Australia - National Broadband Network - HFC Networks


The main cable network operators Telstra and Optus have upgraded their cable networks with DOCSIS 3.0 technology in recent years, and so provide data at up to 100Mb/s across much of their networks. This investment has helped enable them to meet consumer demand for faster broadband services. However, these upgrades are interim measures: in Europe, HFC networks commonly deliver data at 200MB/s or higher, and there is considerable scope for Australian players to make additional upgrades. The roll out of the National Broadband Network under the December 2013 strategic review has placed a greater emphasis on existing hybrid fibre coax plant being part of the national broadband plan. In December 2014 the revised NBN agreement saw Telstra’s HFC network and elements of Optus’s HFC infrastructure deployed as part of the NBN, so reducing the overall cost of the NBN rollout, which aims to reach some 3.6 million premises by June 2016. NBN Co in April 2015 revealed plans to trial new HFC technologies in several suburbs of northern NSW and southern Queensland by mid-year, with a potential to incorporate DOCSIS 3.1 technology within the NBN’s multi-technology mix from 2017.

The other main cable player is TransACT, operating a hybrid fibre coax network in Ballarat, Geelong and Mildura. Since the acquisition of TransACT by iiNet in late 2011, these networks have been integrated in the latter’s company’s overall infrastructure plans.

At the beginning of 2015 there are 966,000 cable broadband subscribers, accounting for less than 8% of the total broadband market in Australia. However, most of these subscribers are high-end users providing relatively high ARPU for the cablecos.

This report provides an overview of the HFC networks run by the key operators. It also gives background information on technologies, including the development of the DOCSIS 3.1 standard, together with market statistics from a range of sources. The report assesses the potential market growth of HFC networks in the years leading to the deployment of the National Broadband Network.

Key developments:

NBN to trial new HFC technologies in mid-2015, looks to utilise DOCSIS 3.1 from 2017; NBN transition developments, NBN Co agrees to acquire Telstra’s HFC and copper assets, as well as utilise elements of Optus’s HFC plant; fibre broadband subscriber base shows rapid rise; 1; calls for HFC wholesale access services; ABS data to December 2014; analysis of the NBN strategic review; recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report:

AUSTAR, Optus, FOXTEL, Telstra, Neighbourhood Cable, TransACT.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Synopsis
  • 2. Technology
    • 2.1 Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC)
    • 2.2 The DOCSIS standard
    • 2.3 The next development for DOCSIS
    • 2.4 Can Cable Networks Deliver a Gigabit?
    • 2.5 HFC DOCSIS vs. fibre
  • 3. NBN - HFC Program
    • 3.1 Statistical overview 2015
    • 3.2 Overall plan
    • 3.3 Arris appointed supplier of the network
    • 3.4 Roll out plan
  • 4. Market statistics and estimates
  • 5. Telstra
    • 5.1 Background information
    • 5.2 Network upgrades
  • 6. Optus
    • 6.1 Overview
    • 6.2 Network upgrades
  • 7. IiNet/TransACT
    • 7.1 Overview
  • 8. BES/e-wire
  • 9. Austar United Communications (AUSTAR)
  • 10. Industry analysis
    • 10.1 DOCSIS 3.0 -v- DOCSIS 3.1 (Analysis)
    • 10.2 Do we need infrastructure-based competition?
    • 10.3 Moving on from the HFC of the past
    • 10.4 No long-term future in HFC cable broadband
    • 10.5 HFC incorporated in multi-technology NBN
    • 10.6 From HFC to Fibre-to-the-Premises (FttP)
    • 10.7 Open access policy
  • 11. Related reports
  • Table 1 – HFC Roll out 2014-2018 cumulative (‘000)
  • Table 2 - Weighted average cost per HFC premise (rounded nearest $100)
  • Table 3 – Cable broadband subscribers by major operator and annual change – 2002 - 2014
  • Table 4 – Cable subscribers versus other broadband technologies – 2009 - 2014
  • Table 5 – Optus financial data – 2011 - 2015
  • Table 6 – Optus financial data – 2011 – 2015
  • Table 7 – Optus financial data by sector – 2009 - 2015
  • Table 8 – Optus on-net broadband subscribers – 2009 - 2014
  • Chart 1 – Overview of cable broadband subscribers by operator and annual change – 2002 - 2014
  • Chart 2 – Overview of cable subscribers versus other broadband technologies – 2009 – 2014
  • Exhibit 1 – HFC network status

Focus Report profile


Broadband Fixed
Telecoms Infrastructure

Number of pages: 17

Status: Current

Last update: 07 September 2015
View update history

Analyst: Henry Lancaster

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