The fibre boom – and what it means for home and business users

By Eckart Zollner

The plethora or fibre – and fibre service providers – flooding urban areas, offering fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-business (FTTB) services has rapidly changed the way internet services are delivered to customers. Thanks to the open access nature of most fibre networks, the connectivity market has expanded exponentially over a relatively short period of time. This has paved the way for more competition, better pricing models, less lock-in contracts and the delivery of a greater number of internet enabled services than ever before.

For service providers, offering fibre provides real market pull. Pre-determining interest and, therefore, investment opportunities is relatively easy to accomplish in a market where there is a constant demand for faster speeds and more data. But what about customers? What are the benefits for them, and is fibre really that much better than ADSL?

The demand for more

More speed. More capacity. More, more, more. The advent of internet TV, the growing mobile workforce and the realised value of data are all big drivers behind the need for faster, better networks.

Video and music streaming has taken the home user market by storm, fast becoming preferable to traditional TV or radio services. Even gaming is driven by connectivity, today.

Home users are fast realising that mobile data and ADSL lines simply aren’t cutting it when it comes to the speeds and quantities of data required to access services such as Showmax or Netflix. ADSL typically has decent download speeds, making it suitable enough for streaming services, but the upload speeds of ADSL leave much to be desired. 

People who work from home and have a need to access their office network remotely are finding that the upload speeds for ADSL are no match for those of fibre. The advent of the smart home is further highlighting the need for more reliable services – which fibre provides.

For businesses, being connected is no longer a want – it’s a need. Businesses cannot operate without speedy and stable connectivity. Many companies have their own interbranch networks and rely upon connectivity to communicate and exchange information, not only amongst themselves, but also with their customers. Telephony, video streaming, IP cameras and centralised systems all need stable and fast connectivity in order to function efficiently and effectively.

Fibre versus ADSL and mobile data

Over and above the slower upload speeds of ADSL, it also has the disadvantage of service deterioration the further the customer is from the Point of Presence (PoP). Add to this the often old, outdated, poorly insulated and poorly maintained copper networks, and the service ADSL offers is fast becoming unsuitable for most home users, let alone businesses.

Mobile networks still offer great convenience, particularly for people who work on the go and don’t rely on a fixed network. However, mobile networks in urban areas are often congested, with too many users clogging the network and reducing the overall quality and speed of the connectivity. As there are not enough frequencies available in South Africa to accommodate the vast number of users, mobile data networks are often over accessed, which reduces them to best effort services.

Fibre offers much lower latencies and faster speeds than either ADSL or mobile networks. This is great for home users, but critical for businesses. If an organisation wants to run real-time applications such as IP telephony networks or video conferencing, quality of service (QoS) is of utmost importance. Businesses running private cloud services such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems need a reliable and fast network to do so. 

Fibre provides the speeds – upload and download – and stability that ADSL and mobile networks are not able to. And all of the choice.

Too much choice?

Due to the open access nature of Fibre networks, customers are faced with an often confusing array of choices as to services and service providers available. However, this is not bad news at all.

ADSL services were offered by many service providers as well, however the copper infrastructure was controlled by the incumbent telecommunications company, and pricing was not very competitive as a result. There are only four mobile network operators, so pricing models for mobile data are also relatively static.

Fibre typically offers users a choice of 6 – 10 service providers, each offering different benefits, services and pricing models. Because of the increase in competition, fibre pricing is quickly becoming cheaper than ADSL, which only adds to its attraction.

Another benefit of choice is that many service providers, incentivised by the competitive nature of open access fibre, are honing their customer service skills and offering much more contract flexibility than ever before. The service may not be fixed, but the fibre is, so changing a service provider is much easier than it is with a mobile or ADSL service. If a customer is unhappy with a service provider, they can often make the change to another service provider quite easily.

The case for fibre, made

With Fibre, you only need the platform in order to access a range of services, at competitive prices, and with superior speeds and quality. Most fibre contracts are bundled in with ISP services, too, so there is little need for multiple service providers and a simpler interaction model is enabled.

Businesses are able to extend their corporate environments into their employees’ homes, as more and more people choose to work from home. So, not only does the business enjoy fast and stable connectivity, but they can reduce their overheads and office footprint by mobilising their workforce.

Fibre enables the delivery – and development – of new services and products from service providers too, which brings a range of new opportunities to all users, and encourages a fast growing, more connected world than ever before.


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