Monday, 19 July 2021

What is an open-access fibre network operator and how to choose an ISP and package?

Written by
What is an open-access fibre network operator and how to choose an ISP and package?

If you have recently seen digging activity along the pavements in your streets, chances are that fibre infrastructure is coming to your suburb.  Next in the process - if you are going to connect superfast fibre internet connectivity to your home - you’ll need to choose your Internet Service Provider (ISP). If the fibre network operator (FNO) – the crowd that puts the infrastructure in the ground – is an ‘open-access’ network, you’ll have a choice of ISPs and packages to choose from. 

In assessing your ISP and package options, you’re probably a bit overwhelmed by all the terminology and acronyms being thrown at you – like ‘open access’ and ‘FNO and ISP’, ‘uncapped and unshaped’ – and what the important considerations are that you should base your decision on.    

MetroFibre Networxan open-access fibre network operator (FNO) and Internet Service Provider (ISP) offers a step-by-step guide of all the important things are that you need to know, and what all the acronyms and industry jargon actually mean: 

  • It starts with getting fibre infrastructure in your suburb first:  If there were people digging up your pavements recently, chances are your suburb has been approved for fibre installation by means of a municipal wayleave – this is the process by which permission is granted by the local council for a fibre network operator (FNO) to trench in the street to install the fibre infrastructure. This is the actual backbone of what your internet connectivity will run off.
  • Choose your Internet Service Provider (ISP): In some instances, the infrastructure provider (FNO) and your internet service provider (ISP) may be the same company, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. This is where the concept of ‘open access” comes in. ‘Open Access’ means that the FNO allows a variety of ISPs and resellers to operate off its network infrastructure, which gives you a variety of choice as to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) as well as the packages, pricing and service levels on offer.  Other companies may offer a closed network and you are forced to go with the ISP that sells on that network - this limits your choice on speed, package and price.   
  • What does an ISP do? Your ISP provides your actual internet connectivity, provides support or troubleshooting on technical issues, bills you every month for the service and installs the Wi-Fi router in your home that connects you to the internet. Most ISPs will have a list of ‘internet’ packages to choose from determined by the speed of the connection, ranging anywhere from 20 Megabytes per second (Mbps) through to 300 Mbps (or more for intensive users).  The price scales up the higher the speed of the line which is measured in Mbps (This is the speed and not the data cap, like a mobile package). 
  • How to choose my ISP package: You can choose between a capped or an uncapped fibre connection.  A capped fibre connection will limit the amount of data you can use to a prescribed cap. However, most ISPs now provide uncapped fibre connections which is a better option if you’re planning on watching movies or downloading music with your fibre line without worrying that you have run out of data. Also, be aware that some uncapped services still come with a fair use policy (FUP) – which service providers implement as subscribers stretch the capacity of their networks by ‘throttling’ back the line speeds once certain usage thresholds are reached. Also look at aspects such as symmetrical line speed - a symmetric internet connection means that the data speed and file transfer rate is the same for both upload and download directions, at the same time. Symmetrical connections provide a much better internet experience than that of asymmetrical connections, especially if you are accessing the cloud for your work and entertainment purposes – which most of us are.  Be wary of basing your entire ISP decision on the first available connection date or price.  Most FTTH infrastructure providers have several Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that operate off their line and can provide you with many choices and price packages for your fibre line connection (this is what is termed an open access network.)
  • What internet speed do I need? As a rule of thumb, an internet speed of 20 Mbps should be sufficient for home use, but this depends on the type of work you do – as data intensive occupations such as civil engineers, creative designers or photography will use a great deal more data than a journalist would, for example.  How many people are using the connection also plays a role. If you have a normal family unit that comprises of mom and dad that need to work, while the kids are streaming off platforms for online schooling, or Netflix and YouTube, you may need a higher speed connection.  If you are participating in remote conference calls such as Webex, Facetime or Whatsapp video calls, then you could need a faster line speed to accommodate these data-intensive applications. 
  • Connecting fibre to your home:  Once you have decided on an ISP and package and confirmed you order with your ISP, they will arrange for your router to be installed and activate your service.  Most ISPs will provide you with a fibre router that is included in your package – in most instances the router remains the property of the ISP.  The router broadcasts your internet connection via a technology called Wi-Fi to devices in your home such as your phone, tablet, laptop or your TV – think of it as an invisible internet connection that you connect to via radio wave transmission.  You can also connect a device such as your TV or laptop directly to your router using an Ethernet cable, which we would recommend if you are planning on streaming movies or songs from your TV (or testing your speed of your internet).  You will find that video streaming is data-intensive and may require more bandwidth, causing other services and devices to ‘lag’ or buffer. This tends to grow more severe as more devices connect to the Wi-Fi.  A wired (Ethernet cable) connection is always more reliable than the Wi-Fi signal from the same router and does not suffer from fluctuations.  
  • What if I am not ready for fibre internet now? Even if you’re not yet ready to connect fibre to your home, MetroFibre recommends that a fibre installation point (also known as a Termination Point) is installed during the build phase to save you on cost later. Having a termination point ready means that an ISP can connect you as soon as your order is placed in future, without having to dig a trench from the roadside down to your property to install a connection point. If you do this after the build phase - it will cost you to have the installation done. 

For more information visit www.metrofibre.co.za