Q&A: Ask an expert – FTTH vs. traditional internet

rpm

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Q&A: Ask an expert – FTTH vs. traditional internet

Fibre to the home (FTTH) is the hot new IT word on everyone’s lips, but how does it compare to traditional internet for homes and small offices? Warren Bricknell, MD of Mitsol, a layer two internet connectivity provider, answers some frequently asked questions on FTTH.
 

hunter30

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We all know that fiber companies target more effluent areas. But even in these areas, not all home get fiber, due to maybe being a cul-da-sac or even a dead end street. Why only go down main street and not all the side street of these roads. is it not feasible to also include these streets?
 

pinball wizard

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We all know that fiber companies target more effluent areas.
Speaking on behalf of one of the said fibre companies, I can assure you we expressly look for the opposite of effluent when planning new areas to rollout.
 

zAAm

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A fibre provider saying fibre is the best is a bit like a mobile operator saying mobile is the best - you have to be a bit suspicious. While I do agree that fibre is better, it's a bit like comparing an average car and a fast car in some ways. For daily driving at 60 kph, the average car is perfectly fine, and you can drive 60 kph with a fast car as well. However, if you need to drive at 200 kph, you're better off with the fast car. Admittedly the analogy breaks down a bit, but you get my point.

tl;dr: If you need 100 Mbps, get fibre. If you only need 4 Mbps, you're not going to see much of a difference.
 

pinball wizard

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A fibre provider saying fibre is the best is a bit like a mobile operator saying mobile is the best - you have to be a bit suspicious. While I do agree that fibre is better, it's a bit like comparing an average car and a fast car in some ways. For daily driving at 60 kph, the average car is perfectly fine, and you can drive 60 kph with a fast car as well. However, if you need to drive at 200 kph, you're better off with the fast car. Admittedly the analogy breaks down a bit, but you get my point.

tl;dr: If you need 100 Mbps, get fibre. If you only need 4 Mbps, you're not going to see much of a difference.
Yeah, but if you are getting a physical medium into your property, get one that you can accelerate up to the theoretical maximum without having to change it is always going to be the cheaper and better option in the long run. Yiou may only want to do 60km/h now, but what about the future?
 

zAAm

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Yeah, but if you are getting a physical medium into your property, get one that you can accelerate up to the theoretical maximum without having to change it is always going to be the cheaper and better option in the long run. Yiou may only want to do 60km/h now, but what about the future?
Sure, I don't deny that, but people tend to overemphasize the merits of fibre for use-cases for which they do not really apply. People tend to think that if they switch their 4 Mbps ADSL2 line to 4 Mbps fibre somehow it will be so much better. They tend to demonize copper without realizing that copper is used for 10 Gbps connections as well. Most will not need 100 Mbps for another 10 years, and G.Fast working on copper can be used for 400 Mbps connections quite easily. For the minority that needs more than that though, clearly fibre is superior.
 

Johnatan56

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A fibre provider saying fibre is the best is a bit like a mobile operator saying mobile is the best - you have to be a bit suspicious. While I do agree that fibre is better, it's a bit like comparing an average car and a fast car in some ways. For daily driving at 60 kph, the average car is perfectly fine, and you can drive 60 kph with a fast car as well. However, if you need to drive at 200 kph, you're better off with the fast car. Admittedly the analogy breaks down a bit, but you get my point.

tl;dr: If you need 100 Mbps, get fibre. If you only need 4 Mbps, you're not going to see much of a difference.
You're still going to see lower latency, less line issues, etc. and probably higher upload.
You'd probably also be able to get a faster/better package for the same price as the 4Mbps.

Sure, I don't deny that, but people tend to overemphasize the merits of fibre for use-cases for which they do not really apply. People tend to think that if they switch their 4 Mbps ADSL2 line to 4 Mbps fibre somehow it will be so much better. They tend to demonize copper without realizing that copper is used for 10 Gbps connections as well. Most will not need 100 Mbps for another 10 years, and G.Fast working on copper can be used for 400 Mbps connections quite easily. For the minority that needs more than that though, clearly fibre is superior.
G.fast has an extremely short range and is heavily dependent on the copper quality, probably 80% currently on Telkom's network would not be able to get it (and probably not be able to afford it).
 

zAAm

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You're still going to see lower latency, less line issues, etc. and probably higher upload.
You'd probably also be able to get a faster/better package for the same price as the 4Mbps.
Possibly, but none of these issues are inherently related to copper. You are conflating copper as a technology and old DSLAMs coupled with 30 year old copper. Technically if you replace the copper with new cables and replace the old equipment with new MSANs or so it would work perfectly fine. The point I was trying to make is people with perfectly good connections now believe fibre will solve all their problems, even if their own use-case would never benefit from it.

G.fast has an extremely short range and is heavily dependent on the copper quality, probably 80% currently on Telkom's network would not be able to get it (and probably not be able to afford it).
Although G.Fast is designed to be used for the last 400m of the network, it is really irrelevant as long as you could get it. The same applies to fibre. If some company offers me G.Fast 100 Mbps, it is their problem to ensure it is close enough to the edge network (as they would if it were fibre). However, the perception is then that BECAUSE it is copper, it is bad, even though you could get the same experience as you would get on fibre.

To sum up, you should sway your buying decision based on the bandwidth, service and cost, not on the underlying technology.
 

JayM

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Possibly, but none of these issues are inherently related to copper. You are conflating copper as a technology and old DSLAMs coupled with 30 year old copper. Technically if you replace the copper with new cables and replace the old equipment with new MSANs or so it would work perfectly fine. The point I was trying to make is people with perfectly good connections now believe fibre will solve all their problems, even if their own use-case would never benefit from it.



Although G.Fast is designed to be used for the last 400m of the network, it is really irrelevant as long as you could get it. The same applies to fibre. If some company offers me G.Fast 100 Mbps, it is their problem to ensure it is close enough to the edge network (as they would if it were fibre). However, the perception is then that BECAUSE it is copper, it is bad, even though you could get the same experience as you would get on fibre.

To sum up, you should sway your buying decision based on the bandwidth, service and cost, not on the underlying technology.
Fibre, even at the same (and sometimes lower!) speed, is superior:

1) Immune to lightning strikes, generally not affected by bad weather
2) No problems with electrical interference
3) No grounding/earthing issues
4) Devoid of resale value which reduces cable theft
5) Much longer range
6) Lower latency

For the above reasons, I'd rather have a 20d/10u fibre than 40d/10u VDSL service. I'm really sick and tired of having to unplug my phone line every time there's a thunderstorm.
 

zAAm

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Fibre, even at the same (and sometimes lower!) speed, is superior:

1) Immune to lightning strikes, generally not affected by bad weather
2) No problems with electrical interference
3) No grounding/earthing issues
4) Devoid of resale value which reduces cable theft
5) Much longer range
6) Lower latency

For the above reasons, I'd rather have a 20d/10u fibre than 40d/10u VDSL service. I'm really sick and tired of having to unplug my phone line every time there's a thunderstorm.
I'm fully aware of the textbook differences, I do have some experience in this field. But I'm referring to the vast majority of people here and their real-world experience. Most people would never notice a reduction of 10ms in latency on the access side - international latency is much more significant in the total latency equation. So if you can personally notice the difference then well done, you have a use-case for fibre ;). As I mentioned before, distance is irrelevant if your service is up. Distance is the service provider's problem. Also, lightning issues are quite region specific. I personally never unplug my router and I've never had issues with that (there are some other reasons for this issue as well but I won't get into it). Interference becomes an issue when the technology is being stretched to its absolute limits, i.e. trying to get BB to people really far from the exchange. Cable theft is very real, but cables aren't being stolen everywhere all the time. All these are real problems and I acknowledge them, but it is debatable whether these affect the majority of people most of the time.

Again, I'm not saying copper is better than fibre, I'm saying the end-user experience is pretty much indistinguishable for the vast majority of people. Like audiophile equipment, it's measurably better, but how much of that translates to sounding better? For some people, totally worth it, for the vast majority, probably not.
 

JayM

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I'm fully aware of the textbook differences, I do have some experience in this field. But I'm referring to the vast majority of people here and their real-world experience. Most people would never notice a reduction of 10ms in latency on the access side - international latency is much more significant in the total latency equation. So if you can personally notice the difference then well done, you have a use-case for fibre ;). As I mentioned before, distance is irrelevant if your service is up. Distance is the service provider's problem. Also, lightning issues are quite region specific. I personally never unplug my router and I've never had issues with that (there are some other reasons for this issue as well but I won't get into it). Interference becomes an issue when the technology is being stretched to its absolute limits, i.e. trying to get BB to people really far from the exchange. Cable theft is very real, but cables aren't being stolen everywhere all the time. All these are real problems and I acknowledge them, but it is debatable whether these affect the majority of people most of the time.

Again, I'm not saying copper is better than fibre, I'm saying the end-user experience is pretty much indistinguishable for the vast majority of people. Like audiophile equipment, it's measurably better, but how much of that translates to sounding better? For some people, totally worth it, for the vast majority, probably not.
My work pays for Internet access for on-call staff. From experience, I can tell you that per subscriber we log 10x+ as many calls for xDSL vs FTTH. This is primary due to rain and thunderstorms. So in Gauteng I would argue that the end user experience is vastly superior on fibre than copper.
 

zAAm

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My work pays for Internet access for on-call staff. From experience, I can tell you that per subscriber we log 10x+ as many calls for xDSL vs FTTH. This is primary due to rain and thunderstorms. So in Gauteng I would argue that the end user experience is vastly superior on fibre than copper.
That is not a catch-all situation though. How many subscribers have never logged a fault? Or only logged a fault that was not due to a reason specifically related to the copper, i.e. SAIX link down etc.? There are a ton of cases like these. And because of copper being demonized, these people will also want to move to fibre for no good reason other than they heard someone say fibre is better, even though it would make no difference in their situation. People with good service don't rave about how good it is as loudly as people with bad service complain, which sways market perception into an unnecessary corner. But rather than people complain about their service, they say it's because it's copper. Reality is often more nuanced than people make it out to be.
 

EasyUp Web Hosting

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zAAm is not incorrect, but you have to look at it from all sides. Because of copper theft, people are now forced to use LTE and that is where my point comes in. Copper isn't bad, but if Telkom doesn't want to replace it anymore, then LTE is your only option, unless you can get fibre. At the end, it all depends on what you use the internet for... :)

The only thing I haven't read up on, is what is the contention ratio for fibre, if there is such a thing?
 

furpile

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That is not a catch-all situation though. How many subscribers have never logged a fault? Or only logged a fault that was not due to a reason specifically related to the copper, i.e. SAIX link down etc.? There are a ton of cases like these. And because of copper being demonized, these people will also want to move to fibre for no good reason other than they heard someone say fibre is better, even though it would make no difference in their situation. People with good service don't rave about how good it is as loudly as people with bad service complain, which sways market perception into an unnecessary corner. But rather than people complain about their service, they say it's because it's copper. Reality is often more nuanced than people make it out to be.
Another good reason for fibre is to get away from Telkom. They are the reason our copper infrastructure is so outdated, and why many people associate copper with bad performance. At least with fibre you can get onto an independent backbone to get better service levels.
 

patel8786

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Hi all,

Please tell me, in reality if I get a 2 or 4 mbps line on fibre is it going to be better that ADSL?
What actual differences are there?

I'm looking at streaming HD video from an international source and I had a 4mb ADSL line that wasn't coping. Would a 2 or 4mb fibre line work?

TIA :D
 
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furpile

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Hi all,

Please tell me, in reality if I get a 2 or 4 mbps line on fibre is it going to be better that ADSL?
What actual differences are there?

I'm looking at streaming HD video from an internation source and I had a 4mb ADSL line that wasn't coping. Would a 2 or 4mb fibre line work?

TIA :D
Unlikely. The 2 Mbps line will definitely not work, the 4 Mbps might cope if your ADSL was syncing lower than max. Fibre probably doesn't have the 15% loss in throughput that ADSL has you you should sync at 4 Mbps instead of 3,5 Mbps?

Regardless of what internet connection method you use, 4 Mbps is probably borderline for HD streaming. If the source has good encoding it might work (Netflix probably will) but if not you won't get to HD.
 
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