Launtel boss Damian Ivereigh has savaged NBN’s hybrid-fibre coax access technology (more commonly just called HFC), calling it the network’s single most unreliable product.

That savagery is not without cause. While most people know that NBN’s Fibre to the Node product is far from ideal – and to be sure, it does have its own issues – even FTTN is considered by Launtel and other industry players to be preferable to HFC.

Not the least of which is because the government has announced an upgrade path from FTTN to full fibre to the premises … whereas HFC users have had no such luck.

If you’re an NBN HFC user, see if you’ve experienced any of the horrible list of woes below (taken from Launtel’s blog on the topic):

  1. The service drops out a lot, for some customers multiple times a day. The NTD lights start flashing and your service is down until it can resync with the HFC Node.
  2. The NTD needs to be plugged in and connected before an RSP can provision a service – this requires multiple contacts with the client to double check, get feedback on the lights etc. Even then, many provisioning attempts fail because apparently the signal levels are too low. This then requires an NBN technician to go out and install a new NTD. This can be on an NTD that had an active service just days previously.
  3. They did not bolt the NTD to the wall, like they did with FTTP and Fixed Wireless so it is common for tenants to take the old NTD with them when they leave a property. This NTD is useless to them because it won’t work at another address – so ends up in the trash. RSPs then have to get an NBN technician out to install a new one.
  4. There is currently a shortage of NBN NTD’s due to an upstream manufacturing issue (COVID-19 related), so NBN are “pacing out” the appointments in an attempt to manage their dwindling stock. The net result is appointments for a new or a replacement NTD is typically 2 to 3 months out. In fact it has become so bad that on many occasions there are no appointments available at all to be booked. RSPs have to escalate with NBN to get it resolved (2 to 3 days delay).
  5. NBN’s systems often show multiple NTD’s listed as being on site, however only one is really there. There is no way to line up which NTD is the real one – they don’t list any identifying feature in the NBN provisioning portal that RSPs can tie up with what the customer can see on the box itself (e.g. the MAC address). So RSPs and customers spend hours trying one NTD, failing and then having to try the other.
  6. RSPs often see packet loss on a service that appears to get worse and worse until eventually it stops – it’s suspected that NBN resets something in the node to fix it. Gives a whole new meaning to standard IT trick of rebooting your equipment to fix things.
  7. The HFC Nodes appear to have no battery backup, unlike FTTN. So when the power fails the entire area is out. RSPs have seen issues caused by faulty electrics (e.g. an RCD failure) that have taken 24 hours to get an electrician out to fix.
  8. The upload speed on HFC is woeful. This is not surprising given that it was designed for cable TV (i.e. broadcast signals moving down to the subscriber). Upload was added as an afterthought, easily gets congested and often struggles to even maintain the 40Mb upload that comes with the 100/40 speed. If you want to know why NBN is pushing the 100/20 speed (“Home Fast”), it is because of HFC – everything else can keep up.
  9. Because it is a broadcast medium – all the subscribers in an area are essentially connected together on a single coax cable – any issues with any one of the subscribers equipment (e.g. a faulty NTD putting noise on the cable) and it affects the entire segment, creating packet loss and dropouts. To make matters worse tracking down that faulty NTD is extremely hard to do remotely, requiring technicians to measure what is going on on the cable.
  10. Despite there being two physical ethernet ports on the NTD, NBN will only allow a single service at a time. Now this is not unique to HFC, it is the same with the other MTM technologies. This creates issues because RSPs are forced to do a service transfer (unlike FTTP & FW where they just activate the next port). This can cause customers to be offline for extended periods.

With this in mind, it’s hard to understand why – apart from political reasons – NBN Co is sinking more money into the aging and not-fit-for-purpose HFC networks.

Especially when it’s ridiculously expensive to upgrade it to a faster full-fibre connection.

Would you take the punt on an HFC NBN connection, or – if you had a choice – would you aim for something else instead?

12 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jamie S
Jamie S
1 month ago

Just an afterthought, Chris paid a shit load of money to get his fibre to the premises connection so I guess he has to try an justify the money he had to spend and bag out other NBN connections as well as write political posts about Donald Trump and then delete them. I used to write for Ausdroid but I can see the site going down the toilet with some of the Garbage being posted about Trump and Covid I can go to Murdoch press for that drivel, please don’t write about it here where people come to escape the… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Jamie S
Elvin
Elvin
Reply to  Jamie S
1 month ago

Thank you! I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks this.

Jamie S
Jamie S
Reply to  Elvin
1 month ago

Not at all Elvin, don’t forget there are other Australian tech websites out there to go to.

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago

Had HFC for 20+ years and NBN a couple of years ago. No issues at all and can do 2Mbps 1080P video calls all day long with acceptable packet loss below 1% at the worst of times.
People taking the NTD is laughable, that is his own company’s issue for not making sure it is clearly communicated. Do you take your Foxtel box with you, no because Foxtel told you not to lol
As Network Engineer, he’s just whining to save his business a few bucks. As always, you mileage may vary.

Peter
Peter
1 month ago

I’ve had 100/40 HFC at two different locations and the service was excellent both times. Upload (and download) speeds were consistently at the max and latency was <10ms.
Probably one of the (many) lucky people.

The NTD not being attached to the wall was definitely an oversight that is causing grief to RSPs and the NBN.

Brenton
Brenton
1 month ago

Very Insightful detail of the HFC faults . The Author must have had a good conversation to Technicians . The ones who work on Abbott/Turnballs muesli of the NBN mess . The cables are connected to taps in pits either underground or overhead . I am sure they do not use a silicon but only a rubber sock over the interface . A fair bit of Adelaide was underground goes back to the 90’s . That was on a different signal Hz to the NBN Hz range and I’ve heard it has trouble stabilising the packets over those high resistant… Read more »

JeniSkunk
JeniSkunk
1 month ago

Oh GODS!
I’m in for a maximum nightmare when I move house in March. That area of my suburb, copped HFC!
DAMN! 🙁
Now I have to decide to have an utterly unsuable Notional Fraudbland Notwork conned-nection and no home phone, or solely go telco 5G.
Seriously not happy.

Troy West
Troy West
1 month ago

HFC is not even close to how bad and unreliable NBN Fixed Wireless

Kenn
Kenn
1 month ago

Helpful info for me an HFC user, but too many unexplained TLA (Three letter acronyms!)

Dave247
Dave247
1 month ago

I guess I’ve been one of the lucky ones as I changed over to the NBN as soon as it became available in South East Vic, and have extremely rarely had any issues. Even though the speeds were the same I was just happy being able to chose my own ISP. There was some initial strangeness with initially with a increased ping to international servers but I believe that was due to poor routing by the ISP, as when I changed to a better one that all went away. I just happened to notice that ultrafast is available in my… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave247
Jamie S
Jamie S
1 month ago

My HFC connection is Brisbane has been mostly reliable over the last 2 or more years. Sure, I’ve had a few drops outs here and there, sometimes due to lightning strikes during storm season but the internet was never out for very long. I had FTTP in Hobart when I lived there and even that had the occasional drop out especially when the cable accidentally got cut under the water in Bass Strait. As far as whether I’d take a punt on HFC, I don’t really have a choice at the moment as that’s all the NBN offers in my… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Jamie S
Andrew Reilly
Andrew Reilly
1 month ago

I didn’t think that Tasmania got the HFC roll-out? I’ve been on HFC internet since the late 90s (Telstra says that the service started in ’96, which sounds about right). It was reasonably reliable for most of that time, but for most of it upload speeds were genuinely awful (but that was part of the age: ADSL uploads weren’t anything to get excited about either). At first it was only 128kb/s up, but that gradually improved over the years to about 2Mb/s in the years before the switch-over to NBN. The NBN modems changed to the more modern codec standard… Read more »