One of my earlier instrumented tests on this blog was back in 2014. Back then I set out to prove that, all things being equal, coax networking wasn’t slower than wired Ethernet. And I did. Using the tools we had at the time I proved that the maximum speed through the coax network, 90Mbps, was faster than our business internet at the time. The only time “real” Ethernet cables really shone was in local file transfer.
Those results have been posted and reposted in several enthusiast forums. They’re considered to be the final word on the subject, which I think is kinda cool. But, even as I “throw back” to that article, I have to explain that it’s possible it doesn’t really hold up in 2020.
Problem 1: Internet speeds are faster
It’s pretty common to get over 100Mbps even at home now. So, the DECA’s maximum speed of 90Mbps is actually going to be a limiting factor. Now, you can say that no single streaming service or file sharing service will actually go that fast. That’s true. But if you’ve got kids at home and all of them are streaming, that bandwidth can get eaten up quickly.
Problem 2: Wi-Fi is faster
It’s quite common to have Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) in homes now. Even the free router the cable company gives you might use this. Wi-Fi 5 isn’t even the fastest speed you can get now, since Wi-Fi 6 is rolling out. Both Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 have the potential for faster real-world speeds than coax networking.
More importantly, mesh systems have gotten a lot more popular. Whether you choose a popular one like Eero or one of the lesser known ones, it’s much more common for people to have some sort of Wi-Fi repeater in the home. This means it’s going to be possible to beat that 90Mbps number with your home Wi-Fi.
So is coax networking still ok?
Of course it is. It’s a good way to use excess coax cable in your home. While it won’t be able to handle the top speed of your home internet, it’s just fine for a single device. Even streaming 4K isn’t going to take more than 30-45Mbps and DECAs will handle that.
No one really ever wanted to run a whole home with a coax network. The goal has always been to avoid running more Ethernet cable. Using DECAs will still let you do that. The newest version of the original DECA is smaller and uses less power than ever before. It’s still a great option and the price is definitely right.
What about that new “GigE DECA?”
AT&T now has what they call the “GigE DECA” which is a whole new generation of DECA equipment. Solid Signal is one of the only places you’ll find it. The GigE DECA is capable of communicating at gigabit (1000Mbps speeds, both on coax and Ethernet.
However, before you go swapping all the DECAs in your home, you need to know that you’ll only get that speed if every other device on your coax network is also capable of it. If even one device, whether it’s an old DECA or old receiver, is using the older coax network standard, the whole system will step down to that slower speed. That means you can only use the Genie 2 and C61 wired client. Those are the only two DIRECTV devices that will give you that faster speed.
You also need to know that the GigE DECA isn’t designed to work with any device but the H25 receiver in a hotel environment. It’s going to work with other devices, sure, but like all of this it’s going to be completely unsupported.
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