Early tests of Supersonic’s Unlimited Air Fibre product have shown impressive speeds and latency, indicating the company might have strong grounds for its claims that it offers “fibre-like” connectivity.
Supersonic launched the new uncapped wireless broadband product in May but has encountered some problems in its rollout due to a shortage of antennas needed to connect customers.
Supersonic CEO Calvin Collett told MyBroadband the ISP was now in weekly communication with stakeholders to push client units through and is hoping to have some stock in the country by the end of July.
Despite the issues, Collett said the tech behind Unlimited Air Fibre — which was developed by US-based firm Tarana Wireless — has exceeded their expectations.
“We spent a good couple of years researching the product and have been incredibly vigilant with our testing, especially considering the Internet access needs we have to meet in areas which require it most,” Collett said.
“MTN put the product through a matrix of 70 key metrics it has to conform to be successful.”
Supersonic invited MyBroadband to the home of one of the first Unlimited Air Fibre customers to test the new solution for ourselves.
The customer, Mmatankiso Botsane, had her Air Fibre antenna installed on the roof of her home in early May.
From here, it transfers and receives data from linked equipment installed on an MTN tower about 3-4km away.
Notably, the antenna’s line of sight is obscured by several trees. Despite this, Botsane said the connection was working well.
Below are images of the antenna on her roof, pointed at the mobile network tower.
Botsane told us she cancelled her 20/20Mbps fibre package with Afrihost on Vumatel’s network to take up the 20/10Mbps Air Fibre option from Supersonic.
The Afrihost/Vumatel fibre package cost her R907 per month, while the 20/10Mbps connection from Air Fibre is priced at R599 per month.
Since switching, she said she has been using online remote working software like Microsoft Teams and streaming video on Netflix and YouTube with ease.
To give us the full Unlimited Air Fibre experience, Supersonic temporarily switched Botsane’s Air Fibre package to 100/40Mbps.
This is the fastest available offering in the line-up and comes priced at R999 per month.
We connected our testing rig via an Ethernet cable to a run-of-the-mill Zyxel AC1200 router, which was also connected via a cable to the terminal linked with the Air Fibre antenna.
Below are images of what our setup and the router looked like.
Firstly, we performed speed tests using the MyBroadband Speed Test website.
We measured a peak download speed of 106.41Mbps, and the connection consistently exceeded 100Mbps for downloads.
Notably, there was little variation between the download speeds, upload speeds, and latency.
Only one of the download results was less than 100Mbps, and it was just 0.81Mbps short of that mark. On average, download speeds were around 102.6Mbps.
Upload speeds averaged 44.4Mbps, with only one out of the 10 tests measuring below the advertised 40Mbps.
Latency was impressive as well, ranging between 8ms and 13ms and averaging at 10.7ms.
The table below shows the results for each of the speed tests we performed. The average download speeds, upload speeds, and latency we measured are shown in bold.
|Unlimited Air Fibre speed test results|
We then investigated exactly how the throughput above translated into real-life performance.
The first area of focus was file downloads.
A 100Mbps line speed translates to a maximum of 12.5MB/s.
Actual throughput may be lower depending on the particular platform from which a file is being downloaded and may be degraded if other applications are also consuming bandwidth.
We started with a download of Dota 2 on Steam, which came in at a size of around 15.2GB.
We then checked how the connection performed for a typical browser-based download and downloaded a 1.46GB WeTransfer ZIP file in Chrome.
Finally, we wanted to see what performance was like for a torrent download.
Supersonic told MyBroadband that it does not shape or throttle the Unlimited Air Fibre product in any way, so we were curious as to whether this extended to the Bittorrent protocol, which is usually a prime target for throttling.
We downloaded a 2GB ISO image file for the Ubuntu Desktop operating system to put this claim to the test.
The table below shows the time each file took to download, the peak speed during the download, and the average download speed for the file.
|Platform||Name of file and size||Time to download||Peak speed||Average download speed|
|Steam||Dota 2 – 15.2GB||27 minutes||13.0MB/s||9.4MB/s|
|Chrome browser||WeTransfer ZIP file – 1.46GB||3 minutes||10.5MB/s||8.1MB/s|
|BitTorrent Web||Ubuntu desktop ISO – 2GB||5 minutes||7.8MB/s||6.7MB/s|
Our next test was to see how the connection’s latency would fare in gaming.
We observed our ping in three games — Apex, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Rocket League – over a period of one minute each.
While Apex can currently only be played on international servers, CS:GO and Rocket League have a local presence.
While starting up Apex, we found the lowest ping listed on a Belgium-based server at 182ms. Playing on this server resulted in latency of around 185-200ms.
These numbers are impressive for a wireless network and similar to what one might get on fibre.
The London-based server for Apex showed a 187ms ping.
CS:GO hovered between 25–35ms and would sometimes spike to 50ms for just a few seconds when a new round started.
Rocket League had the lowest ping and the least variation in latency at 22–26ms on a South African server.
The table below shows the highest and lowest pings we recorded on each title.
|Latency during gameplay|
|Platform||Server country||Highest ping||Lowest ping|
|CS: GO||South Africa||34ms||25ms|
|Rocket League||South Africa||22ms||26ms|
Finally, many people would likely use their high-speed uncapped broadband on video streaming services.
Seeing as the connection was much faster than the minimum required for 4K resolution, we used a Netflix Premium package to see if we could get a 4K-supported title to go up to that quality.
Unfortunately, our Netflix stream never moved above 1080p, although its buffering bar showed it had already downloaded far ahead of our current viewing point on the timeline.
It is unlikely that this was because of the connection itself, but it was possibly related to our computer not supporting the resolution or meeting the minimum specifications necessary.
Netflix itself states it is currently researching an issue where titles aren’t available in Ultra HD, even on 4K devices.
We had no problems streaming at 4K on YouTube without any buffering. The buffered section of the video was far ahead of our viewing point mere seconds after starting the video.
The images below show the video streaming performance of the connection on Netflix and YouTube.