HFC NBN Explained

Find out more about HFC connections on the NBN, how they work and their potential speeds.

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, updated on February 13th, 2024       

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HFC is a unique technology within the National Broadband Network, one of seven currently available in Australia. If you have a HFC connection available at your address, it’s essential to understand its ins and outs before you dive into buying your NBN plan.

In this comprehensive Savvy guide, we'll break down what HFC NBN is, how it differs from other NBN technologies and what you can expect in terms of speed and reliability. Read more with us today!

What is a HFC connection for the NBN and how does it work?

HFC stands for Hybrid Fibre Coaxial and is one of the technologies used to deliver the National Broadband Network (NBN) to homes and businesses in Australia. It combines fibre optic cables and coaxial cables, often the same as those used for pay TV, to transmit internet data.

Here's how it works:

  1. NBN Point of Interconnect: the network starts with a fibre optic cable which runs from a Point of Interconnect (essentially a hub) to a nearby node.
  2. Coaxial cable to your home: from the node, coaxial cables are used to transmit data to your home. These cables are capable of carrying high-speed internet signals.
  3. Two-way data transfer: HFC allows for two-way data transfer. When you request a webpage or stream a video, your modem sends the request via the coaxial cable to the node or basement, where it's then transferred over the faster fibre optic backbone of the NBN and back again.

In summary, HFC NBN uses a combination of fibre optic and coaxial cables to bring a high-speed internet connection to your home. It's a reliable and efficient technology, particularly if you're in an area where HFC infrastructure is already in place. If you currently have a pay TV subscription or had one previously, you’re likely eligible for a HFC NBN plan through the existing infrastructure.

How is my HFC NBN connection installed and what equipment do I need?

The installation of an HFC NBN connection typically involves these steps:

  1. NBN Connection Box: an NBN technician will visit your premises to install an NBN Connection Box, which acts as the interface between the NBN network and your home. This box is usually installed within the home or business premises, plugging into an existing coaxial outlet.
  2. NBN Utility Box: you’ll also need a Utility Box to be installed if you’re accessing the NBN via a HFC connection. This is placed on the outside of your house and should be installed when the NBN was/is rolled out in your neighbourhood.
  3. Connecting the router: with the Connection Box serving as the modem, you'll need a compatible wireless router to connect to it in order to distribute your connection to your various devices. This can either be included for free or an additional charge by your provider or purchased independently (such as from a previous connection).
  4. Activation: after the physical installation, your service provider will activate your NBN connection, which may take a few hours to a day. You'll receive instructions on how to set up your Wi-Fi network and devices.
  5. If you’re still using pay TV: in the event your pay TV subscription, such as Foxtel, is still in use, you’ll be provided with a splitter to divide your coaxial wall outlet so you can plug in both your internet and TV at the same time.

The process is relatively straightforward, with NBN technicians usually responsible for the installation to ensure everything is set up correctly.

How fast are HFC NBN connections?

HFC NBN connections are known for their high-speed capabilities. Alongside Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) connections, they’re the only connection type which can support speeds beyond NBN 100, meaning you may be able to choose an NBN 250 or NBN 1000 plan if you have this type. However, not all HFC connections are capable of supporting these speeds, so it’s worth checking before you commit to your plan.

It's important to note that the actual speeds you experience can vary due to factors like network congestion and your service provider. To access the best speeds, ensure you choose an appropriate plan and have a capable Wi-Fi router to handle the speed offered by your plan.

In summary, HFC NBN connections can offer fast and reliable internet speeds, making them suitable for a wide range of online activities, from casual browsing to demanding tasks like online gaming and 4K video streaming.

Common questions about HFC NBN connections

What’s the difference between HFC and cable internet connections?

HFC and cable internet connections are similar in that they both use coaxial cables for the final connection to your home. However, there are key differences:

  • Infrastructure ownership: HFC NBN is owned and maintained by the National Broadband Network in Australia, whereas cable internet is provided by private companies.
  • Technology: HFC NBN uses a combination of fibre optic cables and coaxial cables, while traditional cable internet relies solely on coaxial cables.
  • Speed and capacity: HFC NBN has the potential to offer higher speeds, especially during peak times, due to its upgraded infrastructure. Traditional cable internet speeds, while still much faster than ADSL plans, cap out at around 100Mbps.
  • Availability: HFC NBN is more widely available in Australia as part of the NBN rollout, while cable internet is only available through one provider (as of September 2023) and in areas where the NBN is yet to be rolled out.
Can I install a HFC NBN connection if I don’t have a pay TV subscription?

Yes – you can install an HFC NBN connection even if you don't currently have a pay TV subscription. HFC NBN uses the existing coaxial cable infrastructure, which may have been previously used for pay TV services. However, this infrastructure will need to be present to establish a HFC connection, meaning you or a previous owner of your home or business will need to have had pay TV at some point.

What happens to my connection in an NBN outage?

During an NBN outage, your internet connection will be disrupted. The exact duration of the outage and the cause can vary. To address this:

  1. Check for outages in your area: use an online outage checker, look up your internet service provider's website and search their social media for outage information and updates.
  2. Restart your modem: to rule out the possibility of a modem issue, it’s worth resetting your modem and seeing if this restores your internet.
  3. Contact your provider: if the outage persists or if it's a widespread issue, contact your NBN service provider for assistance and updates on when service will be restored.
  4. Look for alternative connections: if you have a mobile data plan or a mobile hotspot, you can use your smartphone or mobile device to stay online. Alternatively, you may wish to move to a public Wi-Fi network.
Can I switch to a different NBN connection type?

Switching to a different NBN connection type and the cost of doing so depends on the availability of that type in your area. NBN Co has announced its intention to upgrade more homes around Australia to FTTP connections for free, but you can also elect to do so on a paid basis through its Technology Choice program. However, changing the underlying connection technology may cost a significant amount of money and, in the case of HFC, may not yield wildly improved speeds from what you’re already capable of receiving.

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Savvy is partnered with Econnex Comparison (CIMET Sales Pty Ltd, ABN 72 620 395 726) to provide readers with a variety of internet plans to compare. We do not compare all retailers in the market, or all plans offered by all retailers. Savvy earns a commission from Econnex each time a customer buys an internet plan via our website. We don’t arrange for products to be purchased directly, as all purchases are conducted via Econnex.

Any advice presented above is general in nature and doesn’t consider your personal or business objectives, needs or finances. It’s always important to consider whether advice is suitable for you before purchasing an internet plan. For further information on the variety of internet plans compared by Econnex, or how their business works, you can visit their website.

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