A guide to understanding nbn™ HFC vs FTTN
Are you excited about accessing the nbn™ but finding some of the terms a little confusing? One of the most common things that people find confusing are the different forms of nbn™ technology available – for example, HFC vs FTTC. It’s useful to know these differences as they can affect the kinds of services that are available to you.
You might have heard of terms like FTTP, FTTC, HFC and FTTN. These may look like a jumble of letters, but they are some of the different connection types. The connection type you get at your home depends on what is going to be used in your area.
In this article, we focus on the difference between HFC and FTTN, explaining what these mean and their implications for your nbn™ connection.
FTTN vs HFC: An overview
FTTN and HFC are two of the different types of nbn™ connections available. Although these connection types both use existing infrastructure to connect your home, it is important to understand how they are different and what this may mean for your connection.
What is FTTN?
FTTN, or fibre to the node, has a central connection point, known as a node, that is usually at the end of a street or between a number of streets. FTTN is one of the most popular connection types, and varies from FTTP and FTTC. You can find more information about these connection types here.
With an FTTN connection, the node is central so that it has the ability to service a street, or a number of streets. While the FTTN network uses fibre optic cable to the node, the connection to your home will use existing copper telephone cabling. FTTN is often faster to install (depending on the area) as it uses existing infrastructure to complete the connection.
What is HFC?
A HFC (hybrid fibre coaxial) connection is basically the same as a cable connection. Historically, this type of connection has been used to provide services like Foxtel. HFC is similar to FTTN in that optic fibre is used to a central node. However, in HFC the last part of the connection, to your home, uses pre-existing cable TV (known as pay TV) or cable network lines, rather than copper telephone cabling like FTTN.
HFC vs FTTN: Speeds
In the ACCC broadband speed test, HFC delivered approximately 86% of the maximum plan speed during busy hours. In contrast, FTTN provided approximately 78% of the maximum plan speed during the same busy hours.
Underperforming services were mostly FTTN connections, and these didn’t come close to maximum plan speeds. This is often due to limitations with some FTTN lines or connection issues such as wiring faults.
While FTTP has typically been labelled the fastest nbn™ connection type, it is interesting to note that HFC and FTTP actually achieve very similar speeds.
So what are the actual speeds to expect for HFC and FTTN? While the nbn™ used to publish specific tiered plans on its website, that’s no longer the case, though you can find out minimum speed estimates for busy periods. What’s for sure is that both HFC and FTTN are much faster than ADSL for most people. For specific speeds on a particular plan, every Internet Service Provider (ISP) should have this displayed on their website. This is usually described as ‘typical evening speed’, so keep your eye out for that wording.
Note: other factors like hardware, modems, time of day, and number of users online at your house can also impact the speeds achieved.
HFC vs FTTN: Costs
Connecting to the nbn™ isfree for a standard installation to the outside of your property regardless of the type of connection (HFC, FTTN, or other) you have. However if you require special equipment or a varied installation, you might need to pay a fee. This will be determined when you are ready to connect to the nbn™.
Other than that, you only need to pay an activation fee if your ISP requires you to, and your monthly access fee. How much you pay will also vary depending on the plan you choose and its speed and data allowance.
HFC vs FTTN: Installation
With HFC, you’ll usually need have an nbn™ utility box installed on the outside of your home. You might need to connect your nbn™ connection box to your existing pay TV socket if you already have pay TV. If you don’t have pay TV but have a HFC connection in your area, the installation process might be slightly different but also fairly straight forward.
With FTTN, you won’t need to have an nbn™ utility box installed as the connection uses existing copper cables to run from the node to your home. You do, however,need to have a VDSL2 compatible modem, which might come with your ISP’s plan. You can then use the correct cables to connect your modem to a telephone socket (in your connection box), and use an Ethernet cable or wireless connection to connect devices to the internet. If you have a home phone, this will now be connected to your modem.