By Bradley Bekker, Evotel GM
Today there are many ways to connect to the internet, but only one connection currently remains the leader in terms of speed, quality, and reliability and that is fibre.
Over the years, since the advent of the internet in the early 1990’s, there have been various advancements in technology and methods to access the internet. It started with Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Lines (ADSL) later DSL – which is also known as Copper Lines. Then we saw internet access granted through much faster and more stable Fibre Optic Cables (Fibre) and as mobile phones and mobile technologies became all the rage mobile internet access came to the fore. Mobile access also developed over time from 2G (second generation) technology to 3G, 4G, and the latest 5G mobile option. There is also Satellite internet access, which as its name suggests utilises Satellites to connect people to the internet.
ADSL or DSL and Fibre access are also called Fixed Line Technologies because it can only be accessed from a specific physical location where the lines are installed. Fibre’s connection is very stable, but the Wi-Fi connection linking you to the fibre is where the problems can be, due to signal strengths that are influenced by how far you are from the router, limited bandwidth, and congested frequencies as well as interferences experienced from the weather.
Pros and Cons
Each of the above-mentioned internet access solutions all has or had a place at one point in time. All of them also have positive and negative aspects to consider.
If you are always on the move and need internet access wherever you are, the benefit of Mobile access is of course self-explanatory. You can be almost anywhere in South Africa and get access to the internet through either 3G or 4G. The 5G technology, however, though currently offering the fastest internet access speeds of up to 20 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps) with an average data rate of 100+ Megabits-per-second (Mbps) is unfortunately scantly available and only in big cities.
The 5G mobile network is still minute compared to 4G and fibre network coverage, because it is a new mobile technology and the infrastructure is expensive to install. As is usually the case with any new technology rollout, the rich and highly populated areas are always first to gain access to the technology. This means that the major cities, like Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Bloemfontein are the first to have access to 5G, which will be followed by the surrounding areas and then only, much later, will the infrastructure be erected in the provinces and far-flung regions, again first in larger towns before reaching more rural settlements, if at all.
ADSL, which is now considered an archaic and very slow connection option and is dying fast, was once the only way to connect to the internet. Not only is it now very slow compared to the other connection options, it also isn’t stable, because of the rampant theft of copper cables meaning that access to the internet is down a lot of the time and the repair and the replacement of copper lines takes a very long time. That is if such repairs are even going to continue in the future, as Telkom indicated that it will be switching off its ADSL network and migrate all of its copper-based infrastructure to fibre.
Fibre networks are more reliable. Fibre contains no copper components, only glass, to transmit data over the line and it has no resale value. This means that there are less instances of fibre lines going down due to cable theft. If, however, there is a fibre cable break, repairs are also done in mere hours, rather than days and weeks or even months.
The speed tests
Depending on your data package, fibre internet speeds range, from 20Mbps to 100Mbps speeds, lightning fast compared to ADSL speeds of max 24Mbps (download with ADSL2+ on your line) and DSL speeds of up to 400Mbps (download) and 8Mbps (upload). 5G technology can offer internet access speeds of up to 20 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps) with an average data rate of 100+ Megabits-per-second (Mbps), so from a speed point of view it sounds like an immediate winner and must have. But speed isn’t everything and there are reasons why 5G is not the best internet access option available today.
Why Fibre over 5G?
For the time being fibre is the best and most reliable internet access option available to most people and especially to those living in smaller towns in the regions like Northern KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, the Northern Cape and Limpopo. The faster 5G technology is simply too far off from becoming a reality for areas outside of the major cities. This is due to the lack of expensive infrastructure in these areas, which will still take a couple of years before these outlying, small-town areas are covered. The 5G services are also prohibitively unaffordable to the average man on the street and middle income households. If you have fibre access already, you should count yourself lucky and you should take comfort in the fact that fibre is still here to stay for a long while still.
For the relative broadband speeds fibre offers users there isn’t, at present, any other solution that ticks all these boxes and can be described as a viable contender for what you pay and what you get. If you don’t have fibre yet and still use ADSL or DLS services, then it is time to upgrade to fibre and doesn’t even think of 5G yet.
For those who of you who are gamers and use high-end video conferencing for business, 5G’s higher latency of 4 milliseconds compared to fibre’s 1 millisecond latency – could also pose problems and negatively affect your gaming experience and video conferencing quality.
Yet another possible disadvantage of 5G technology is the risk to cybersecurity and increased opportunity for you to be hacked. 5G’s lack of encryption when connecting makes 5G devices easier targets for cyberattacks and your data being stolen.
Overall, fibre’s future is bright and it will continue to be the most popular and widely-used type of internet connection for years to come.