Fibre for Gamers Opinion

Fibre to the Home: An Introduction for South African Internet Users

Fibre to the home SA.jpg

As you may already well know, fibre connectivity is starting to be offered to residential customers. It is wonderful news for some, maybe not so much for others (since they can’t get it yet). Before we go into what Fibre to the Home means for you and me, the Average Joe wanting connectivity to his or her residence or business, let’s quickly go over the basics of fibre optic communications, and how it is involved in Fibre-to-the-Home or FTTH.

Basic theory

At the end of the day, FTTH involves sending data down a fibre-optic cable, but what does this entail? The basics are that strands of glass are manufactured into very small-diameter cables. These cables can then be bundled up to form:

  • A more conventional-looking cable like a fancy power cord, either very small in the form of an SPDIF connector cable sometimes used with certain sound cards and the correct speaker system (ever wondered what that red glow was about from your sound card?)
  • Or a larger cable that can be buried or run along with utility systems in business and residential areas
  • To the massive monstrosities that are laid between suburbs, cities or even continents.

Communication across any given length of fibre-optic cable is managed by a special transceiver that generates a light by way of a Light-emitting diode (LED) or laser diode, which is then sent over the length of fibre. Thanks due to the nature of light and the right transceiver, a single cable can be made to carry multiple sets of signals by varying the frequency of the light signal it is sending.

To grossly simply the idea, you could initially be sending one set of data using a red light, but what about at the same time, using a second transceiver send another colour down the same cable, such as a blue light?

Everyone “knows” that fibre is better than using conventional copper connectivity, but why is this, exactly?

There are several advantages, some of which include:

  • Speed – as stated earlier, you sending a single signal down a cable is already generally faster, but doubling-down on the same cable with multiplexed signals, is just awesome!
  • Reduced signal degradation – because of the nature of sending light down a length of what is essentially glass, longer lengths of fibre can be used with lower transmission power than anything copper.
  • No electrical crosstalk – electrical cables with a current going through them create an electromagnetic field of some degree. This is why power cables should never be laid with networking cables, as the power cables’ stronger EM field will simply kill the signal in an unshielded Cat-5 network cable. With fibre, you can go with whatever method of trunking or ducting you can find, and pile is as much as you’d like! Just remember, be very careful with bends in the cable – It doesn’t work too great if you kink a fibre cable…
  • Little to no scrap value – As we all know here in South Africa, copper is quite valuable resource and is often pinched for its scrap value. Fibre, while expensive, doesn’t have that inherent resale value, and therefore unattractive to would-be pilferers. Now only if they could use this stuff more on the Cape Town Metro signaling systems…
  • Future-proof – If the authorities laying down the cable are being smart, they are putting in multiple cables and leaving them un-used. Fibre-optic cable by way of the multiplexing nature of the transceivers being used can be made to be more valuable by sending more data down the same cable, even before using more cables. Simply bolt on a fancier transceiver on either end and more “bang for your buck” ensues…
  • No secondary costs - Due to the nature of fibre, no existing telephone line is required, and therefore no extra secondary or hidden costs are incurred – the monthly price listed is the only cost. There are some slight variations depending on month-to-month packages (which will include some up-front installation and equipment fees if a fixed contract isn’t taken).

Fibre-to-the-Home

Now, with all that theory over, how will this affect you, getting fibre connectivity to your home? For starters, ISP’s like MWEB have established and are continuing to roll out points-of-presence (or POPs) to various locations around the country. You see those guys by the side of the road digging up trenches and putting in those orange rolls of cable? That’s fibre lines being laid…

From there, smaller infrastructure providers will then proceed to lay more cable closer to your residence or business. Depending on the lay of the land, this can be a potentially expensive process depending on distance. What will typically be employed at this point, mainly due to cost-saving and leveraging infrastructure more efficiently, is a junction box to service multiple residences, such as an apartment block or other suitably dense residence or business. From here, conventional Ethernet cabling, localized WiFi, or maybe even further fibre cabling is then used to connect you.

It will then connect to a router of some sort in your home (usually called Customers Premises Equipment or CPE for short), similar to the DSL routers we’re all familiar with. With the MWEB promotion, installation or connection costs are waived, and a fibre router will be provided free of charge.

With your new Fibre connectivity is in place and functional, you can start planning on the dismantling of your legacy connectivity, including your phone service. If you’re still attached to your landline number, this can be ported to a VOIP provider, like MWEB's MTALK, similar to how cell phone numbers can be ported between providers.

What does this mean for gamers?

The benefits go even further! Depending on the package selected and location, offered fibre speeds pick up where ADSL tails off, offering speeds of up to 100/50 Mbps on capped data plans and up to 40/10Mbps on the uncapped packages. This means faster downloading of games, updates for games and consoles, and a smoother connection to game servers, especially local offerings. With these speeds, streaming services become much more viable, such as DTSV Now, Showmax, and other services such as Twitch.tv and YouTube live streaming, both as a viewer or as a content creator.

In the follow up article, we'll go into more details about fibre and gaming.

Fibre connectivity is coming to South Africa big way; this is but another step on the path of the local digital revolution. Check out MWEB’s Fibre offerings page for more info and to get yourself started!

Further reading

Chocs: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook | YouTube


"MWEB promotion, installation or connection costs are waived"

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