Choosing an internet service provider and product options can be daunting. Here’s what you need to know
HAVING internet access at home is practically a necessity these days. Without it you have to rely on your cellphone provider’s steep data costs, and who can afford that? But it can be intimidating to figure out the best option when it comes to choosing an internet service provider (ISP) and how you want to access the internet. We’ve put together a guide to explain what’s out there and what you need to consider when making your choice.
WHAT DO YOU NEED IT FOR?
Consider what you use the internet for – are you mainly checking social media and email, with a bit of online banking? Or are you doing all those things as well as streaming series, movies and music? Are there any online gamers in the house?
The more you do online, the more data you’ll need, and you’ll need that data delivered quickly and smoothly for the best online experience.
HOW MUCH DATA DO YOU NEED?
When data is capped it means you’re limited to a set amount of data per month. If you use it up before the end of the month there’s no more internet and you’ll have to buy extra data or have a contract or package that lets your ISP bill you for additional data.
Uncapped data means there’s no limit and this sounds good but if you go wild with it your ISP will point to the small print and remind you of the “fair use policy”, which basically means they’re entitled to slow down (or throttle) the data speeds of people whose excessive internet use is slowing down the network. This will usually happen if you’re downloading vast amounts of data, day and night.
WHAT’S AVAILABLE? Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL)
This provides high-speed internet access on the Telkom telephone line network. It’s reliable in urban areas, but less so in rural locations. You’ll need a Telkom phone line for this service, an ADSL line and a compatible modem. Your ISP usually provides the modem and can facilitate getting an ADSL line if one isn’t already available to you.
Long-term evolution (LTE)
This is based on cellphone technology and doesn’t rely on the Telkom network. It’s very fast but it’s not available in all areas. It’s a good option if you live in an area where copper ADSL lines have been stolen, or are often stolen, or if you’re renting a home and can’t get permission to have an ADSL line or fibre installed. A router and SIM card are needed for LTE (aka wireless), which the ISP usually provides.
A fibre-optic connection is the newest, fastest option, but it’s not yet available everywhere because it requires a municipality to run underground lines for the cables. The cables, which are made of flexible strands of glass fibres, aren’t affected by electrical interference as ADSL cables sometimes are.
Data is transferred quickly via pulses of light and not via the electrical impulses used by ADSL cables. As there’s no copper in the cables they’re weatherproof and there’s no point in stealing them.
The fibre cable runs from the street to the inside of your home, where it will need to be connected to a router that will broadcast a Wi-Fi signal your devices can connect to. Your ISP can facilitate the set-up and provide the modem.
THINK ABOUT SUPPORT
Remember to check what kind of after-sales service your ISP offers. Is there a helpline, and is it available 24 hours a day? Consider whether help is available in the form of online chats and if call-outs to your home are an option if problems can’t be dealt with over the phone.