Goodbye ADSL — Fibre vs copper price comparison

Telkom has been decommissioning its digital subscriber line (DSL) networks in areas with fibre to migrate copper customers to the newer technology, which is often significantly cheaper.

A MyBroadband analysis found that Telkom DSL packages are often on the higher end of the price scale when compared with well-matched fibre packages.

Telkom’s interim financial results for the year ended September 2023 revealed that the company’s wholesale fixed-network division, Openserve, saw its fixed broadband subscribers decline by 1.3% — from 562,080 to 554,809.

This doesn’t provide a clear picture of the company’s DSL decline. However, it is possible to calculate approximate numbers by subtracting the number of fibre customers from its total fixed broadband customer base.

The number of Openserve fixed broadband homes connected increased from 443,469 by the end of September 2022 to 542,598 as of September 2023.

Subtracting 542,598 from Telkom’s 554,809 broadband customers leaves just 12,211 fixed broadband customers who aren’t using Openserve fibre.

This represents an 84% decline from the 74,477 DSL subscribers it had at the end of September 2022.

In May 2022, the network operator told MyBroadband that it was actively migrating copper customers to fibre in areas with fibre network coverage.

“Over time, all copper-based services will eventually be migrated to fibre. Openserve will not switch off copper or disconnect DSL customers where we do not have fibre presence,” a Telkom spokesperson said.

“We will only migrate copper customers to fibre where we have fibre.”

It is unclear how much of the DSL customer loss between September 2022 and 2023 can be attributed to Telkom migrating them to fibre.

Fibre vs copper price showdown

MyBroadband compared the pricing of Telkom’s 5Mbps, 10Mbps, 20Mbps, and 40Mbps DSL offerings to comparable fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) lines available in South Africa.

We used the Internet service provider (ISP) Afrihost’s pricing to keep the comparison consistent.

As fibre lines aren’t always directly comparable to the speeds offered with DSL, we split speeds into categories.

We found fibre packages from various fibre network operators (FNOs) that were cheaper than DSL on a price per Mbps basis across all speed categories.

Zoom Fibre’s symmetrical 15Mbps is cheapest in the lower speed category at R247 per month or R16.47 per Mbps.

In comparison, Telkom’s 10Mbps and 5Mbps ADSL packages cost R397 and R297, respectively. This works out to R29.70 per Mbps for the 10Mbps package and R59.40 per Mbps for its slowest speed.

Zoom Fibre was the cheapest in the 20Mbps to 30Mbps category, with its symmetrical 15Mbps package costing R247 per month, working out to R14.90 per Mbps.

Cheaper packages are available, such as Openserve’s asymmetrical 20Mbps plan at R329 per month. However, they are more expensive than the Zoom Fibre package in terms of price per unit speed (rands-per-Mbps).

The Telkom DSL package was the second-most expensive in the category at a price of R597 per month for 20Mbps, working out to R29.85 per Mbps.

Openserve’s asymmetrical 40Mbps Web Connect package is the cheapest in the higher speed category at R389 per month or R9.73 per Mbps.

Telkom’s 40Mbps DSL package was the most expensive of the five in the category at R697 per month.

Below is a price comparison between Telkom DSL packages available through Afrihost and comparable FTTH plans available through the same ISP.

Copper-based packages are bolded and in orange, while the cheapest package in each speed category —on a price per Mbps basis — is shown in green.

Fibre vs ADSL price comparison
Speed Network Operator Connection type Price Price per Mbps
5Mbps to 15Mbps
15/15Mbps Zoom Fibre Fibre R247.00 R16.47
10/1Mbps Frogfoot Air Fibre R297.00 R29.70
10Mbps Telkom ADSL R397.00 R39.70
5Mbps Telkom ADSL R297.00 R59.40
20Mbps to 30Mbps
30/30Mbps Zoom Fibre Fibre R447.00 R14.90
20/10Mbps Openserve Web Connect Fibre R329.00 R16.45
30/30Mbps Link Layer Fibre R497.00 R16.57
25/25Mbps MetroFibre Nexus Fibre R497.00 R19.88
20/10Mbps Vuma Reach Fibre R399.00 R19.95
20/20Mbps MetroFibre Fibre R400.00 R20.00
25/25Mbps Octotel Fibre R527.00 R21.08
20/2Mbps Frogfoot Air Fibre R447.00 R22.35
25/25Mbps Clear Access Fibre R597.00 R23.88
20Mbps Telkom VDSL R597.00 R29.85
20/5Mbps Evotel Fibre R627.00 R31.35
40/20Mbps Openserve Web Connect Fibre R389.00 R9.73
40/10Mbps Vuma Reach Fibre R529.00 R13.23
40/10Mbps Frogfoot Fibre R557.00 R13.93
40/40Mbps Frogfoot Fibre R657.00 R16.43
40Mbps Telkom VDSL R697.00 R17.43

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Goodbye ADSL — Fibre vs copper price comparison