The “HFC” term you may have seen in NBN info sheets stands for “Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial” – or, in other words, fibre to the node! This tech has been around for a long time, since both Telstra and Optus rolled out their services across major cities (before making more of a move to satellite in recent years). While the concept is similar to FTTN, the actual tech is different – not least the cable to your home, which is a big fat well-insulated coaxial cable (similar to a high quality TV antenna lead) that runs to a special cable modem where you live.
Both Telstra and Optus have used HFC for years for broadband, but it’s not been without its issues. For one, the shared data bandwidth between multiple homes in an area has long led to peak-hour congestion (possibly the earliest example of broadband peak congestion, actually). But this is set to change, with the NBN taking over the cables and upgrading them to the latest HFC broadband tech. In theory, this should mean excellent speeds and service quality that’s noticeably better than the cable service you’d get now – especially in terms of faster upload speeds. Once it rolls out on a large scale (it’s in progress now) we’ll know more.
The rollout of the NBN on HFC cable has been more problematic than expected, too – most likely due to the age of the cables themselves – and NBN is switching to a brand new technology, Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) for many customers that were originally earmarked for a cable service. This is a good thing for those customers, too – it’s as close to a full-fibre connection as you’re going to get at the moment!