Essential Equipment Guide for Cable Internet (2021)

Which hardware components are critical for setting up cable Internet in your home or office?

3 dB and 6dB Coax Attenuators Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Last Updated: September 14, 2021

Written by Kevin Jones

Some people may wish to call up the cable company to set up or fix their Internet and call it a day. However, perhaps you want to learn to set up your Internet and diagnose the problems yourself.

In this article, I'll give you an overview of which hardware equipment is needed to get your Internet up and running. I'll also talk about some optional components for more advanced setups.

After reading through this equipment list, you'll likely want to check out these related articles:

Essential Equipment

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The essential components which provide cable Internet access to almost every home or office include:

Coaxial Cable (Coax Cable)

Coax cable is the cable used for communicating with your internet service provider (e.g., Comcast, Spectrum, Cox). Usually, a single coax line runs to the property. It then is split into multiple cables going to different rooms/units. While a coax cable may look like a single wire, it is two wires: an inner wire and a foil or braid 'pipe' around the inner wire called a shield. Coax cables come in different types: 75 Ohm RG-6 is the typical cable type you'll find in your home. The max length of a coax run depends on the transmit power of your modem and your ISP's transmitter. For every 100 meters (328 feet) of RG-6, there will be 2.3dB of attenuation (signal loss) for the lower frequencies. RG-11 is thicker and can be used for longer runs; it gets 1.2dB of attenuation per 100 meters (328 feet). You can mitigate longer runs with a coax amplifier, which increases the signal level.

Find RG-6 Coax Cables on Amazon (affiliate link).

Coax Cables Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Coax Grounding Block / Coax Lightning Arrestor

Grounding blocks dissipate static charges, often caused by TV antennas, via the coax cable's outer shield. Lightning arrestors also dissipate high voltage charges from lightning. These are typically installed by the cable company and shouldn't be removed.

Find Coax Grounding Blocks on Amazon (affiliate link).

Find Coax Lightning Arrestors on Amazon (affiliate link).

Coax Grounding Block Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Coax Splitters

Used in-line with coax cables, coax splitters convert one coax cable into two to run lines to multiple locations in a home/office. Note that splitting coax results in a reduction in signal level (power), similar to an attenuator. Each splitter results in a 3.5 dB drop in power (50% decrease in signal strength). Splitters with more than two ports are made up of multiple two-way splitters, meaning that each port will have a power loss of some multiple of 3.5 dB. Use a straight-through connector instead if you are only connecting two cables.

Find Coax Splitters on Amazon (affiliate link).

Coax Splitter Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Coax Attenuators

Used in-line with coax cables, attenuators reduce the signal level (power) without distorting the signal waveform. These are used to reduce the signal level if your modem is close to the ISP's transmission box and the signal level is too high.

Find Coax Attenuators on Amazon (affiliate link).

Coax Attenuator Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Coax Amplifier

Coax amplifiers are used for extended coax cable runs. When purchasing a coax amplifier, ensure that it supports the necessary frequencies. It should support up to 1000Mhz for Internet and up to 11625Mhz if MoCA communication is needed. Also, verify that you are amplifying in the correct direction and not over-amplifying signals.

Find Coax Amplifiers on Amazon (affiliate link).

Arris BDA-42-4-AR-R 4-Port Amplifier Arris BDA-42-4-AR-R 4-Port Amplifier Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Coax Terminators

When added to unused coax cables, splitters, and coax wall outlets, a coax terminator prevents signal reflection by absorbing the electrical energy.

Find Coax Terminators on Amazon (affiliate link).

Coax Terminator Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

MoCA Devices

MoCA devices allow for local devices to communicate with each other over coax cables. DVRs are often MoCA devices; thus, may use your coax cable for communication. It's even possible to run your Ethernet network over coax cables using MoCA adapters! MoCA signals travel a maximum of 300 feet (91 meters).

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

Find MoCA 2.5 Adapters on Amazon (affiliate link).

MoCA 2.5 Network Adapter - Ethernet over Coax MoCA 2.5 Network Adapter - Ethernet over Coax Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

1 GHz Low Pass Filter / MoCA POE Filter

Used in-line with coax cables, MoCA POE filters remove unwanted frequencies. With you and your neighbors potentially running MoCA devices such as DVRs over coax cables, MoCA Point of Entry Filters filter out the 1GHz frequency range used by those devices. MoCA POE filters reduce congestion and secure the MoCA network communication. As the name implies, a Point of Entry filter is typically installed at your residence's cable entry point. While filtering out 1 GHz frequencies, these filters also reflect 1 GHz signals, boosting MoCA communication. If your neighbors' devices are more than 300 feet away, then you might not need this. MoCA filters might be integrated with coax grounding blocks.

Find MoCA POE Filters on Amazon (affiliate link).

Coax Low Pass Filter Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Cable Modems

A cable modem is a device that communicates with your Internet service provider's equipment via a coax cable. It connects to your router via an Ethernet cable. An ISP may rent this to you, or you can usually purchase your own.

Cable modems support different versions of DOCSIS, with 3.1 being the latest available version. Each version of DOCSIS comes with speed and feature improvements. Check out our DOCSIS Cable Modem Guide and Version Comparison (TR) for more details.

Find DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modems on Amazon (affiliate link).

Cable Modem Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Ethernet Cable

Ethernet cable is used for a wired home or office network. They connect between modems/routers/switches/hubs/access points and computers, and all use the same connector type, RJ-45. However, the wires themselves (Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6a, Cat 8) have progressed over time to support increased speeds while remaining backward compatible.

For more details on which speeds each Ethernet cable type supports and our recommended cables, check out the Types of Ethernet Cables (TR) section of my Ultimate Cable Internet Wiring & Optimization Guide (TR).

Find Cat 6a Cables on Amazon (affiliate link).

RJ-45 connector on an Ethernet cable Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Wireless (Wi-Fi) Router / Wired Router

Routers send and receive data packets between your local network and the Internet. Routers may connect to local clients via an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi and connect to your modem via an Ethernet cable. Routers are sometimes combined with other devices, such as is the case for a modem/router combination.

Find Wi-Fi 6 Routers on Amazon (affiliate link).

Router Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Wired Client Devices

Wired client devices are devices that you connect to your Router, Switch, or Hub via an Ethernet cable. Examples of wired clients include computers and printers.

Wireless Client Devices

Wireless client devices are the devices that you connect wirelessly to your router. Examples of wireless clients include phones, tablets, and streaming video devices.

Advanced Equipment

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More advanced home networks may include these additional components:

Wireless (Wi-Fi) Access Point

Access points make an existing wired network available wirelessly via a new SSID (Wi-Fi Name).

Find Wi-Fi Access Points on Amazon (affiliate link).

Access Point Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Wireless (Wi-Fi) Repeater / Extender

Repeaters and extenders expand a wireless network by repeating data wirelessly. Repeaters/extenders typically have less bandwidth (max throughput) due to the device communicating with both a wireless network and client devices. Tri-band variations allow for a dedicated antenna to be used for connecting to the router. While most extenders allow for reusing the same SSID (Wi-Fi name), some require a unique SSID for the extender, making it act like an access point.

Find Wi-Fi Extenders on Amazon (affiliate link).

Wi-Fi Extender Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Wireless (Wi-Fi) Mesh System

Wi-Fi Mesh Systems include a router and multiple repeater "satellite" devices. The satellites are similar to a Wi-Fi Extender. Each mesh device communicates with nearby devices to create complete coverage using a single SSID (Wi-Fi name). Wireless mesh networks can have a bit more latency (delay) and slower speeds due to the multiple wireless "hops" required before packets reach the Internet. Tri-band variations allow for a dedicated antenna to be used for connecting to the other "satellites."

Mesh Wi-Fi Systems are becoming more popular as they simplify getting Wi-Fi signals into hard-to-reach locations of a home. They create a Wi-Fi network with multiple Wi-Fi access points to spread out the Wi-Fi coverage. Each of these Wi-Fi access points is called a satellite node.

However, as each satellite node in a Mesh System is just repeating Wi-Fi data to transport it to and from the router, there may be a performance penalty.

To avoid the lower performance via satellite nodes, you can run Ethernet cables between the main router and satellite nodes. Using this wired connection is called "Ethernet Backhaul."

The drawback to this solution is that your home may not already be wired for Ethernet. To avoid adding additional Ethernet wiring, you can instead use a coax Ethernet backhaul.

Coax Ethernet backhaul means that you are using your home's coax wiring with MoCA adapters (TR) to connect the router to the satellite nodes. Wired backhauls will result in a fast connection throughout your house, ideally without needing additional in-wall wiring.

Find Wi-Fi Mesh Systems on Amazon (affiliate link).

Mesh Network Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Wireless (Wi-Fi) Bridge

A wireless bridge connects one or more networks wirelessly. A wireless bridge is like a wireless repeater but can also connect two wired networks via a wireless connection.

Find Wireless Bridges on Amazon (affiliate link).

Network Hub

Hubs relay packets to all connected ports, resulting in more congestion than a switch because packets are sent to all connected clients. A hub is similar to a wired variation of an access point.

Most network hubs only work at 100 Mbps speeds, so it's best to get a Network Switch instead.

Network Switch

Network switches connect multiple devices or network equipment. Unlike a hub, a switch relays packets to only their target client rather than all connected clients. A switch is the wired equivalent of an Access Point.

Find Gigabit Network Switches on Amazon (affiliate link).

Network Switch Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Next Steps

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After reading through this equipment list, you'll likely want to check out these related articles: