LTE-A will never be on par with fibre

Warren Bonheim, CCO of Internet service provider Zinia, has stated that while LTE-A is a good alternative to fibre, it will never be on par with the cable-based service.

Bonheim made the statement as part of an opinion piece on the broadband technologies and how they compare.

“While the idea of wireless with fibre-like experience is something we all want, businesses in South Africa need to understand the differences and impact each technology will have in their environment,” said Bonheim.

He said that although LTE-A networks can theoretically get peak download speeds of 300Mbps, “real-world experiences of 42Mbps and up to 90Mbps are more likely”.

Bonheim said there are multiple factors that affect the speed and experience users get from LTE-A services, including the device you are using and the distance to the nearest tower.

The relatively-limited coverage of LTE-A was also a factor, he said.

“The technology is new so initially coverage will be limited, the network providers would have to upgrade every site to LTE-A as well as upgrade the backhaul links which is a mammoth task.”

Good alternative, but not on par

Bonheim said while LTE-A is a good alternative to fibre – due to its quicker turnaround times and the ease at which users can be connected to a network – it will never be on par with fibre.

“Fibre transmits data over light whereas wireless is transmitted over radio: the latency will always be higher.”

“While speeds may be faster on LTE-A, the way it is delivered will still be slower because wireless is always a shared service, which means the more people you have on the network the slower it gets.”

Bonheim added that fibre can offer stable speeds because speeds can be managed and capacity controlled as the network expands.

“In addition, many users and businesses want uncapped data. We have never seen mobile data being uncapped except in very limited areas.”

He said small businesses may use LTE-A if their data usage is relatively low, but bigger enterprises cannot rely on the service.

Now read: Massive Telkom fibre-to-the-home push in South Africa

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LTE-A will never be on par with fibre