Moneyweb journalist Hilton Tarrant recently wrote that he will be cancelling his ADSL and will be moving to a more affordable wireless broadband connection. Tarrant’s cost argument is completely justified, but there is also a strong case for ADSL despite the relatively high cost of the service.
For low data usage ADSL is significantly more expensive than wireless broadband products from 8ta, Neotel, Cell C, Vodacom, and MTN. The wireless providers offer data packages from as low as R99 for 1GB, far less than Telkom’s compulsory analogue line rental.
Tarrant is correct to say that “unless you’re a household with serious bandwidth needs, ADSL just doesn’t make financial sense”.
But ADSL has a lot going for it. The service is not heavily contended on the access (last mile) network, it is very easy to change service providers, and month-to-month subscriptions are commonplace.
For high bandwidth usage, ADSL remains the most affordable way to access the Internet, with a slew of cost effective uncapped ADSL solutions available.
Here are some of the reasons why ADSL is a good broadband solution in South Africa:
- Telkom’s ADSL network performance is typically very good, and provides real world speeds which are close to the advertised performance.
- Telkom’s last mile ADSL network is not contended – which simply means that you are the only one using your copper and that bandwidth is hence not shared. If there is a fault with your line, Telkom can fix the problem and you are back in business. With a wireless network you share a tower (and more accurately a sector of that tower) with other users. If that tower gets congested, everyone suffers until the tower is upgraded or another tower goes live in the region.
- ADSL makes it possible for consumers to change their Internet service providers (ISPs) and the type of account they use very easily. This is not possible with most wireless options.
- ADSL accounts are often sold on a month-to-month contract. With most wireless services you have to sign a 12- or 24-month contract to get the best pricing.
- If you want uncapped data, ADSL is still much cheaper and provides better service levels than most wireless broadband offerings. For high-speed uncapped broadband, ADSL is basically your only affordable option.
- If you have a capped ADSL account it is relatively cheap to top up the account if you run out of data. It is more costly with mobile broadband.
- The latency of ADSL remains far lower than wireless services. ADSL is also more stable with less jitter than wireless access options. For online gaming, VoIP, and related services, ADSL therefore makes sense to achieve the best service levels.
These are some of the main reasons why I will not be cancelling my ADSL anytime soon – for both business and residential use.
Having said that, I will also not be cancelling any of my mobile broadband services. Mobile broadband is, well, mobile.
To enjoy ubiquitous connectivity, a mobile broadband service is a must-have; either through a smartphone (with tethering) or through a mobile broadband dongle (or Mi-Fi router).
The combination of a high-speed, uncapped (or at least an account with a high data usage limit), fixed broadband connection at home and at the office, and a mobile broadband service for mobility makes perfect sense in South Africa.
The benefits of fixed broadband access will further be enhanced with Telkom’s broadband network upgrade where users will get downlink speed of up to 40Mbps.
Broadband nirvana will obviously be to have a single, affordable broadband account for all devices, where connectivity is assured at the highest possible speed and where users are not even aware what network they connect to.
Good news is that Telkom is working on such a service, which will include mobile data offloading onto fixed line networks.
If Telkom offers me a 40Mbps broadband connection, combined with a multi-SIM mobile broadband account for all my mobile devices with country wide coverage, it will be very hard to resist indeed.