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