What is HFC?

David White

The Internet is many things these days, but no matter how many new functionalities are invented for Internet capabilities, the need is still paramount for cables to connect those Internet-related machines and to transmit those signals. Like the revolution in computer uses, the construction and functionality of computer cables have taken leaps forward in recent years. What used to carry only small amounts of data is now tasked with transferring wide-band data streams. This is where HFC comes in.

Coaxial cable is typically used during cable TV installation and for some computer, audio and visual equipment.
Coaxial cable is typically used during cable TV installation and for some computer, audio and visual equipment.

HFC stands for Hybrid Fiber Coax, a kind of transmission that is made over both coaxial and fiber optic cables. The data being transmitted over HFC cables is traditional letters and numbers, of course; but it also includes newer technology data such as streaming audio and video and Internet phone calls. What used to be only cable television signals transmitted over coaxial cables has now become broadband signals sent over HFC cables. It's email and file transmissions as well, and with the broadband capability of HFC, the transmissions can be as large as they need to be.

HFC cables are of necessity two-directional. Unlike individual coaxial cables or individual fiber optic cables, which are designed to accommodate only downstream traffic, HFC cables are manufactured to handle two-way traffic, since a full Internet connection service requires the content provider to validate sign-ins of customers. In this way, HFC cables are the next generation of data transfer cables.

HFC is usually found in the form of a network, such as a cable TV company, which uses fiber optic cables on its end to transmit data to customers who have coaxial cables on their end. This is known as a "trunk-and-branch" system, with the cable company as the trunk and the customers as the branches. In this day and age of conglomeration, many cable TV companies offer much more than traditional television. They transmit video, audio and Internet services; and for this, they use HFC cables. Such networks also usually use cable modems, which are built to DOCSIS standards.

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