given weekend, I have two favorite college football teams. Not possible, you
say? The word “favorite” doesn’t allow multiple choice? It does, and I will explain the conditions a
bit later. I also occasionally apply this conditional logic to what is “best,”
and that brings me to networks and a common question: “Which is better, FTTH (fiber to the home) or
HFC (hybrid fiber coax)?”
like a simple enough inquiry is a quick step into questions of economics,
technology, operations and strategy.
Let’s look at each of these areas and how they could sway an argument to
HFC or FTTH. First, economics. In a
greenfield area, both HFC and FTTH require cables, closures, splicing and
equipment (active or passive). Both
typically require a mix of aerial and underground construction. Many economic models exist, but in a true
greenfield FTTH can be similar in cost, or even less than HFC. In a brownfield extension to existing HFC, a
switch to FTTH is more expensive.
doesn’t help us choose a clear winner either.
If the measure of success is connection speed, both HFC and FTTH can
offer Gigabit speeds. Upstream speeds have traditionally favored FTTH, but
DOCSIS continues to bring enhanced performance in both upstream and downstream.
Fiber is certainly the clear winner in current capability, offering 10 GBps or
more, but again, DOCSIS and the promise of full-duplex capacity is closing the
gap. Operations has been a proponent of FTTH, due to the wholly passive design
of FTTH plant, a benefit when calculating potential OPEX. HFC networks too are pushing toward more
passivity, so the OPEX story continues to evolve.
CLICK TO TWEET: When it comes to HFC and FTTH, which is better? Should we play favorites? CommScope's Mark Alrutz has a great analogy for you.
us to the final point to compare: strategy. Taking a strategic view of the
network, we need to ask what future services may be supported. Wireless
convergence is a likely candidate, and it requires three simple attributes:
power, backhaul and site. For example, a 5G or LTE densification
solution will utilize many small radios, which each require power to operate, backhaul
to connect to the cloud and a site to locate them. A pure FTTH network can provide site access
and backhaul, but no access to power.
HFC on the other hand, can provide a significant advantage with all
HFC, which is best? There are economic,
operational, technological and strategic arguments for both. The best solution for you will require a
careful analysis of each of these areas, and may not yield an answer as clear as
a favorite college team. You may end up
with two favorites, like (1) my alma mater, Georgia Tech, and (2) whomever is
playing our rival, the University of Georgia.