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. Sometimes 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!
|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|
What Is MoCA?
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.
- 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
- Use a home's existing coax cables for wiring
- Fast throughput of up to 2.5 Gbps
- Plug and play setup (no configuration required)
- Requires a Point of Entry (POE) filter for improved security
Recommended MoCA Adapters
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).
- You'll probably want also to buy a MoCA POE Filter if your ISP didn't already install one (for improved security):
Runner-Up MoCA 2.5 Adapter (2.5 Gbps Port): goCoax MoCA 2.5 Adapter
- This adapter should work almost as well as the Actiontec ECB7250 adapter, with a few exceptions:
- It doesn't include a MoCA-capable coax splitter or coax cables.
- You'll need the following additional accessories, if you don't already have them:
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
- 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)
- Often a lower connection speed of around 150-350 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
Recommended Powerline Adapters
Recommended Powerline Adapter: NETGEAR PLP2000 Powerline 2000 Mbps Adapter
- 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).
- Additional accessories you may need:
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.
- Easy to set up
- Newer versions support high speeds
- Higher latency can be bad for gaming
- Walls and other obstacles can block the signal
Recommended Wi-Fi System: NETGEAR RBK752 - Orbi Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System
- 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
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.
- Long-Range wireless devices can extend your network for many miles/
- 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.
Recommended Long-Range Wireless Bridge: TP-Link AC867 Long Range CPE
- Can reach 29 kilometers (18 miles) and speeds of up to 867 Mbps
- An excellent solution for buildings with a line of sight
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.
|Cable Category||Max Speed and Distance|
- Fast and reliable connection
- Limited to 100 meters (without an additional Ethernet switch)
Recommended 1 Gbps Ethernet Network Equipment
Ethernet Cable: Tripp Lite Cat 6a
Ethernet & Wi-Fi Router: TP-Link AXE5400 WiFi 6E
Ethernet Switch: TP-Link TL-SG108
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.
- 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)
- 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)
Recommended Fiber to Ethernet Media Converter: 10Gtek Kit #2
- Reaches up to 20 kilometers (12 miles)!
- Gigabit speeds
- The above media converter requires a single-mode fiber cable with duplex LC connectors
For an extensive guide to fiber optics, check out my article Set Up a Fiber-Optic Network in Your Home or Office.
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/
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.
- You can use it with existing Ethernet or phone cables
- Cable lengths can extend multiple times further than standard Ethernet
- Low throughput make the use cases for this limited
Recommended VDSL2-Based Extender: Ethernet Extender Kit Tupavco TEX-100
- 100 Mbps Downstream / 72 Mbps Upstream at 1000 feet (304 meters)
- 5 Mbps Downstream / 2 Mbps Upstream at 6500 feet (1981 meters)
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.
If you want to learn more about internet equipment, networking, wiring, or troubleshooting, check out these articles:
- Cat 5e vs. Cat 6a - Which to Buy? - This article compares the various categories of Ethernet cables.
- How to Connect Ethernet Cables - Network Switches & Couplers - This article explains how to use network switches and couplers for extending and distributing your network.
- How to Extend Your Ethernet Range Beyond 100 Meters - This article discusses long-distance Ethernet options.
- Ultimate Cable Internet Wiring & Optimization Guide - This guide shows you how to wire and optimize cable Internet for your home or office.
- Essential Equipment Guide for Cable Internet - This guide shows you the essential components required for setting up your cable Internet connection.
- Ethernet Over Coax?! A Complete Guide to MoCA Adapters - This guide discusses how to use existing coax cabling for distributing Ethernet and Wi-Fi throughout your house.
- Ultimate Cable Internet Troubleshooting Guide - This guide shows you how to troubleshoot cable Internet problems.
- MoCA vs. Powerline? Which You Should Buy - This article compares MoCA adapters and Powerline adapters for home networks.
- The Best MoCA Adapters to Buy - This article discusses our recommended MoCA adapters and which accessories are needed.