NBN Co's plan for HFC networks can work: Arris

Telco equipment manufacturing company Arris is convinced that NBN Co's strategy for HFC networks will work, drawing on overseas examples as evidence.

Despite concerns that if NBN Co took the hybrid fibre-coxial (HFC) cable networks of Telstra and Optus, the network would not be able to provide and support appropriate speeds, particularly for uploads, Joshua Eum, Asia-Pacific chief technology officer of US telco equipment manufacturing company Arris, has argued otherwise.

Speaking at the CommsDay NBN Rebooted event in Sydney on Tuesday, Eum said that NBN Co's multi-technology mix strategy has given a "new lease of life" to HFC.

"The issue with the HFC network is that it has been a dead man walking for the better half of half a decade, where investments have not flowed into the network itself, rather it has gone to DSL and fibre-to-the-node technologies," he said.

"So when you look at where HFC network was, basically from zero it was going to be overbuilt by fibre to the home, and essentially, the network was going to be cut off. Now we're in a situation where possibly up to one third of the Australian houses could be connected to the HFC network."

Based on documentation obtained by ZDNet in August, NBN Co plans to offer the same layer 2 wholesale service on the HFC networks out to 30 percent of the population as is offered to users on the fibre network under the proposal.

NBN Co's head of product development and sales John Simon told ZDNet at the time that as part of NBN Co taking over the HFC networks, it would upgrade the HFC networks across the board, install lead-ins for premises that are passed by the HFC footprint and cannot connect to services, and reconfigure the setup on the cable as Telstra and Optus customers transition off the cables and NBN customers move onto the cables.

Eum said that critics only have to look at other countries as proof that HFC can deliver speeds comparable to fibre to the premises. For example, Comcast in the United States is delivering broadband via HFC networks to over 60 percent of North America at speeds of 150Mbps. Similarly, Zyggo in the Netherlands is offering broadband at 200Mbps, and, closer to home in APAC, operators in Korean and Japan are offering 300Mbps. They also have 500Mbps and 1GBps already in pilot, ready to be deployed.

Gerry White, Cisco distinguished engineer, said in support of the NBN Co's plans for HFC networks that it hopes to enhance running speeds, reduce the cost per gigabits, and push more fibre data.

Cisco has previously said that it believes the HFC networks owned by Telstra and Optus could be quickly integrated into the NBN.

"It's faster to deploy, because the infrastructure is all there. It's already there to 3 million homes, therefore it is much more cost effective to deploy. We believe that 3 million homes can be done in a very relatively short period of time," said Ken Boal, Cisco ANZ managing director, in March.

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