ADSL vs fibre: which internet connection is best for you?

23 February 2017

You’ve probably heard about ‘fibre’ and ‘ADSL’ but what do these terms really mean? Same thing, right? Er, not quite.

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You’ve probably heard about ‘fibre’ and ‘ADSL’ but what do these terms really mean? Same thing, right? Er, not quite.

What is ADSL?

ADSL stands for asymmetrical digital subscriber line. In a nutshell, it’s a connection to the internet that transmits data via a standard telephone landline.

The copper-wiring telephone connection has been available in many households since 2002 and is one of the oldest internet options to date.

“There are two players – the infrastructure provider (Telkom) and the data provider/ISP (internet service provider),” says Rihana Hoosain, MWEB’s head of product.

“Telkom exclusively owns the copper lines and you have to have a voice line to get an ADSL line. Data is provided by an ISP; MWeb is an ISP.” If you have a home or a small office with two or three computers and you don’t need much speed and don’t download or stream huge files, ADSL is a solid option for you.

“ADSL product choice is made up of two parts: data and line speed,” Hoosain says. ADSL data is usually measured in gigabytes (GB). The higher the number, the more data you have *. If you’re an average household looking for a more economical option, this could be a reliable choice.


  • Readily available in most areas.
  • Budget-friendly.
  • Fairly stable and effective.


  • The further you are from a Telkom exchange hub (a structure set up in certain neighbourhoods where connections meet), the slower your connection.
  • It requires a telephone line.
  • Copper cables could be affected by weather and age.
  • You have to rent a telephone line as well as pay for the ADSL line.
AVAILABLE SPEEDS 1, 2, 4, 8, 10, 20 and 40 Mbps (Megabits per second). The higher the number, the faster the speed. YOU-Digitorial-banner---550x300

What is fibre?

Fibre optics is the fastest and most reliable internet connectivity option to date and has been available in South Africa since 2014.

It makes use of light impulses to transmit data instead of the electrical impulses used in copper lines. This option transfers data through means of thin glass cabling and gives you secure and consistent connectivity at lightning-fast speeds – up to 50 times faster than an ADSL line.

It allows faster file uploads, downloads or streaming and enables you to send and receive big files with no hiccups.


  • Lightning-fast.

    Clear and reliable connection.

    Theft- and weatherproof.


  • Not yet readily available.
  • Costly.

AVAILABLE SPEEDS 10, 20, 40, 50 and 100 Mbps

With the development of technology, ADSL is ageing fast. While the super speeds of fibre might be a drawcard for most, the real selling point is the reliability of the fibre connection – when lightning strikes, you’re not going to lose your internet connection.

On the other hand, why pay for what you don’t need? If you’re not into streaming shows online, downloading games or other big files, and use the internet mainly for emails and social media, ADSL is a better choice. But if you have teens you might need a faster internet connection.

*It’s worth noting that both fibre and ADSL packages require you to choose a bandwidth limit or “cap” on your data.

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