The differences between Business Fibre and Home Fibre in South Africa

When you are considering installing fibre you may find yourself confronted with two options. Your choices will be between business fibre and home fibre.

In this article we are going to cover the key differences between home fibre and business fibre, discussing the various aspects to consider when choosing which fibre to use.

What is Fibre Internet?

Fiber optic Internet is an Internet connection that transfers data fully or partially via fiber optic cables. Fibre, or Fibre Optics, uses the speed of light by transferring data through means of glass cabling. Making it the fastest and most reliable form of internet connectivity available.

Business fibre is known as Fibre to the Business (FTTB), while Home Fibre is known as Fibre to the Home (FTTH). Typically business fibre goes to the premises, whereas home fibre may go to the home or to a nearby node.

Fibre to a nearby node refers to when data services and broadband connections run via a central network box (a node).

Fibre to the premises refers to a fibre optic line that runs directly to your premises from the nearest available fibre node. This results in faster internet speeds.

What is Business Fibre in South Africa?

Business fibre (or Fibre to the Business, FTTB) provides internet at scale that can manage a high demand on the internet line. This type of fibre is more expensive, but is tailored for large numbers of concurrent users with high demands of the internet speed, uptime, and contention ratio.

What is Home Fibre in South Africa?

Home Fibre (or Fibre to the Home, FTTH) is for homes, which have less demanding internet requirements. Home fibre is more cost effective and all that is needed is a basic setup, however this type of fibre internet is usually subject to more downtime, more contention, and lower line speeds.

Fibre Contention Ratio

Contention is when various people are all connected and competing for the internet on one line. This leads to a contention ratio which is the number of users relative to the number of intended users. The ideal contention ratio would be 1:1, the lower the contention ratio the better.

For example, in an office environment with more than 100 employees everyone needs to have fast internet at all times without one user slowing down the others.

Business fibre solves this by providing a line that is able to handle hundreds of devices at a time. Say for example your company has 70 employees, it is safe to assume that all of them will have their computer connected to the internet and most of them will also connect their phones. That would result in around 140 devices in total being used. That is 140 devices in contention for line speeds. For that you need a specialist fibre line designed with sufficient capacity to handle a high load.

Home fibre on the other hand would be set up for an average of 5 people in a home structure. If that line had 10 people using the internet, line speed would be slower for each device in use with little option to improve the contention ratio.

Internet Uptime

Uptime is the percentage of time that you have broadband service availability in a month. In contrast, downtime is the time when a network is unavailable.

A network’s uptime is usually measured by calculating the ratio of uptime to downtime within a year, then expressing that ratio as a percentage. Network availability of 99.999% has been the industry gold standard for a few years now. That percentage translates to roughly 5.26 minutes of unplanned downtime a year!

Most businesses will feel the impact of even a fraction of downtime and as a business you need as close to 100% uptime as possible. Business fibre has higher line capabilities and is designed and installed to provide the best possible uptime. Furthermore, choosing the right Business Fibre ISP can help you minimise the cost of unplanned downtime.

Home fibre typically has more downtime as the needs for fibre at home are a lot lower. The bandwidth of home fibre is also often shared with other homes, whereas business fibre is not shared. Meaning that business fibre lines are less likely to get overcrowded.

Home fibre providers also have less of a focus on ensuring 100% uptime against business fibre providers who have this as a high priority.

Fibre Service

High speed business fibre symbolised on street

Home Fibre is a best effort network. This means that the provider does not give any guarantees on when data will be delivered or the quality of that data once delivered.

You can use the post office as an analogy. A sender is typically unsure whether their package was delivered to its destination. What the sender can do though is pay an extra fee for delivery confirmation. That would need the delivery service to get a signature from the recipient and return that to the sender.

Best effort can be more efficient for some purposes. For example, for real-time audio or video transfers. In these instances the loss of a small percentage of packets is sometimes acceptable. That means it would not noticeably affect the sound or image quality. Recovering lost packets can create excessive overheads that reduce performance. That will typically be left out in a best effort network.

Every user in a best effort network is given a best effort service. This means that they have an unspecified bit rate and delivery time which fluctuates based on how many users are on the network at any particular time. So, if you have two people using the network at the same time, internet speeds will be good but if you have 50 people using it at the same time the internet will be incredibly slow.

If you run a business you probably rely on heavy data transfers for everyday operations. With your business depending on the internet (as most do nowadays), you need reliability.

Business fibre provides you with a dedicated internet service. On a dedicated line you will receive internet service that is committed to you alone. Meaning that data is drawn directly between you and your ISP (Internet service provider). For example if you have a 1 Gbps dedicated line, you are receiving 1 Gbps at every point no matter what your neighbouring office’s traffic looks like. This is one of the key advantages of business fibre.

Mean time to respond and repair your internet connection

Business fibre takes a lot longer to install than home fibre as a special fibre line just for your business needs to be installed. Once installed, however, most business fibre providers will have guarantees on speedy repair times. Business fibre typically takes 2-4 months to have installed from first contact with a service provider. During this period an interim internet solution can be implemented.

Home fibre on the other hand takes 2 – 5 weeks to have it fully installed from first contact and there are less guarantees on repair time.

Fibre Service level agreement (SLA)

A huge benefit of business fibre (over home fibre) is that it comes with a Service Level Agreement (SLA). This provides certain guarantees for customers, which holds the ISP accountable for providing an agreed level of service.

This means that you are guaranteed a certain percentage of uptime. You are guaranteed a certain level of service and a certain response and repair time. Due to service level agreements business fibre fixes are prioritised over home fibre users.

Length of contract

Since Business Fibre requires a much higher installation cost, an SLA for FTTB is usually a 24-36 month agreement between both parties.

Home fibre on the other hand is typically taken on a month-to-month agreement occasionally with a minimum initial commitment and very lenient cancellation terms.

Fibre Price difference

Naturally, Business fibre is priced significantly higher than home fibre because of the differences mentioned above. High quality business fibre is, however, worth the price.

Within the pricing range, package specific pricing is dependent on line speed, and the various bells and whistles provided by the ISP. A few things to think about when looking into business fibre are: Service and support, is it uncapped and uncontended, and what are the terms and conditions.

Should you use business fibre or home fibre?

Business fibre in use in an office

Ultimately, the main difference between business fibre and home fibre are the improved capabilities that business fibre provides.

The question then becomes should you use business fibre or home fibre?

That depends on your needs. If you are a household then home fibre will provide you with everything you need. If you are a business owner, the size of your business and your internet needs should be the deciding factor as to which fibre option to use.

If you are a small business with less than 10 employees and very limited internet requirements, then home fibre is still a serious option but if you are a larger business with 20 employees and up, you should consider using business fibre.


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