May 07, 2021

Understanding your internet choices

The Internet Service Provider (ISP) industry is highly competitive and can be a daunting space for businesses looking for the right partner. There are many business ISPs in South Africa and each one of them has multiple options when it comes to internet connectivity. How can a company pick the right internet supplier and choose the best package for its needs? The answer lies in research and understanding your internet choices.

There are a few basic types of internet connection. ISPs will use various technologies to deliver these connections to their customers. Most ISPs will guide customers to a package that suits their requirements based on the speed of the connection, the number of connections needed, price and purpose. Connectivity has come a long way since the days of dial-up and modems.

Types of internet connection

The most common types of internet connection include the following:

  • DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) - This connection is similar to dial-up, but it is always on. It uses two separate phone lines so that your telephone can still be used when you are connected to the internet. There is no need to dial a phone number to connect to the internet, as was the case with old versions of dial-up. DSL uses a router to transfer the data and connection speeds can vary from 128Kbps to 8Mbps. Most people have heard of ADSL (Asymmetric DSL), which is one type of DSL that enables faster data transmission over telephone lines.
  • Cable - Although it is not used in Africa, this connection uses television cable lines and a modem to transfer data. It is more modern than dial-up and the cables allow a much greater bandwidth than dial-up or DSL. This means faster internet; speeds range between 512Kbps and 50Mbps.
  • Satellite - Satellite internet is exactly that; a signal is sent from a ground base station to a satellite in orbit. It is then sent back down to a receiver on the ground. This incredible distance means that the connection can be slightly delayed, sometimes slower than DSL. Satellite connection speeds vary between 512Kbps and 2Mbps.
  • Cellular - Like satellite connectivity, this method is wireless and can be accessed through cell phone networks. It is commonly referred to as HSPA (High Speed Packet Access), 2G, 3G, 4G and now, 5G. The “G” stands for generation - it just denotes that speeds have increased significantly. A 4G connection can reach speeds of up to 100Mbps.
  • Wireless hotspots - Most modern devices (laptops, smart phones, tablets, cameras or smart watches) are wireless-enabled. A wireless hotspot can be set up just about anywhere. The internet signal comes to a router which converts it into a wireless signal, similar to how a radio works. A digital device then receives this signal and converts it into data. Most hotspots can be accessed with a password and some public spaces may charge you a fee for using their internet.
  • Fibre optic - This is one of the most common and up-to-date technologies available. It uses optical fibres (tiny glass-like wires) to transmit light signals between a station and receiver, which convert the light into electrical signals and data. This means that data is transferred at around 70% of the speed of light, which enables faster internet and more bandwidth. Speeds can vary up to 1Gbps.

Other acronyms that you should know

The following acronyms will be thrown around when discussing internet connectivity with your chosen ISP. These words can also be found throughout the SEACOM website, so it’s good to be familiar with them before selecting one of our packages:

  • Ethernet - This is a network of computers that are wired together, often in the same room or in a single building. Most offices and corporate companies utilise ethernet to connect their computers to one another, either through a Local Area Network (LAN - within the same building) or Wide Area Network (WAN - remotely).
  • EoMPLS - Ethernet over Multi Protocol Label Switching is simply a response to the rapid growth of the internet. MPLS is a private network that connects computers to one another, separate from the internet. EoMPLS simply means that an ethernet connection is created using an existing MPLS network.
  • IPv4 - Internet Protocol version 4 is the fourth generation of internet addresses. IPv4 is the technology that allows people to connect devices to the web through a unique, numerical IP address. In order to send data from one computer to another through the web, a data packet must be transferred through a network connecting the IP addresses of both computers.
  • IPv6 - The sixth generation of IP addresses that are designed to supplement and replace IPv4, which is running out of addresses. IPv6 functions in the same way as IPv4 but it utilises a 128-bit IP system that holds numerous benefits, including auto-configuration, more efficient routing, lack of IP collisions, built-in authentication, improved security and flexible options.
  • FIA - This simply means Fibre Internet Access. It is one of our most popular connection options.
  • FTTB - Fibre to the business is an offering where SEACOM Business will install a fibre optic connection from the main station directly to your building or office.
  • SD-WAN - A Software-Defined Wide Area Network simplifies the management and operation of a WAN by using software to control the connectivity and services between data centres and remote stations or cloud-based servers. SD-WAN has the ability to manage multiple connections, including MPLS and broadband. It can also segment traffic within the WAN and give them secure access to applications and programmes.
  • SLA - A Service-Level Agreement is a commitment between an ISP and the customer. It defines the quality, availability and responsibilities of both parties when they enter into a contract.

These acronyms and internet types should allow you to better understand the world of connectivity. When looking for the right internet package, you need to do some research and understand your own needs. Your chosen ISP will then be able to guide to the right decision and allow you to choose the package that will fulfil your requirements. Please contact us today to enquire about our connectivity services or to get a quote.

SEACOM owns Africa’s most extensive network of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, including subsea cables and secure internet connections. We offer a diverse range of flexible, scalable and high-quality solutions that meet world-class standards for connectivity.

SEACOM is privately owned and operated, making it agile and adaptable to the needs of the customer. This makes us the preferred ICT and internet connectivity partner for African businesses and peripheral service providers. We can guarantee high-speed, low-latency and secure internet connections to corporates and small enterprises.

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Need internet for your home? Our subsidiary, WonderNet, brings fast and cost-effective broadband internet to all Africans with a fibre-to-the-home offering.