First National Bank recently introduced a small range of telecoms products to its clients through FNB Connect, a specialized telecoms division of the FirstRand Group. One of the products is a prepaid ADSL service where users can top up their ADSL bandwidth through the FNB Connect website.
FNB Connect allows top-ups between R 20.00 and R 1 000.00 where the top-up amount is converted to ADSL bandwidth at 6.9 c per MB. The price of R 69.00 per GB for unshaped bandwidth is very competitive in the ISP market, with the added freedom of not having to purchase bandwidth in intervals of 1 GB.
Axxess, which can be considered one of the best priced ISPs in the market today, charges R 69.00 per GB for shaped prepaid bandwidth and R 119.00 per GB for unshaped prepaid bandwidth. Web Africa, another well known ISP in the prepaid ADSL arena, charges R 70 per GB for shaped bandwidth and R 125 per GB for unshaped bandwidth.
Telkom Internet is cheaper than FNB Connect, Axxess and Web Africa at R 64.76 per GB for shaped bandwidth and R 113.24 for unshaped bandwidth, but the fact that Telkom’s bandwidth expires at the end of the month and does not carry over for 12 months makes it less attractive than other providers.
It is clear that FNB Connect’s ADSL bandwidth prices are on par or better than similar offerings in the market, but does it hold up in the performance department?
Since FNB Connect uses their own bandwidth through Telkom’s IP Connect wholesale ADSL service, the performance of their ADSL product is dependent on the amount of local and international bandwidth which they provision. Inadequate bandwidth provisioning will result in high contention ratios on the service and in turn the throughput will be poor.
To see how this service performs against a standard SAIX based ADSL offering we did a few basic throughput and latency tests using a 4 Mbps ADSL connection. The results were encouraging.
The service was very responsive when accessing local websites, but it felt a bit sluggish with international websites like CNN and BBC. This can however be due to factors outsite of connectivity speeds and backhaul bandwidth.
Web based speed tests during business hours showed fast local speeds – in the region of 3 Mbps on local downloads and 400 Kbps on local uploads. With international speeds the results were even more impressive: Download speeds often exceeded 3 Mbps to UK and US locations and upload speeds of between 300 Kbps and 400 Kbps.
During the same period a Telkom shaped account gave international download speeds from the same locations of between 0.64 Mbps and 0.19 Mbps and upload speeds ranging from 180 Kbps and 340 Kbps.
Latency on FNB Connect was equally impressive for online gaming – around 300 ms to US based servers. This is around 100 ms lower than a Telkom shaped service during the same period, using the same servers.
Using download services like Limewire also proved no problem during business hours. The results were comparable to what one can expect from an unshaped 4 Mbps ADSL connection. The speeds were visibly higher than a shaped account and one could easily feel the difference using the unshaped FNB Connect service.
From this initial testing it is clear that FNB Connect has provisioned adequate local and international bandwidth to serve their current user base. The performance is superior to a standard shaped bandwidth account from Telkom, and will most likely rival any ADSL service available in the market today.
FNB Connect will however have to keep a close eye on usage on the network as their user base grows, and ensure they maintain acceptable contention ratios to continue providing these high service levels.
FNB Connect ADSL discussion