Compare HFC Cable broadband plans

HFC cable delivers Pay TV to many Australians, but it can also deliver high speed Internet services. Here's what you should know.

HFC or Cable internet uses the pay TV cables installed in the 90s to deliver high-speed broadband across Australia.


HFC delivers higher speeds than ADSL (or your phone line), but lower speeds than most NBN connections. Data allowances are the primary comparison point.

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Alex Kidman is a multi-award-winning consumer technology journalist and the Tech & Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for more than two decades.

Info last updated 29 November 2018.

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Broadband Offer

Telstra Cable Home Broadband Unlimited + Streaming Plan $99 24 Month

$99.00

Monthly

Min. Total Cost of $2475.00

Provider Logo
Unlimited

Data

0 - 30 Mbps

Download Speed


How does HFC Cable broadband work?

HFC (more formally, Hybrid Fibre Coaxial) uses the infrastructure laid down by Telstra and Optus in the 1990s for subscription television services such as Foxtel to deliver high-speed broadband Internet across Australia.

Cable broadband enters your home through a connection point similar to the one used for Pay TV delivery. From there, it connects to a cable-ready modem or modem-router. Historically, cable Internet has been offered almost exclusively by Telstra and Optus, but with the rollout of the National Broadband Network, HFC cables are being integrated into the NBN as part of the long-term Multi-Technology Mix strategy.

How fast is HFC Cable?

HFC Cable is capable of delivering much faster broadband speeds than ADSL and is, in general, sufficiently speedy for the average person – at least as far as downloads are concerned. There are essentially two-speed tiers for current cable products on the market. The baseline of any current HFC Cable plan will provide download speeds of up to 30Mbps, with the option to pay extra for a speed boost of up to 100Mbps.

Uploads are a different story. Typically, HFC Cable rarely exceeds a maximum of 2Mbps when uploading data.

There is a very important caveat here, however. HFC is a shared spectrum product, and what that means is that the speed available to you is not only dependent on the service you’re accessing (as it is with any Internet product or service) but also the activities of other users on the same connection point as you. It’s very common for cable users to experience a dip in speed during peak usage times due to this, which is why all plans are sold with an "up to" qualifier.

It's important to note that these speeds apply to standalone HFC cable connections, not HFC NBN connections. When incorporated into the NBN's multi-technology mix, HFC can support all four main tiers of NBN speeds, from Basic (nbn12) up to Premium (nbn100).

Where is HFC Cable available?

Telstra and Optus both concentrated their cable rollout plans in metropolitan areas when they were first laid out, and since they’ve long since stopped rolling cable, those are the areas where it is available. That said, with the NBN rollout progressing, both telcos are moving away from promoting their cable products.

How can I compare HFC Cable plans?

Speed

Providers tend to only sell two essential "tiers" of HFC Cable products, with the lower 30Mbps max speed plans being markedly cheaper. If fast downloads are essential, an optional speed boost will increase your theoretical maximum speed to 100Mbps, though upload speeds will be largely unaffected.

Cost

As with any broadband plan, you can pay a little for a small usage plan if that suits your needs or quite a bit more for additional data and services. It’s worth noting that the relative lack of competition in the HFC Cable space means that there’s really no such thing as a "budget" HFC plan, however.

Optus and Telstra also differ markedly in their current HFC Cable plan approaches, with all Optus plans coming with unlimited data bundles, while Telstra still offers capped cable plans as well as unlimited plans.

Will I need a new modem for HFC Cable broadband?

Both Optus and Telstra use specific modems that only work with their respective cable services. Each provider supplies a modem as a matter of course with its contract cable plans. For what it’s worth, Optus does supply a list of modems that may be compatible with its cable network, but Telstra has no such public facing model list.

For HFC NBN plans, most providers bundle in a cable-compatible modem as part of their services. You can also find a range of NBN-ready cable modems online and in retail stores now that the NBN rollout is in full swing.

If you find that the wireless part of the supplied cable modem is lacking, you can always connect a regular router of any type to the supplied cable modem and place it in Bridge Mode to enable the router to take over Internet provisioning. This should work, although neither Optus nor Telstra will specifically provide support for you doing so.

What other extras should I look for?

  • Bundled TV extras: Optus offers bundles with a Fetch TV set top box on its HFC Cable plans, adding in a variety of pay TV channels for an extra monthly fee.
  • Discounts for other bundling: Because HFC Cable is currently only offered by the two big telcos, it’s worth checking if you can score a discount on your plan price by bundling other services you may already be buying from them at the time of signing your contract. Depending on the current deal you might not get anything, but it’s definitely worth trying to save money over a two year contract especially.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    TangoJune 24, 2017

    Hi Team

    Your finder.com information provided on Broadband services in general is clearly explained, unbiased and informative. However, a confusion exists in your advertised cost for the Bundle package called, (Telstra Home Internet M Bundle – Cable with Speed Boost for $110 with up to 100 mbps and unlimited calls to standard local and national fixed lines and standard Australian mobiles.)

    When you click on your ‘Go to site’ link next to your advertised bundle on your site, the information found on the linked telstra site does not offer Speeds up to 100mbps for your advertised price of $110.

    You might want to clarify if your details are correct or my details obtained by selecting the same options on the telstra shop site are more than you quote of $110 (a speed boost from 25 mbps to 100 mbps is an add-on cost of $20/mth and the included calls cost more – $15/mth, taking the cost up to between $126 and $146(if a Netgear Frontier modem is needed).

    Can you please clarify if I am correct? Thanks

    Tango

    • Default Gravatar
      JonathanJune 24, 2017

      Hello Tango!

      Speeds of up to 100mbps is a maximum hypothetical speed that can be attained using HFC cable technology. Most telco providers in Australia will have the same disclosure on this matter. Speeds are never guaranteed as they are affected by multitude of factors such as your distance to the exchange, technical limitations, the bandwidth demand in your area, devices connected, etc.

      If you wish to understand this better, you may check the Critical Information Summary or talk this out with your network provider.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

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