Australia - National Broadband Network - HFC Networks


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 utilised within the national broadband infrastructure. The HFC networks of Telstra and Optus’s are being deployed as part of the NBN, so reducing the overall cost of the project’s rollout. However, nbn’s Corporate Plan for 2017 envisages greater use of FttN in HFC areas, given the mounting cost of connecting premises with HFC.

Before this incorporation within the NBN, the cable networks of Telstra and Optus had both been upgraded with DOCSIS3.0 technology, with many nodes capable of delivering data at up to 100Mb/s while the remainder can deliver data at up to 30Mb/s. In international terms, the capabilities of HFC in Australia remain comparatively low, and there is considerable scope for improvement. In Europe, HFC networks commonly deliver data at up to 360MB/s, while some networks (such as Vodafone’s in Germany) deliver data at 400Mb/s.

Nbn completed trials of its HFC service in Redcliffe, Queensland, in February 2016 and planned to launch commercial services later in the year, with some 3.6 million premises expected to be serviced by the network. Nbn is also expected to operate services based on the DOCSIS3.1 during 2017, capable of delivering data at 1Gb/s. With the NBN being a hot-topic in the run up to the federal election, the opposition Labor party has declared that it would maintain the current plan of using HFC with DOCSIS3.1 in major metro areas.

In September 2016 nbn confirmed Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point (FTTdp), also known as Fibre-to-the-curb, would be deployed to a potential footprint of up to 700,000 premises across the country. The nbn is abandoning plans to reuse existing Optus HFC assets, with the exception of the already launched network in Redcliffe, Queensland.

The expanded FTTC footprint fills the void left by NBN’s decision not to use the Optus cable assets, although it will still be using Telstra’s more extensive HFC network as planned. NBN is however still aiming for an HFC footprint of between 2.5 and 3.2 million premises by 2020, using the Telstra assets. The next step in the FTTC process will be a much more extensive field trial in mid-2017 with NBN’s RSP customers, going all the way from exchange to pit to premise.

In September 2016 nbn confirmed Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point (FTTdp), also known as Fibre-to-the-curb, would be deployed to a potential footprint of up to 700,000 premises across the country

In markets across Europe as well as in North America the key driver for deploying DOCSIS3.1 is the wave of new broadband and video competitors. Telcos as well as new operators such as Google Fiber are deploying 1Gb/s services based on FttH, and this is prompting cablecos to accelerate their DOCSIS3.1 deployment plans.

This report provides an overview of HFC networks, including the status of network upgrades as well as data on subscribers and market statistics.

Key developments:

Nbn to step up FttN connections in HFC areas; CableLabs certification of vendor equipment for DOCSIS3.1 supporting nbn’s plans for DOCSIS3.1 roll out from 2017; ACCC considers access regulation on superfast broadband services; Optus HFC network could be unfit for purpose for incorporation within the NBN; HFC subscriber growth continues; NBN transition developments, fibre broadband subscriber base shows rapid rise; report update includes ABS data to December 2015, 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 NBN Indicates Upgrade path for HFC
    • 2.6 HFC DOCSIS vs. fibre
  • 3. NBN - HFC Program
    • 3.1 Statistical overview
    • 3.2 Overall plan
    • 3.3 FttN and FTTB as infills for HFC
    • 3.4 Early 2016
    • 3.5 FTTdp to be used instead of Optus HFC network
    • 3.6 Arris appointed supplier of the network
    • 3.7 Roll out plan
    • 3.8 HFC pilot in Queensland
  • 4. Market statistics and estimates
  • 5. Telstra
    • 5.1 Background information
    • 5.2 Network upgrades
  • 6. Optus
    • 6.1 Overview
  • 7. IiNet/TransACT
  • 8. BES/e-wire
  • 9. hfc NETWORK dARWIN
  • 10. Industry analysis
    • 10.1 DOCSIS3.0 -v- DOCSIS3.1
    • 10.2 Do we need infrastructure-based competition?
    • 10.3 Moving on from the HFC of the past
    • 10.4 HFC incorporated in multi-technology NBN
    • 10.5 From HFC to Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH)
    • 10.6 Open access policy
    • 10.7 Superfast Broadband Access Service (SBAS)
  • 11. Related reports
  • Table 1 – HFC Roll out 2016-2018
  • Table 2 - Weighted average cost per HFC premise (rounded nearest $100)
  • Table 3 – NBN capital expenditure – FY2015-2016
  • Table 4 – HFC cable broadband subscribers – 2012 - 2017
  • Table 5 – Cable broadband subscribers by major operator and annual change – 2002 - 2015
  • Table 6 – Cable subscribers versus other broadband technologies – 2009 - 2015
  • Table 7 – Optus financial data – 2011 - 2016
  • Table 8 – Optus financial data by sector – 2009 - 2016
  • Table 9 – Optus on-net broadband subscribers – 2009 - 2016
  • Chart 1 – Overview of cable broadband subscribers by operator and annual change – 2002 - 2015
  • Chart 2 – Overview of cable subscribers versus other broadband technologies – 2009 – 2015
  • Chart 3 – Optus financial data – 2011 – 2016

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Number of pages 17

Status Current

Last updated 10 Feb 2017
Update History

Analyst: Phil Harpur

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