When to buy cheaper fibre with slower upload speeds

South Africans looking to save money on their fibre Internet connection may consider taking a package with a reduced upload speed.

While the emphasis is often placed on getting a connection with a suitable download speed, consumers aren’t always aware of the benefits of a high upload speed.

Fibre network operators in South Africa offer either symmetrical or asymmetrical Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) packages.

Symmetrical connections have the same download and upload speeds, while asymmetrical packages have a lower upload speed equivalent to a percentage of the download speed.

All lines provided by Openserve are asymmetrical, with upload speeds typically being half of the download speed. For example, a line with a 100Mbps download speed would have a 50Mbps upload speed.

Vumatel offers packages with both symmetrical and asymmetrical speeds. For the latter, upload speeds are normally a tenth of the download speed.

Due to their lower capacity demands, asymmetrical packages are more affordable.

For example, a 20Mbps/20Mbps Vumatel line provided by Vox is priced at R919 per month, whereas a 20Mbps/2Mbps line is R100 cheaper. This saving typically increases with higher download-speed packages.

A 50Mbps/50Mbps line from MWEB is priced at R1,189, while a 50Mbps/5Mbps package is R969 – R220 less.

High download speeds are more important

MyBroadband spoke to two major South African ISPs – Vox and MWEB – about what factors users should consider when looking at upload speeds.

Vox FTTH senior product manager Claire Williamson and MWEB head of products Rihana Hoosain both said users should consider download speed the most important attribute of their connection.

“Most activities conducted in the home – like streaming, browsing, and social media – predominantly make use of downstream bandwidth,” Hoosain explained.

“For these users, reduced upload speeds won’t make too much of a difference to their experience,” she added.

Williamson noted, however, that certain online activities would benefit from higher upload speeds.

“Users need to take into consideration our evolving use of the Internet, and especially the increased use of the cloud,” she added.

“Upload affects many things you do on the Internet – when you put a file on your Google Drive, sync your photos to iCloud, or send an email with attachments that you are uploading,” she said.

When you need a high upload speed

Williamson noted if your Internet activity requires high responsiveness for applications like Zoom and Teams, then upload speed is very important.

“Without good upload speed, communications are delayed and your ability to contribute effectively to what is required of you is throttled,” she stated.

“VoIP, content sharing, video conferencing and online training all require uploading and downloading. When your upload speed isn’t great, you’ll suffer from a sluggish, inefficient online experience, ” she added.

Hoosain noted that for remote workers who mostly use email and a communication app like Skype, a normal connection with asymmetrical speeds would be more than sufficient.

“In the case of a home user that is constantly uploading files, checking live data, or broadcasting live streams, for example, this user would benefit from higher upload speeds,” she added.

In addition, if there are multiple users on the network simultaneously, upload-intensive applications could present issues, Williamson said.

She suggested upload-intensive households should have a minimum 5Mbps upload speed for a good experience, while Hoosain said the minimum upload speed contribution should be 10 to 15%, especially on the lower download speed products.

Hoosain noted the following online activities are particularly upload-intensive:

  • Online gaming
  • Online trading
  • Broadcasting or streaming video and audio to social media
  • HD voice services

In addition, multimedia content creators who work with large files such as high-quality photos, videos and rendered objects will be able to upload their work much faster, while regular or large cloud backups will also work best on lines with high upload speeds.

Upload speed pricing comparison

Below are several asymmetrical fibre packages from Vox and MWEB available on Vumatel’s network.

Vumatel – Uncapped asymmetric fibre prices
SpeedVox ISP Price
200Mbps/20Mbps Vox R1,399
MWEB R1,399
100Mbps/10Mbps Vox R1,149
MWEB R1,069
50Mbps/5Mbps Vox R959
MWEB R969
20Mbps/2Mbps Vox R819
MWEB R829
10Mbps/2Mbps Vox R649
MWEB R629

Now read: The most affordable 100Mbps uncapped fibre packages in South Africa

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When to buy cheaper fibre with slower upload speeds