What is the difference between fiber optic and HFC cable

In order to connect to the Internet we can use different types of technology. We can do it through mobile networks, such as 4G or 5G, but also through broadband with a domestic connection. In the latter case there are different options and even within one, different denominations. For example ADSL or fiber optics. In this article we are going to explain what are the differences between fiber optic and HFC cable, since they are not the same technically.

What is fiber optic or FTTH

First of all we are going to talk about what exactly the optical fiber consists of or also known as FTTH. Although we generally call everything “fiber optics”, there really is a clear difference: whether or not the cable reaches our home directly.

FTTH is a technology that allows the cable can go directly to the home the client’s. This makes it faster and above all that there is a minimum loss of signal. It will be less sensitive to possible interference and problems that may exist.

It basically means that the fiber optic cable goes from the telephone exchange to the houses. There is no middle connection, no other type of cable that has to be joined. This cable reaches a rosette in the house and from there the cable is connected to the router.

Surely on the street you will see a box from which fiber cables come out for the different houses. The same can happen in a multi-story building. What the technician does when he installs the fiber is to directly connect that box with our home. In this way we lose the minimum possible speed.

The speed is the main advantage of this technology. The fact that it uses fiber optic cable to the home itself, makes it able to reach the maximum speeds, less interference and be more stable.

Here we must also mention the standard GPON. It is a technology that has been with us for years and is used to receive high speed both upstream and downstream. The different limits must be taken into account: 60km of maximum logical range, 20km of maximum distance between sending / receiving points and 20km of maximum differential fiber distance. It offers 1.24416 Gbps upload rates and 2.48832 Gbps download rates.

A superior technology is what is known as XGSPON, which can offer up to 10 Gbps over fiber optics. Some operators are already starting to use it, which invites us to think that in a few years we will be able to reach that maximum speed. It is certainly an important step towards the limits of GPON.

How HFC Cable Works

But an alternative also used is the cable HFC. Although it is considered fiber optic as well and the operators offer it that way, the truth is that it does not use the same technology for the cable. In this case, it uses both fiber optic and coaxial cable to bring the Internet to homes.

To make this possible, they use intermediate nodes. The fiber optic cable reaches these nodes and from there the connection is distributed through coaxial cables. It is also called a hybrid fiber connection and you will need a signal splitter or splitter.

This occurs, for example, in a building with multiple dwellings. The optical fiber reaches a main facility and from there it is distributed to the homes through coaxial cable.

The main advantage in this case is that it is more economical. Installing HFC cable is cheaper for operators than using FTTH fiber. In addition, you can even use a previous installation of coaxial cable, which also facilitates the change of operator.

Regarding speed, although it does not mean that we cannot achieve a fast Internet, it is true that it will be more difficult to receive what we actually have contracted. Especially when it comes to symmetrical speed. There will always be some loss, especially when we talk about high speeds.

As for HFC cable, mention must be made of DOCSIS 3.0. This technology emerged to bring speeds close to FTTH fiber optics. It can reach even 1 Gbps. However, it is not a technology that reaches homes, so we will not reach that Internet speed.

How to know if I have FTTH or HFC

Knowing if we have a FTTH or HFC fiber installation is very simple. You just have to observe the wiring that reaches our router and from where it arrives. This will tell us if it is a coaxial cable or it is fiber optic and there we will see what technology we are using.

In the case of FTTH fiber optics we will have a rosette that the technician installs us when he places the optical fiber. From there comes a fiber cable that goes directly to our router. There is no more middleman. This rosette is square, simple, from which only a fine cable comes out.

On the part of the HFC technology, we will see that the installation uses coaxial cable and there is no rosette as in the previous case. It will have a splitter or divider

In Spain, most of the facilities are FTTH fiber optics. Therefore, the cable from the central reaches our home directly. However, some operators such as Vodafone, in certain cases can install FTTH or HFC. An FTTH fiber optic deployment is not always possible.

Check for good fiber internet

Regardless of whether you have contracted FTTH or HFC fiber optics, it is important to check that it works correctly and that the speed that arrives is the correct one. There are different methods to see that there are no problems with coverage and that both the download and upload speed is the one we have contracted.

The first option is to enter the router configuration. For this we have to know which is the default gateway and start from the browser. It is usually, but you can check it in your case if you go to Start, enter the Command Prompt and there you execute the ipconfig command. One of the data is the default gateway.

Know default gateway

Another option is to take a speed test. There it will show us both the upload and download speeds. Keep in mind that in this case it is not as exact as in the router, since you may be connected by Wi-Fi and the signal is not good. Ideally, you should do this test connected by cable to the router.


In short, fiber optics is a really widespread technology today for surfing the Internet. There are two options, which are FTTH and HFC. The first, as we have seen, is the most widespread in Spain. It is the one that carries the cable directly from the central to our home and thus achieves a higher speed and avoid problems.

Having HFC fiber optics does not mean that the speed is going to be bad, but it is not ideal to achieve the most optimal results. In certain circumstances, operators cannot choose to install FTTH and use this hybrid technology with coaxial cable.

You can always find out what type of fiber optics you have simply by looking at how the cable reaches the router. If you have a white square rosette and a thin cable that runs to the router, you have FTTH. On the other hand, if you have a splitter and a coaxial cable, you have HFC.

The article What is the difference between fiber optic and HFC cable was published in RedesZone.

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