What consumers need to know before signing up for FTTH

Communities across the country are increasingly insisting on open access fibre optic cable installations which provide a neutral platform for ISPs to compete with each other to the benefit of tenants and residents.
Open access fibre making progress in South Africa, says ISPA
What consumers need to know before signing up for FTTH.

Fibre to the Home (FTTH) is a trending buzzword in South Africa at the moment. Affluent suburbs are a hive of activity as trenches are dug and fibre laid, with the goal of delivering high speed connectivity to a person’s doorstep.

Driving this trend are the host of bandwidth-hungry services like Netflix and Showmax, which are being delivered to homes by ‘over the top’ service providers. Add to this the growing need to access and use data every day, and people have a compelling reason to sign up for a FTTH service. However, as simple as it sounds, consumers need to ensure that they are fully aware of what is and isn’t included in a FTTH package so that they don’t fork out for a service that doesn’t meet expectations, and end up short changed.

As home Internet users, we know how ‘in demand’ our home connectivity is. The Internet is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but a ‘need to have’. In a sense, it has become a utility such as electricity and water. We need access to internet banking, social media, entertainment sites, cloud based storage, and much, much more. Even homework is Internet-based now, as more and more schools adopt iPads over books. Stable and – now more than ever – fast data connectivity is a must for every household. FTTH provides this, offering data speeds and reliability that home users have heretofore not been afforded. But what are we getting when we sign up?

Most FTTH service providers offer a package which, often, seems all inclusive. But many consumers are ending up disappointed as they pay for a FTTH package, only to find that the package doesn’t come with all the peripherals to make the service work. They have had fibre laid up to their house, terminated in an easy-access but low visibility area in their home, and then they have been left to figure out how to connect to that fibre themselves. In order to avoid this disappointment, consumers need to ask their fibre providers some pertinent questions.

How far does the fibre go?
A good FTTH service will not only terminate at the door, but will be taken to where it’s needed in the house. It will also include a Wi-Fi router similar to the ones supplied with ADSL services; larger houses will generally require more than one Wi-Fi router or booster to ensure that there is coverage wherever it is required.

Does the fibre provider install all the devices, or is it DIY?
Sometimes the Wi-Fi routers are provided, but installation is excluded. In this case, a consumer needs to ensure that they are capable of installing the Wi-Fi router and connecting it to the fibre. It is often better to go with a fibre supplier who will do this for their customers, avoiding possible costly mistakes and saving the consumer from the hassle.

How much data am I getting?
Fibre providers will often offer capped or uncapped services, but what does this mean? Capped services offer consumers a limited quantity of data. After the data has reached its limit, or ‘cap’, the consumer will have no more data left to use and will need to ‘top up’. The consumer will then receive additional data, but often at exorbitant top up rates, getting penalised for every extra megabyte of data they consume over their cap. Uncapped services provide unlimited amounts of data, but consumers need to understand the fair usage policy attached to their contract to make sure their expectations match up to the service.

How can I manage my data use?
FTTH providers need to be able to provide their customers with transparency into their data usage, preferably through an online portal. In this way, consumers can manage how much data they use, what it is being used for and pull reports as needed. At the very least, providers need to offer their customers monthly reports.

What support do I get?
There should always be support offered with the fibre service, to minimise failures and provide customers with a way to report faults. Ideally, customers should not even need to log a call – support should be proactive and the fibre provider should actively monitor the service. Consumers need to confirm the details of their support, understanding what level they should expect, what the service times are and that the support is in line with their needs.

FTTH is the answer to having a tech savvy home, and enables all those services that make life easier and better, such as streaming television shows and movies, online shopping and sharing photographs. However, it is essential that customers use a FTTH service provider that will give them the full service, support and equipment that they need to have that simpler, better life.

By Calvin Collett, CEO at iConnect Telecoms