Quelle surprise! Cisco supports a HFC cable NBN



blog Call me cynical, call me a jaded old journalist who’s seen too much in his short life, call me suspicious, but I have to say I wasn’t precisely surprised to see the news that US-based networking equipment giant Cisco Systems is spruiking the benefits of a National Broadband Network project based on HFC cable technology. After all, Cisco does have a sizable business selling HFC cable equipment, especially in the US, the global home of HFC cable. Computerworld reports (we recommend you click here for the full article, and there’s more HFC adoration at The Australian):

“HFC is the right option for the country,” Ken Boal, Cisco vice president for ANZ, told media at the Cisco Live conference in Melbourne. “It’s faster to deploy because the infrastructure is already there … for 3 million homes.”

Those of us who’ve been watching the technology sector for more than a few years have come to expect this kind of self-serving pronouncement from vendors. Alcatel-Lucent is known for spruiking the Fibre to the Node technology it is popularising throughout Europe, on-premises software might as well not even exist as far as cloud specialist Salesforce.com is concerned, and everything can be solved by virtualisation, if you speak with VMWare. We advise readers and policymakers to remember where each of these companies makes their money. If you want advice that is 100 percent objective, you had better seek elsewhere.

(Not that we’re saying there’s anything wrong with that. As an online publisher, your writer is known for his habit of criticising print media and espousing the power of the Internet. Every individual and company is incentivised to swing for their own team and rightly so. But it is also important for objective commentators to note this when they do.)

As a technology, HFC cable definitely has its advantages. Many of us are enjoying 100Mbps download speeds through the HFC cable networks right now. But there are also very good reasons why it hasn’t been more widely deployed in Australia. The development path the Coalition is proposing for the Telstra and Optus HFC cable networks — open, wholesale access — has very little precedent globally, and there are also troubling technical questions relating to congestion, upload speeds, and long-term download speeds. HFC cable isn’t all Fibre — like FTTN it’s still part copper — and it still suffers many of copper’s limitations, especially in the long-term.

Plus, there is also the old problem of getting HFC access into multi-dwelling units, many of whom are locked out of the HFC footprint which passed by their premises even now. There are many complex issues to work through; and it’s important not to gloss over them as part of the national broadband debate.

Image credit: Cisco Systems


  1. Grr. All these companies who would rather put profit over the needs of people is SO STUPID.

    I promise all readers of Delimiter, If I become Leader of the Western World, I will put an end to it!!!

    • Vote David for internet election!
      “It’s faster to deploy…” When was the last time any HFC was deployed here in Australia? There’s like hardly any of it in WA.

      • Some HFC was deployed about 6 years ago on my estate in WA.

        eWire had it running at a blazing fast 2 Mbps (they’ve since upped it to 8 Mbps), so I went with ADSL1 instead.

        I have no idea what NBNCo are going to do here, but according to their website I can’t get HFC.

  2. In this week’s 268 page Wentworth Courier, page 55 (rate card price for a full page colour advertisement in the real estate section $12,000) we find the following breathless observation.

    “HOME sellers in the eastern suburbs can expect to add more than $650,000 to the sale price of their property by using print advertising during their open house campaign, new research has revealed.”

    Which has nothing to do with the fact the vendors of less valuable properties can’t afford print advertising.

    It is unfortunate that so many “journalists” can only find work in PR these days.

  3. I wish that there was no HFC in my street.

    I have lousy ADSL (so bad I run G.Dmt and flakey with weather changes) but HFC is not something I can use.

    The price is too high.
    I have a static IP and a /29. I don’t think the cable-guy knows what that means.
    The ISP would be one prick or the other and I don’t trust either of them.
    I have done work for a user of HFC and we can’t do it at kiddy-time or mad gamers time.

    But that know-all merchant banker thinks it is a real hot-shot upgrade with better speed.

    WTF would he know.

      • And that’s rather fortunate for us gamers, given my HFC connection sometimes slows down from 30Mbps to <5Mbps during peak periods.

        Peak gaming time = peak internet time for most non-gamers as well, you know.

      • Enough to know that gamers and kiddies are 2 distinct groups (since the average age of gamers is 30).

  4. It’s worth remembering that when Telstra followed Optus around installing the second set of HFC, in their rush both groups bypassed many small pockets of customers.

    I’ve seen estimates that a third of Australians live in HFC areas, but that up to third of premises in those areas do not have access to HFC.

    So if you are in a HFC area, but don’t have actual HFC running past your house you are not going to get FTTN, FTTP or even satellite for that matter. You will have to wait until the HFC network is essentially rebuilt at huge cost by NBNCo before you see any improvement at all.

    No wonder Cisco is seeing dollar signs.

    So much for cheaper, quicker.

  5. Renai is just jealous he didn’t get to “flew to Melbourne as a guest of Cisco” :D

  6. EuroDOCSIS 3.0 supports 1334/245mbps, compariable to today’s fibre deployments.

    Hybrid fibre coaxial cable networks have very different characteristics to twisted pair copper network – silly to lump them as just “copper”.

    Access to NBNCo’s transit network can significantly alter end-user contention issues.

    Plenty of options exist for connecting MDU not currently connected to the HFC network (without extending coax), all significantly faster to deploy than fibre (just look to NBNCos terrible MDU performance).

    Not surprising HFC and FTTN are pushed by vendors given their demonstrated success overseas and relative poor performance of NBNCo.

    • Connecting to NBN will not solve the contention issues.

      Contention comes from the amount of people sharing the same HFC cable.

    • Todays fibre deployments are 2.5 gigabits/second shared between a maximum of 32 users.

      How many people share the 1.3 gigabits/second?

      They are comparable in headline figures, (1.3 is genuinely quite close to 2.5) but the contention of 2.5/32 I suspect is much much better than 1.3/100+?

    • There is no doubt that EuroDOCSIS 3.0 (“supports 1334/245mbps, compariable to today’s fibre deployments”) is fast, but are you suggesting that there will only be 32 users connected to each node?

      NBNs transit network is designed to have a node no more then 15 km from any user. It must be a stretch to expect that to support it being easily extended to being within 450 m of each user (15 m per house front X 30 users). Surely a budget build would increase the number of homes per node to something “reasonable”

      It might go something like this….

      Average broadband use = 50 Gb per month
      Capacity 1334/245mbps per month = 350,000 Gb per month
      Number of homes per node = 350,000/50 = 7000
      Distance between nodes = 35km (15 m per house front X 7000 users) (Totally ridiculous I know…)

      Higher capacity of EuroDOCSIS 3.0 is not just an opportunity to give more bandwidth, but an opportunity to increase the number of users per node, saving $.

      • HFC is only theoretically a right fit for Australia.

        If the number of users per HFC node was locked at 32, each user would have a guaranteed 41/8 mbps down/up connection. That’s good for what, 3 years before it no longer meets the requirement according to the LNP policy they took to the election?

        Yes, in theory it can deliver more due to it being a shared bandwidth pool but all being equal, it still will not meet those minimum requirements.

        So, why spend massive amounts of money only to have to do it all again in less than 3 years time in order to meet a policy requirement?

      • “Higher capacity of EuroDOCSIS 3.0 is not just an opportunity to give more bandwidth, but an opportunity to increase the number of users per node, saving $.”

        Paul, I take it your experience is limited, that’s OK.
        You may have read above where contention makes it increasingly unuseable on HFC, especially outside school hours. Both Telstra and Optus state that their HFC is not business capable for that reason among others.

        Your maths is suspect.
        1334MB/7000 which is the realityyou recommend – (actually practically it is worse during peak periods due to packet collisions) = 0.19 MB/Sec or 190Kb/Sec. Upload however, remember every operation including streaming uses handshake signals back before proceeding with the next packet.
        Upload 245Mb/7000 = 36.285KB/Sec

        However I fully expect The Libs CBN FTTH to be up to 1000/node rather than up to 32/Node – (average is 26 – allowing 6 spare ports for new dwellings etc), so that HFC will appear to be as good or at least comparable to FTTH

        Truly fantastic for all those $Billions

    • MDU’s
      Just go and check for yourself in as many MDU locations as possible where and what their telecoms facilities are.
      Do not judge by Commercial buildings which have capacity provided for many thousand internal PABX services, a MDF room with often multiple floor IDF cabinets or even cupboards to handle the number of lines,

      Residential MDU’s often just have a smallish cabinet or box mounted generally under stairwells or if lifts , in the utilities space adjacent, (Shared with Power, Water, Sewage and sprinkler plumbing.). Those MDU’s with security doors will also have their door intercom/control and these days video (using adaptors for twisted pair telephone cable or cat5 as appropriate) cabling all running on the common telephony cables via the “Main Frame” and the “floor distribution frames” – (maybe a little white, grey or cream 10 pair distribution box). Not as simple as being proposed.
      Most likely for many MDU’s especially if several close together, they will just be provided from FTTN cabinets in the street.
      Basements are common in the US and Europe for their heating Boilers, but uncommon in residential premises in Australia in all but the multi floor residential units with underground parking and the many hundred units per MDU premises

  7. “It’s faster to deploy because the infrastructure is already there … for 3 million homes.”


    I had a party at my house, and I was the first to get here because I already live here.

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