Cable Internet: Everything you need to know

07 December 2016

Cable internet - also known as Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC) - is a broadband technology that uses a combination of fibre and coaxial cables to connect you to the world wide web. Fibre is laid to a central node in a neighbourhood, and coaxial cable is then used to connect buildings to this node. Coaxial cable is similar to the copper used to deliver ADSL, but is insulated to prevent interference. In Australia, cable has also been used to deliver digital pay TV services such as Foxtel.

Note: This guide refers to pre-NBN cable internet, as opposed to cable that has been integrated into the National Broadband Network.

How fast is cable internet?

Cable internet offers download speeds of up to 100Mbps, and upload speeds around 2Mbps. Your actual speeds will be determined by the type of connection you pay for, and the state of the infrastructure in your area.

What equipment do I need for a cable internet connection?

If you sign up for a cable internet connection, you'll use a cable modem to connect to the internet. Telstra and Optus both provide these to new customers. Since Telstra and Optus are the only telcos selling cable internet in Australia, finding third party cable modems in stores can be tough, so you'll probably need to stick with what your telco gives you.

If you've got Foxtel and a cable internet connection, you may need a splitter.

What's the difference between NBN HFC and Telstra or Optus Cable?

NBN is repurposing Telstra's existing cable internet network for use in the National Broadband Network multi-technology mix (MTM). Telstra's existing network will be "augmented and expanded" as part of the National Broadband Network build.

Existing Telstra cable customers who get moved onto the HFC National Broadband Network will benefit from much faster upload speeds. On a top-tier NBN plan, HFC customers will be able to upload at 40Mbps, whereas pre-NBN cable speeds are as low as 2Mbps.

NBN is also promising more capacity, which should reduce network congestion in peak times. This will however depend on where you live, your provider and the amount of capacity they purchase.

While NBN also purchased the rights to use Optus' cable network, the Optus network will be deprecated and customers will be moved to other technology types.

Woman using keyboard image from ShutterStock.

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