Lock-down living has made working from home the norm and whether (or when) employees return to the office full-time, remains to be seen. In the meantime, you need a stable fibre home connection for data-intensive connections like video calls, webinars and livestreams.
Let’s take a look at what you need to consider when choosing a fibre to the home (FTTH) service provider and package.
There are numerous FTTH operators cropping up, servicing selected geographical zones. This makes it difficult to crowd-source options. I’ve come across a website called FindMyFibre.co.za, which shows you coverage zones and deals by location. However, when I did a quick search for my suburb, only two internet service providers (ISP) showed up and I know there are more! It’s possible that there are search result agreements to display only some ISPs. So further digging is required.
To find out what’s in your vicinity, ask for individual experiences on a Facebook or Whatsapp community group. Word of mouth is as authentic as it gets. Also consider scanning social media for ISPs’ response times and customers who are happy with their service.
What to look for
In my opinion the most important factors to consider when choosing an FTTH provider, are as follows:
- Symmetrical speeds (same speed for uploads and downloads)
- Uncapped data;
- Month-to-month billing;
- Online chat support; and
- If they have an app, consider that a bonus.
If you consider yourself a data heavy user, perhaps ask about fair use policies and if you will get throttled. Most of the above led to my decision to go with RocketNet* four years ago. In addition to having a customer app, they also introduced a remote support app in 2020.
Monitor your data usage
If you’re on a mobile data plan you may be thinking about reducing your data allocation because you don’t use the full allocation before it expires. You may also be thinking about switching to uncapped fibre to reduce your data costs. In both cases, monitor your data usage first.
Android based instruments are typically much better at showing you this information natively than are iOS. Alternatively, Vodacom and MTN let you track data usage on their apps. And if you’re on Rain, the dashboard pre-emptively lets you set data caps for the month per GB.
Similarly, I can track how much data I’m using on my fibre connection via RocketNet’s customer portal. It provides daily upload and download breakdowns, which is handy if you’re interested in that level of information.
If you don’t live in a fibre zone
If you’re still waiting for your area to get fibre, it’s sometimes best to buy data-only contracts from the larger networks, with better coverage. When you do come across a really good deal, my tip is to buy a prepaid SIM before locking yourself to a provider for two years. There is very little downside – a Telkom Mobile SIM is free although you will still need to RICA it.
Then you can test the signal and coverage in the area where you work with a small prepaid data bundle. If you’re in a borderline coverage zone, you may not actually be covered – this has happened to me. Once you’re happy with both signal strength and speed, sign up.
I have a Rain SIM card as a backup but barely use it because my router has a UPS attached to it. I prefer the Rain SIM option as a back-up because it’s month-to-month and ‘pay as you use’. Although I’ve seen negative sentiments around Rain; this depends on your location and the level of congestion in your area as Vodacom also roams on the Rain network.
Try to find a backup provider with the tips mentioned above and pay attention to prepaid bundle expiry dates.
*Disclaimer: RocketNet has been subsidising my bill as of 2020.
Technology is an ever increasing part of our lives and let’s be honest, many of us like gadgets. There is also an abundance of new online services and apps taking over the traditional services we use. Nafisa Akabor has been covering everything tech for well over a decade and she’ll be writing on how we can do tech within a budget and reviewing some of the new online services. Cache This is published on the last Tuesday of every month.