Neil Padmore is the director of Frampol IT. He lives and works in Harare and is passionate about communication, technology and community. Find out more about Frampol at http://www.frampolafrica.co.zw/.
Deciding on how to connect to the internet can be a confusing process. This month Frampol sheds light on the increasing number of internet options available in Harare. These are Fibre, Wireless Internet, ADSL, VSAT, and 3G/HSPDA/LTE.
Fibre Optics: an optical fibre is a flexible, transparent fibre made of high quality glass or plastic.
1. Fast: fibre optic cables can carry more information than wireless or copper based solutions.
2. Cheap: fibre optic cable can be produced cheaper than copper.
3. Interference free.
4. Very thin: a single fibre optic strand is about the same diameter as a human hair. In Europe fibre optic cables are run into homes via the municipal water piping.
5. Uses less energy, thus cheaper to operate. In Zimbabwe, with unreliable power, fibre optic networks can operate better on backup inverters.
6. More future proof: once you have it installed it is here to stay!
1. Long distance installations can be expensive despite cheap cable costs.
2. Installation delays: fibre optic cable can take time to install thus causing delays in business processes.
3. Special skills are need to repair a cable in the event of damage which can mean lengthy repair times.
4. Installation damage: underground installations cause damage to properties, roads and gardens. This is visible in and around Harare.
Wireless Internet: There are a couple of major wireless internet services in Zimbabwe, namely UHF and Wi-Max.
1. Easy to install: done within an hour!
2. If you move house your internet hardware can go with you.
3. Wireless internet connections can meet most homes and small business internet needs.
4. Cheap to install and run.
1. Interference. wireless signals are susceptible to interference.
2. Network coverage can be limited, many base stations are needed to provide wide areas of signal.
3. Power outages at the base station affect many clients.
4. Lightning risk to base stations – antennae on roofs causes a negligible but increased lightning risk.
5. Weather: rain and wind storms can negatively affect network stability and reliability.
ADSL: An Asymetric Digital Subscriber Line provides internet services over your existing phone line allowing data/internet to flow over the line while a phone call is in progress.
1. Cheap and quick to install.
2. Cheap to operate with multiple packages to choose from.
3. Reasonable speeds.
4. Phone line can still receive calls and make calls while the internet is connected.
5. Existing phone lines can be used.
1. Real lightning risk.
2. Service reliability dependent on condition of copper/phone network.
3. ADSL is more effective the closer the user is to the telephone exchange.
4. If the telephone network is affected by water during the rainy season expect little to no internet service.
VSAT: internet services via a satellite dish.
1. Access in remote areas. Internet services can be achieved from any location if you have a power source and a clear view of the sky.
2. Installation can be done within a few hours.
1. Running costs are normally much higher than other forms of connectivity options. However, costs are coming down.
2. Initial installation costs are normally higher than other connectivity options. As above costs are coming down.
3. Installation is complicated and skilled technicians are required.
4. Internet service notably slower than alternatives due to network latency.
5. During heavy rain showers certain VSAT solutions are negatively affected and internet services can be temporarily disrupted.
3G/HSPDA/LTE: the means by which mobile phone operators deliver internet services over their mobile networks. Smart Phones are becoming more and more a part of our everyday lives. To use them to their full potential they need an internet connection. This connection is provided by 3G/HSPDA or LTE. 3G is the slowest, and LTE is the fastest.
1. Ultimate mobility: provided you are within the data network coverage area, you will have internet services.
2. No additional hardware required other than your 3G modem or smart phone.
3. No installation needed.
1. Expensive for large amounts of data.
2. Suitable for small homes and offices only.
3. Unreliable if network is busy.
4. Data only available on data enabled base stations and often remote areas do not support 3G/HSPDA/LTE.