Press Release:

ISPA Explains the Nuts & Bolts of Home Connectivity

Published on: 2020-07-14

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Connecting to the Internet in South Africa can be as simple as using a smartphone powered by a SIM card. However, the downside of mobile web surfing is that it can be fairly pricey and may result in large and unexpected bills for mobile data charges.

FTTX (Fibre to the home, business and any other connected place) offers a far more affordable, long-term connectivity option and with some half a million South African homes now estimated to have easy access to high-speed broadband fibre, always-on FTTH seems ideal.

However, FTTH requires a little more understanding of its various nuts and bolts compared to mobile web access which consists of little more than a SIM card and a device. Consumers will typically use their home fibre to enjoy wireless high-speed Internet at home. However, before we get to the end, let’s start at the beginning.

According to the Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA), potential home Wi-Fi users should properly understand the following physical components that will power their high-speed wireless Internet connection:

Prior to high-speed fibre becoming available in a certain area, a network operator would have commonly dug trenches, possibly erected poles, and generally provided fibre links alongside the consumer’s home. Homeowners will notice a short length of insulated fibre optic cable exposed above the ground near their property boundary or a junction box attached to a street-side wall.

Should the consumer decide to go the FTTH route, they would first need to select an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to provide the Internet access services that make use of the newly-laid fibre links.

The consumer’s chosen ISP will inform the fibre network operator of the request. The latter will send technicians to visit the property to connect the fibre from a junction box in the street outside the home into the home. Like telephone systems of old, this involves running a fibre optic cable in the consumer’s home to a convenient point chosen by the consumer.

The fibre optic cable ends in a device, typically a small white box, called an optical network terminal (ONT) located inside the home. The ONT can also be referred to as the fibre provider’s Customer Premises Equipment or CPE. It is typically fixed to the wall near a power socket and, like your alarm system, needs to be left plugged in to work properly. It converts the light used by the fibre optic cable into signals your router can understand.

The fibre network operator’s installation team will leave after their ONT is fixed to a wall and they have tested the fibre. They will be in touch with the ISP who may then send their own installer to the home with a wireless router.

Depending on the access package selected, the ISP could supply the wireless router at no charge. However, if supplied free, the device typically remains the property of the ISP and must be returned in the event of the consumer cancelling the contract. The ISP’s installer will place the wireless router near the wall-mounted ONT / CPE box and usually connect the two with a short Ethernet cable. The installer will ensure the wireless router is up and running and connected to the fibre network before leaving. The installer will usually also explain to the consumer the meaning of the approximately four indicator lights typically located on the wireless router. This will help the homeowner or tenant troubleshoot future connectivity or hardware issues.

For those of us without smart TVs, an additional component to the home fibre network may be a media box or similar. This device connects to a standard flat screen TV and enables it to communicate with the wireless router so that streaming video, web browsing and other online services can be enjoyed direct from the TV.

After selecting a network operator and an appropriate connectivity package from their chosen Internet Service Provider (ISP), consumers will be able to wirelessly connect everything from CCTV systems to their own mobile handsets to the supplied wireless router. Essentially, any device that uses the Internet to function can be connected to your new home Wi-Fi network. And uncapped access means no more mobile data billing surprises at the end of the month.

Further Information

For further information, please contact the ISPA secretariat on the Contact ISPA page.