAR Nighthawk R7350 AC2400

    Netgear Nighthawk R7350 Netgear Nighthawk R7350 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • TP-Link TL-SG108 - 8 Port Gigabit Unmanaged Ethernet Network Switch TP-Link TL-SG108 - 8 Port Gigabit Unmanaged Ethernet Network Switch Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Fiber Optics

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Whether you're trying to share Internet access between buildings or connect cameras across a field, it's easy to run up against the distance limits of a typical Ethernet cable.

Suppose you're looking for the trifecta of fast speeds, perfectly stable connections, and long distances. In that case, fiber optics are the answer. Depending on which transceiver is used, fiber optic connections can reach up to 160 km!

Another advantage of fiber is that you can use it to electrically isolate your equipment, minimizing the risk of lightning damage.

The easiest way to extend your network via fiber optics is to use a pair of fiber to Ethernet media converters. They act as a seamless extension for your Ethernet network.

Fiber to Ethernet media converters adapt between a typical copper Ethernet cable (e.g., Cat 6a) and fiber-optic cable.

Pros:

  • Nearly limitless cable lengths are supported
  • Can isolate your networks from lightning surges
  • Supports the fastest network speeds
  • Very reliable connections (the backbone of the Internet uses fiber)

Cons:

  • Requires a bit of research if you want to customize your setup
  • Some networking equipment can be more expensive if you use fiber for everything (e.g., fiber switches)
  • Typically requires pre-made cables, as it's difficult to terminate the wires yourself (add the connectors to them)
  • Reaches up to 20 kilometers (12 miles)!
  • Gigabit speeds 1.25G Media Converter, SFP Slot, with an SFP Module, SMF, 1310-nm, 20-km 1.25G Media Converter, SFP Slot, with an SFP Module, SMF, 1310-nm, 20-km Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • The above media converter requires a single-mode fiber cable with duplex LC connectors Fiber Patch Cable - LC to LC OS2 Single-Mode Duplex 9/125 Fiber Patch Cable - LC to LC OS2 Single-Mode Duplex 9/125 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

For an extensive guide to fiber optics, check out my article Set Up a Fiber-Optic Network in Your Home or Office.

VDSL2

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Now we're getting into the slower options for extending an Ethernet network.

If speed isn't a concern for you, VDSL2 extenders may solve your problem.

This technique typically drops speeds to 100 Mbps or less. However, it can provide a quick fix using existing cabling if you only need a low-speed connection.

A VDSL2 extender can reach thousands of feet/meters, but it comes at the cost of speed.

These devices are helpful if you are looking for a low-cost wired solution to connect something far away, like a barn, or if you want to reuse a home's phone wiring.

VDSL2 extenders work with either standard Ethernet cable or phone cable.

Pros:

  • You can use it with existing Ethernet or phone cables
  • Cable lengths can extend multiple times further than standard Ethernet

Cons:

  • Low throughput make the use cases for this limited
  • 100 Mbps Downstream / 72 Mbps Upstream at 1000 feet (304 meters)
  • 5 Mbps Downstream / 2 Mbps Upstream at 6500 feet (1981 meters) Ethernet Extender Kit Tupavco TEX-100 Ethernet Extender Kit Tupavco TEX-100 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Protect Your Home Network From Surges

If you're running copper cables outdoors, you may be putting your equipment at additional risk from lightning and power surges. Check out my article Ethernet Surge Protection for Home Networks for suggested equipment that you can use to protect your network.

Building Your Network

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If you want to learn more about internet equipment, networking, wiring, or troubleshooting, check out these articles: