LTE, ADSL or fibre - what kind of internet connection do you really need?

A woman browsing the internet.
A woman browsing the internet.

When I moved into my own space for the first time I didn’t think I needed a dedicated internet connection. 

I had my phone right? 

I really believed at the time that my phone would suffice. I’d use it as a wifi hotspot for my laptop when needed and I’d be good to go. Granted, this was in a time before Netflix and other streaming services. 

It was also a time where I incorrectly assumed that after work I’d come home and put my feet up versus attempt to catch up on emails from the previous day. It took me around one month to realise a mobile internet connection wasn’t going to cut it. 

But now what?

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LTE, ADSL, Fibre, capped, uncapped, upload speeds, download speeds - for some it can be a bit confusing when deciding the best internet offering and service provider for you. 

I know the feeling. I’ve been through the paperwork (and the headaches) so let me break down what offerings are available to you and which ones are best suited to your needs.

Will an LTE or fixed wireless package suffice?

LTE is technically still mobile data. 

However, it is way faster than the usual 3G connection you’re likely getting on your phone (though many high-end smartphones support LTE). 

LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. 

That will likely never be something you’ll need to know unless you’re at the local’s quiz night. 

Who does LTE or fixed wireless suit best?

If you’re renting your current living space LTE is ideal because it can move with you (so long as your service provider has LTE coverage in the area you choose). 

An LTE connection is great for someone who needs to be able to update their phone apps in the evening and browse social media but isn’t necessarily looking to play video games online each night. 

You can also stream Netflix on an LTE connection if you buy one of the higher data packages. 

Most providers insist you sign a contract. I hate this but it is the way it goes. With that contract you usually get a modem and the LTE sim card is placed inside the modem. 

If you cap your data in the month most service providers will allow you to “top up” (at a premium price, obviously). 

However, if you believe you’re going to spend big then sign on for the bigger data contract.

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The best provider?

Let’s be frank - it is almost impossible to highlight a “best” provider when it comes to your internet connection. 

For every good experience someone has had two others have had a bad experience. 

Data is so ridiculously priced in our country that even the cheaper option still causes a headache.  

When it comes to LTE packages I can suggest Telkom’s SmartBroadband packages. 

Only because I’ve used them for two years and thus know that, for the most part, the service is relatively okay. 

The online portal allows you to top up and check on your data usage which is helpful. Costing ranges from R399 a month for 10GB package to R899 for an uncapped 24 month contract.

But make sure you read the fine print - that uncapped package includes a fair usage policy. 

What this means is when you have used 150GB of data on your uncapped line during the month, the provider will slow your speeds down (it will drop from 10Mbps to 4!). 

The convenient thing about Telkom and many other LTE contract providers is that if you decide to move to an ADSL or Fibre package they’ll move your contract over to their service rather than force you to see it out. Useful if you move.

Telkom’s offering is contract based how Afrihost does offer month to month packages - though no uncapped options are available. 

Top Tip: Providers like Telkom will terminate your contracts (LTE and Fibre) with no penalties if you move to an area where they cannot supply coverage.

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Should I get ADSL?

ADSL is the older sister of the South African internet. Is it as fast at LTE and Fibre? 

No. However, most of us who had internet at home are probably familiar with ADSL. 

If you have a landline installed at home (I know right? Shock horror - people still use telephones connected via a cable), then ADSL might work out. 

That’s the biggest “con” of ADSL. You need a telephone line installed. So you need to budget roughly R250 per month to pay over to Telkom for the line. 

Once the line is installed you can then start shopping around for ADSL packages. 

Service provider Axxess offers an uncapped ADSL line for the home running at 20Mbps at a cost of R384. 

Combine that with the telephone rental and you’re looking at R634 per month for uncapped ADSL on a 20Mbps line. Pretty decent when you compare to Telkom’s SmartBroadband Uncapped offering which only runs at 10Mbps. 

Disclaimer: Axxess pricing was taken directly from their website. We cannot guarantee this offer is available should you enquire. 

Best suited to?

ADSL is ideal if you own the home you’re in (because phone lines are forever) and you want to be able to do some social media browsing, work, possibly some streaming and jam some games.

Also, in South Africa, many areas do not have LTE coverage or Fibre infrastructure which means ADSL is the best option currently, for most.

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But what about fibre?

Fibre is relatively new to the South African internet offering. However, more areas are rolling out the infrastructure to make it a viable offering. 

Fibre is short for Fibre Optic Broadband. 

The data is sent via fibre optic cables - meaning it is fast. Very fast. 

However, getting fibre installed at home is likely going to be a big headache so be prepared for the hard work.

When you find out your area is fibre ready you’ll need to find an internet service provider who offers fibre connections in your area. 

Just because company A puts down fibre in the area doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best option… or an option for you. 

For example, if you’re on a Telkom LTE contract you’d likely need to stay with Telkom in order to forgo penalties for exiting the contract earlier. 

Alternatively you might find yourself stuck in a current rut that many complex and estate residents do - you’ll be forced to use the supplier that is given the mandate for the complex, state or office park. 

This is a common thing and, in my opinion, anti-competitive. 

Certain service providers sign exclusive deals with developers and estates that state they are the only fibre provider allowed to be used (this means they are the only company with access to the network). 

In cases like this your pricing is suddenly at a premium. 

For example, one popular Johannesburg complex has a service provider charging R1109 a month for uncapped fibre running at 8Mbps download and 2Mbps upload. 

This is compared to Cool Ideas who offers fibre through Vumatel (just one of their many fibre suppliers) with a 20Mbps download and 2Mbps upload at R809.

Before you get fibre

Before you decide to go the fibre route be sure to ask some important questions. 

Make sure the fibre provider installs the fibre as well and supplies you with a router. Installation is a bitch so make sure your provider includes this in your package. 

You want an uncapped fibre package. 

Don’t settle for capped. Be sure to ask where the fibre actually runs. Very often it runs to a central point in an apartment building as opposed to directly to your door. 

Also be sure that the service provider you use supplies you with some sort of online access to your usage, speeds and notifications of when the fibre goes down. 

All of these are value adds but the top providers supply them. 

If you have access to fibre it is the best internet connection to get and will allow you to stream, game and work easily. However, be sure to tick all the boxes before signing in to any deals.

Unfortunately, South Africa still has a huge disconnect when it comes to the cost of data. If your budget is tight internet becomes a premium expense and data costs can weigh heavily on your monthly budget. 

Be sure to ensure you do your homework and research before signing in to 24 month contracts to ensure you’re getting what you need and that you won’t be burden with hidden connection and set up costs down the line! 

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