INSIGHT: THE NEED FOR SPEED, TELKOM LTE ADVANCED

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There is lots of talk of fibre to the home and fibre to everywhere at the moment.

The question is what you can do if you can’t get fibre where you live. The answer may be from Telkom. Depending on where you live. Telkom is South Africa’s leading telecommunications company by scale, they may not be the most nimble operator but they do have the largest range of solutions from creaky old copper landlines to fibre, and now to ultra-high speed Telkom LTE Advanced or LTE-AThe internet needs of the average consumer are changing rapidly, with users of uncapped ADSL connections growing their data usage by 50% a year on average.

The ISP’s report that this growth is due to video, for the most part. Video Streaming takes a huge toll on your internet connection, as anyone on even a 10 Meg ADSL connection will attest. Stream video in high definition and the rest of the household’s user slow to a crawl even for mundane activities such as web browsing.Enter high speed connections, with fibre being the obvious choice.

Fibre offers speeds up to 100meg download and upload, and has within a year become affordable for the regular household with prices ranging from R600 to R2500 per month with differing speed options and data caps.

It is not about speed only, that make such a difference, but about capacity. When the average household of 4 people are all working on the internet with, for example, a video streaming to the main TV in the lounge, two kids watching video or YouTube on their tablets, and one person trying to do some work with the internet in the study, a paltry 10 meg line will collapse under the strain.

The above scenario has become increasingly common today. Telkom’s solution to this challenge was not to rapidly roll out fibre to most urban homes, although that is on the cards, albeit rather slowly. Nope they raced ahead with the first deployment of LTE-Advanced in Africa.

Telkom LTE Rollout Map

LTE-A is simply the next step in wireless broadband which will become more and more ubiquitous in the next few years. LTE-A needs lots of spectrum, to allow a lovely technical term called carrier aggregation. Spectrum is something that Telkom actually has quite a bit of, and this results simply in lots and lots of speed. Up to 150 Mbps, yep faster than current fibre offerings.

The main caveat here is that 150MBPS is peak speeds in certain areas, with almost full signal from the base station. The second fly in the LTE-A ointment is that the system is only available in limited areas for now. Telkom LTE is available in Johannesburg Pretoria Cape Town, and Durban, as well as few other selected areas, the map can be seen here http://www.telkom.co.za/coverage

Standard LTE coverage with speeds up to 70 MBPS has a far wider coverage than LTE-A. Telkom also uses the Chinese LTE standard which also limits which devices can actually connect to their LTE network. Telkom uses LTE-TDD as opposed to the other networks who use the TD-LTE standard. They are similar, and some devices, like the new iPhone 6, can operate on both, but stick to Telkom approved modems for now. The new Huawei E5186s features LTE, LTE-A up to 220Mbps and Wi-Fi in a small neat package. An external antenna can also be added for greater signal.

Installation is simple.

Unpack modem, slip in SIM card, plug into mains and find a good spot near a window in the coverage area. Telkom can come and install an external antenna to boost signal if you may need it.

The actual speed

The great news is that in combination with a brand new Huawei modem, LTE -A delivers. My base is is just outside the LTE -A area, but with a father living in hyper connected Parkhurst I was able to get pretty much full speed on LTE-A. I can report that speeds up to 120 Mbps were possible on a regular basis and simulating the average family with three videos streaming, some heavy web browsing, and some updates downloading, there was no lag, no buffering, and each person had no issue in opening multiple internet sessions and staying connected at all times.

I compared this to 100Mbps Fibre from Parkhurst provider Vumatel and there was very little in it from an experience perspective. None of my test user’s noticed which network they were using based on what they were doing. Telkom’s claims that LTE -A can replace fibre were born out.

The key issue to take into account is that radio is not as scalable as fibre, and as more and more people hop on the radio network overall speeds and performance may suffer more than on Fibre based networks.

Despite that warning, having real internet is revelatory, online gaming, video, and even web browsing is instantaneous and so easy to use. Going back to 10 Meg ADSL is a bit like stepping into the past with dial up modems. Slow, frustrating, and just unacceptable in our video based world. The good news is that even in standard LTE coverage zones, like my office, I was able to get up to 50Mbps speeds on Telkom LTE and pretty much replicate the above user scenario.

Speed is addictive, real speed is truly addictive, and almost impossible to do without once experienced. If high speed internet is a must in your home or your business and fibre is not an option.  Check out the above map and look at Telkom’s web site for their LTE deals. They are competitive and the speed and capacity is amazing overall. Another quick heads up is that if you live in a fibre Hood, as they now being called, Telkom may just have a deal for you on their LTE- A, with a high data cap and a very reasonable price.

Check out all the details on www.telkom.co.za 

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