What type of internet connection do you need?

Wednesday, December 02, 2015
What type of internet connection do you need?

Like most South Africans, your online speed requirements, capacity needs, location, and affordability are major factors that will influence your decision on what kind of connection to get, but when it comes to finding the right internet solution for your home or business, you don’t want to make the wrong choice.

Back in the early to mid ‘90s the decision was easy because there was only one way to access the internet: we used dial-up modems. This wasn’t ideal though because they made ear-splitting sounds and once we were online, we couldn’t use our telephone lines at the same time. It was a lot of hassle for a maximum speed of 56 kbps, which is pretty sluggish; at this speed, a low quality movie would take around 28 hours to download.

These days, modern homes and businesses use more advanced connection technology, although many rural areas still make use of dial-up connections when there is no infrastructure available for better connections.

Broadband is the most popular way to access the internet because it’s relatively affordable and commercially available. There are numerous types of broadband connections, including a digital subscriber line (DSL), fibre, satellite, and WiMAX. But what does all of this mean? If you’re not a tech expert, these terms can be perplexing. To make your life easier and save you some time, we thought we’d give you the low-down on some of the most common options available to you:

DSL

This type of internet connection uses existing copper phone lines but its quality is very much dependent on the quality of your phone line and how far you are from your local exchange. But it’s an affordable option and can give excellent speeds, but obviously, the better the speed, the more you’ll have to pay.

Fibre

The term ‘fibre’ refers to the type of cables that are used (fibre-optic) and they offer much greater speeds than traditional cables like copper or coaxial.

Since the internet has been widely available to everyday people, the technology that we use has improved rapidly and in some parts of the world, internet users enjoy speeds of 100mbps and up with fibre, which means that it takes only about 4.5 minutes to download an HD quality movie.

Fibre is just about the best option there is for internet at the moment, but because it’s relatively new and not many areas have fibre-optic cables laid, it’s still largely unavailable for many South Africans.

Wireless

Wireless can be fixed or mobile, but unlike DSL and fibre, it doesn’t require any kind of fixed phone cables to work; instead it relies on a radio link. And while we mentioned that many rural areas still use dial-up to connect to the internet (if they have any access at all), it’s likely that wireless will be the common means to connect these rural areas to the net. In fact, Google’s Project Loon is trying to do just that. According to Google, two-thirds of the global population does not have internet access, and Project Loon aims to reduce this number by deploying balloons that use a wireless communication technology called LTE. The balloons travel through the Earth’s stratosphere and provide wireless connectivity to people on the ground whom would otherwise be unable to connect.

In South Africa, it isn’t only rural areas that are unable to connect to traditional DSL lines; there are developing urban areas that do not have existing phone lines so the options are limited to wireless connectivity.

With wireless, there are a few options to look at, but two of the best are WiMAX and satellite, both of which make use of microwave signals.  But because these require hardware installations, it’s a good idea to check if your household insurance covers this valuable equipment before installing.  

WiMAX: This works similarly to Wi-Fi, except it has a much wider range. The hardware on this includes a tower and a receiver, so you may need to have a ‘dish’ installed in your home or business. This also relies on line of sight, so if there are tall trees growing between your home and the provider’s tower, it won’t work. But the pros are that, while it is more expensive than DSL, your speeds and uptime could be much higher and you don’t need to worry about cable theft. 

Satellite: You will also need to have a satellite dish installed in your home or business here. Speeds are comparable to those of DSL, but it costs quite a lot more. You’ll also probably experience latency frequently and your speed capabilities are also very much dependent on the weather, so when comparing it to DSL, it’s not really worth it. However, if you’re not able to get DSL in your area, you may have no other choice.


Now that we’ve saved you a bit of time and you’re clued-up on what kind of internet connection you need, don’t forget to get a Dialdirect household insurance quote for your valuable household contents, whether it’s a modem or satellite dish you’re bringing into your home. 

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