The HFWC network

By Dudy Cohen 5 min read

The HFWC Network

When HFC is simply not enough and FTTB is not an option

If you understand some of the acronyms in the headline, you will probably find this article useful.

Hybrid Fiber and Coaxial (HFC) networks are the infrastructure architecture of choice for most Multiple System Operators (MSOs). Designed originally to support the distribution of analog TV signals to households, the HFC architecture is based on a fiber backbone with a coaxial distribution and access layer. This architecture served its initial purpose and well beyond.

The move to digital broadcasting and multi-play services (the addition of residential voice and data services in addition to basic video services) required multiple updates and upgrades to the underlying technology used with HFC networks, mostly achieved through the evolution of the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) standard that governs high-bandwidth data transfer in cable systems. While speeds have increased considerably and capabilities expanded over time, the underlying architecture has remained unchanged over the years, with the caveat that fiber is being deployed deeper into the access layer, as capacity requirements have mandated the need for a more distributed access architecture and shorter coaxial loop.

Many MSOs are discovering that by adding wireless transport to the mix and deploying Hybrid Fiber Wireless & Coaxial (HFWC) networks, they can address new challenges and realize new growth opportunities.  

Current trends giving rise to the need for change

Today, there are two current trends that are giving rise to the need for change in the MSO network architecture:

  • The first is the desire to offer more services to business customers. These large, medium and even small businesses are not typically covered by the existing HFC infrastructure (as it was originally deployed with a strong residential orientation). Broadly speaking, as a segment, business customers require higher reliability and service level agreements.
  • Secondly, the growing demand for residential broadband, video on demand (VOD) and UHD video unicast services requires more and more upgrades to the HFC network. This goes as far as requiring changes to the architecture, which is not always optimal for answering this demand for capacity.

Solving the challenge

A possible solution for both trends and the requirements they entail is moving towards a Fiber-to-the-X (FTTx) architecture. Fiber-to-the-Curb (FTTC), Fiber-to-the-Building (FTTB) and Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) can provide the necessary capacity for almost any business or residential need, while eliminating the limitations of the coaxial shared medium. However, the deployment of fiber is not always eco-scalable. In other words, fiber deployment is justifiable from a business perspective when it serves multiple lucrative business and/or residential broadband customers. Moreover, in cases where demand is lower, deploying fiber is not really a viable option.

This is exactly where wireless transport completes the current HFC architecture. It is an extremely cost-efficient option for deploying high-capacity (multi-Gbps) for customers, buildings, or fiber-nodes. By utilizing high-capacity point-to-point wireless, either in microwave bands or in millimeterwave frequencies, MSOs can enhance their network in the following ways:

  • Greenfield applications: connect businesses and new residential developments outside of the existing network coverage to the fiber backbone
  • Complement and extend the HFC network with direct high-capacity connection to MDUs and offload capacity from an overloaded HFC segment
  • Serve as a backup-route and/or as a time-to-market accelerator (covering the fiber deployment time-gap) for either of the abovementioned applications

HFWC enables MSOs to extend service reach

To conclude, the HFC network is and will continue to be an excellent access architecture for MSOs. However, by introducing wireless-transport to create a HFWC architecture, MSOs can extend service reach, offload traffic from busy network segments and increase revenues and operational efficiency.


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