1Gbps fibre connections are the stuff Internet users’ dreams are made of – fast connectivity that can download large files in the time it takes you to make a bag of microwave popcorn.
While pricing of Gbps FTTH is slowly decreasing as the technology gains traction, availability is limited in South Africa.
MyBroadband reader Jack Shiels was fortunate enough to use a Vox Telecom 1Gbps FTTH account (through Frogfoot/Link Africa) for a month, and shared his experience with us.
My month with Gigabit FTTH
It’s not often that you get to spend time with a truly uninhibited Internet connection. So when I was given the opportunity to try out Gigabit FTTH, I jumped at the chance.
Constantia, my suburb, had been campaigning for FTTH services for well over a year before I got my connection from Frogfoot and Link Africa.
Seeing that first active network icon in the taskbar was a beautiful moment, but it couldn’t possibly have prepared me for the joy of my first gigabit FTTH speed test.
Following the speed tests came the stress tests. First off – Netflix.
I was able to hit 1080p streaming without a hitch. Similarly with YouTube in 4K – the video started instantly and didn’t buffer at any point.
Then I tried two videos at once, noting the fan on my i7 spinning under the stress – still no discernible performance difference.
So I took it to the next level.
While streaming Netflix on my Xbox One, I opened up ten 1080p YouTube videos at once. At no point did any of the streams buffer, stutter, or show a hint of catching up to the end of the grey tracking bar.
It is rare to find a game that requires more than a 1Mbps connection for online play. Stability, connection, and ping times take precedent for the highest quality gaming experience.
Counter Strike was the best game for the testing process. Not surprisingly, ping times dropped nicely across the board. Previously running at about 40-50ms to Joburg, I was now getting away with 25-30ms.
My connection to Cape Town servers sat at 5ms almost constantly, while international ping times were around 145-150ms on UK and mainland Europe servers.
Arguably the most sought-after feature of FTTH is the ability to download files at lightning speed.
My first stop was Steam. According to Valve, the gaming client draws a peak rate of around 8Gbps in Africa.
Downloading from the locally-hosted Steam cache in Cape Town, I managed to reach a maximum rate of 216Mbps (27MB/s) to my SSD and 176Mbps (22.1MB/s) to an HDD.
The drop in speed is due firstly to the limitations of my hardware. Secondly, local Steam servers do not have the capacity to meet such a high-speed connection on a single link.
The trend of inadequate server capacity continued with TENET Linux ISO downloads. Mirror.ac.za capped me at around 100Mbps to a single line, even when using a multi-threaded downloader.
Torrents performed a bit better – I was able to hit 128Mbps (16MB/s) from a well-seeded international Linux ISO, while others were downright disappointing.
Downloading Halo 5 from Xbox Live yielded an average of 18Mbps (2.25MB/s).
Bottlenecks on the Internet
Gigabit FTTH is so ahead of its time and so fast that you encounter bottlenecks on the Internet.
As outlandish as it may sound, the web is simply not prepared for gigabit home use on a large scale.
Having access to such an absurd amount of bandwidth is a life-changing thing, but in the hands of a single user it becomes almost entirely superfluous.
My time with gigabit FTTH was a joy, but at the risk committing a Bill Gates and looking foolish in the near future, 100Mbps “really ought to be enough for anybody”. For now, at least.
Consumers complain about data caps on fast connections being similar to “owning a Ferrari but only being given half a tank of petrol a month”.
I came to a similar conclusion with 1Gbps FTTH: it’s like owning a Ferrari, but there aren’t enough highways yet.