Internet Access in South Africa is undergoing a rapid change, moving away from the Telkom Fixed Line Monopoly of ADSL and before that dial-up Internet Access to superfast, copper-free (IOW Telkom Free), Fibre To The Home (FTTH) and Fibre to the Business (FTTB), this revolution from copper to light is moving lightning fast, with the WCED Game Changer initiative all schools in the Western Cape will have fibre internet connectivity.

In the suburbs, in the townships, roads are being dug up and four-inch coloured pipes are being laid, each colour depicting a different Telecom company, this connectivity is truly monopoly free, but when looking at the pricing of the various companies one wonders if there is no collusion.

Fiber-optic communication is a method of transmitting information from one place to another by sending pulses of light through an optical fibre. The light forms an electromagnetic carrier wave that is modulated to carry information. Fibre is preferred over electrical cabling when high bandwidth, long distance, or immunity to electromagnetic interference are required.

Optical fibre is used by many telecommunications companies to transmit telephone signals, Internet communication, and cable television signals. Researchers at Bell Labs have reached internet speeds of over 100 petabit×kilometer per second using fiber-optic communication.

Fibre to the x (FTTX) is a generic term for any broadband network architecture using optical fibre to provide all or part of the local loop used for last mile telecommunications. As fibre optic cables are able to carry much more data than copper cables, especially over long distances, copper telephone networks built in the 20th century are being replaced by fibre.

The telecommunications industry differentiates between several distinct FTTX configurations. The terms in most widespread use today are:

  • FTTP (fiber-to-the-premises): This term is used either as a blanket term for both FTTH and FTTB, or where the fibre network includes both homes and small businesses.
  • FTTH (fiber-to-the-home): Fibre reaches the boundary of the living space, such as a box on the outside wall of a home. Passive optical networks and point-to-point Ethernet are architectures that deliver triple-play services over FTTH networks directly from an operator’s central office.
  • FTTB (fiber-to-the-building, -business, or -basement): Fibre reaches the boundary of the building, such as the basement in a multi-dwelling unit, with the final connection to the individual living space being made via alternative means, similar to the kerb or pole technologies.
  • FTTD (fiber-to-the-desktop): Fibre connection is installed from the main computer room to a terminal or fibre media converter near the user’s desk.

While fibre optic cables can carry data at high speeds over long distances, copper cables used in traditional telephone lines and ADSL cannot. For example, the common form of gigabit Ethernet (1Gbit/s) runs over relatively economical category 5e, category 6 or augmented category 6 unshielded twisted-pair copper cabling but only to 100 m (330 ft). However, 1 Gbit/s ethernet over fibre can easily reach tens of kilometres. Therefore, FTTP has been selected by every major communications provider in the world to carry data over long 1 Gbit/s symmetrical connections directly to consumer homes. FTTP configurations that bring fibre directly into the building can offer the highest speeds since the remaining segments can use standard ethernet or coaxial cable. Google Fiber provides speed of 1 Gbit/s.[10]

Fibre is often said to be “future-proof” because the data rate of the connection is usually limited by the terminal equipment rather than the fibre, permitting substantial speed improvements by equipment upgrades before the fibre itself must be upgraded. Still, the type and length of employed fibres chosen, e.g. multimode vs. single-mode, are critical for applicability for future connections of over 1 Gbit/s.

FTTC (where fibre transitions to copper in a street cabinet) is generally too far from the users for standard ethernet configurations over existing copper cabling. They generally use very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber line (VDSL) at downstream rates of 80 Mbit/s, but this falls extremely quickly over a distance of 100 metres.