Choos­ing an in­ter­net ser­vice provider and prod­uct op­tions can be daunt­ing. Here’s what you need to know

DRUM - - Advice -

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.


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.


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.


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.

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