Asus announced today the ZenWifi hybrid XC5, which it claimed to be the world’s first mesh Wi-Fi system with built-in MoCA backhaul. It’s a niche mesh Wi-Fi system that can potentially make many users happy.
The new hardware is not for everyone. Specifically, it’s not applicable in homes without coaxial cables, nor does it make sense in those with network cables. But for a place with those round wires, originally designed to carry cable TV signals, snaking from room to room, it’s an excellent choice.
And that’s the case for many Cable Internet-ready homes.
Asus ZenWiFi hybrid XC5: The coaxial version of the XP4
In a way, the ZenWiFi hybrid XC5 is the MoCA version of the Powerline-enabled ZenWiFi hybrid XP4 that came out in April 2022.
Both have a built-in option for alternative wired backhauling aside from using network cables.
MoCA in Brief
MoCA stands for Multimedia over Coax Alliance, an organization that publishes specifications for networking using coaxial cables. Generally, you can turn a coaxial wire into a network cable by attaching a MoCA adapter to each end. That’s similar to using two Powerline adapters at two wall sockets within a home.
The latest MoCA standard — MoCA 2.5 — can deliver a 2.5Gbps Full-Duplex connection, effectively making it comparable to a CAT5e (or higher-grade) network cable. It’s an excellent starting point for those looking to turn coaxial wires into network cables.
The new XC5 enables the users to have coaxial wired backhauling, which is not as good as real network cables but still significantly better than the finicky and unreliable Powerline.
Backhauling in a mesh system
A Wi-Fi connection between two direct devices occurs in a single band, using a fixed channel, at any given time. This principle applies to all existing Wi-Fi standards, at least up to Wi-Fi 6E.
Generally, when you use multiple Wi-Fi broadcasters, like in the case of a mesh network, there are two types of connections: fronthaul and backhaul.
Fronthaul is the Wi-Fi signal a mesh hub broadcasts outward for clients or its network ports for wired devices. It’s what we generally expect from a Wi-Fi broadcaster.
On the other hand, backhaul, a.k.a backbone, is the link between one broadcasting hub and another, be it the main router, a switch, or another satellite hub.
This link works behind the scene to keep the hardware units together as a system. It also determines the ceiling bandwidth (and speed) of all devices connected to the particular satellite hub.
When a Wi-Fi band handles backhaul and fronthaul simultaneously, only half of its bandwidth is available to either end. From the perspective of a connected client, that phenomenon is called signal loss.
When a Wi-Fi band functions solely for backhauling, it’s called the dedicated backhaul.
In a mesh system, only traditional Tri-band hardware — those with an additional 5GHz band — can have a dedicated backhaul band without ostracizing clients of the same band.
Generally, it’s best to use a network cable for backhauling — wired backhauling. And that’s an advantage of mesh hardware with network ports. In this case, a hub can use its entire Wi-Fi bandwidth for front-hauling.
In networking, network cables are always much better than wireless in speed and reliability.
Like the XP4, the XC5 still works as a fully wireless system or one where you use network cables as backhaul. The support for MoCA is available as a new option.
If you can use network cables as backhauls, the ZenWifi XD series (such as the XD6, or XD4), or any dual-band AiMesh broadcaster would make more sense in terms of cost.
Asus ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5: Preliminary hardware specifications
Details about the XC5 are still sketchy, but it seems to have better 5GHz specs than the XP4, which is always a good thing.
As for MoCA, Asus says the new hardware features MoCA 2.5. Each of the hardware units comes with a coaxial port — a.k.a an F-connector — similar to a Cable modem.
This port only works for a local peer-to-peer connection and not as that of a modem. In other words, each XC5 unit doesn’t have a built-in cable modem.
|Antennas||2 x internal antennas|
|Operating Frequency||2.4 GHz, 5 GHz|
|Wi-Fi Data Rate||2.4 GHz: up to 574 Mbps 5 GHz: up to 2402 Mbps MoCA: 2500 Mbps|
|Wi-Fi Channel Width||2.4GHz: 20/40MHz
|Network Standards||IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g,
IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11ax,
|Memory||128 MB Flash, 512 MB DDR3 RAM|
|I/O Ports||1 Gbps LAN/WAN, 1 Gbps LAN, 1 x F-connector|
|Buttons||Reset Button, WPS/MPS Button|
|DC Power Adapter||AC Input: 100~240V (50~60 Hz)
DC Output: 18 watts
|Package Contents||ASUS ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5 RJ-45 cable RG6 Coaxial cable Power adapter Quick Start guide Warranty card|
|Dimensions/ Weight||6.1 x 3.23 x 5.51 in (155 x 82 x140 mm)|
|1.03 lbs (469 g)|
Besides that, like other Asus Wi-Fi hardware, the ZenWifi hybrid XC5 shares the same firmware as the rest of the AiMesh family. According to Asus, it’ll include the usual features, including AiProtection, Instant Guard, and Safe Browsing.
Availability and pricing
The Asus ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5 is excellent news for those living in large homes currently with Cable internet have used it.
Even when you have moved to Fiber-optic, the coaxial wiring can now be used to extend your network with excellent speed and reliability without separate MoCA adapters.
So the question is: when can you buy one? Asus says the ZenWiFi Hybrid XC5 is slated to be available in the first half of 2023, with pricing to be announced then.
Check back for more information and possibly an in-depth review.