For those of you living in suburbs that have been earmarked by Telkom for VDSL trials, you may be able to subscribe to the very high bitrate service pretty soon and at a good price too. Telkom plans to let customers apply for the VDSL packages beginning on the 4th of March. But what can you actually expect from the service and how much is this going to hurt you financially? Follow me after the jump to find out.
The elephant in the room, though, is the areas where VDSL is available. Currently this is only in five areas around the country: Benmore Gardens, Fourways, and Waterkloof in Gauteng, Durban North in KwaZulu-Natal, and Durbanville in the Western Cape. More are on the way and already three more MSANs (Multi Service Access Nodes) have been spotted in Cape Town. Another one was spotted today in Port Elizabeth, so there’s a definitely rollout taking place, as opposed to Telkom’s previous speed upgrade where 4Mb/s subscribers were offered 10Mb/s speeds, with less than half of those customers able to even sync higher than 4Mb/s due to exchange issues.
With the MSANs, they’re a replacement for the blue, grey and red boxes you’ve gotten used to on street corners. They’re connected using fibre optic cable to the nearest ADSL exchange, but still deliver the last mile (or less) to the consumer using copper cable. Latencies are lower and connection speeds are capable of being much higher than the current limits of ADSL as provided by Telkom. Attenuation and noise margins are much improved as well. In fact, even regular ADSL subscribers benefit from the MSAN rollouts, as they get the same latency and line stat benefits, but without the speed boosts. Overall, this should solve the issue of current exchanges being oversubscribed and unstable under heavy load, if you’re one of the poor saps connected to such an exchange.
To connect to the service, you’ll also need a VDSL modem. Currently those are available from Telkom and are rebranded Billion units. Importing VDSL modems yourself won’t be as easy either, as they may not be 100% compatible with the MSANs.
Pricing, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Telkom is still working on their shaping policies following the February 1 switch to unthrottled and uncapped products with soft caps on capped consumers, so there are still a few teething issues that subscribers who were on the trials were experiencing. So far, VDSL packages will be capped until more people buy into the service and ISPs buy more bandwidth. VDSL currently costs more than a 10Mb/s connection and it’s a large cost to swallow monthly if you’re going to be using this for a home connection.
Currently, you can’t sign up for any of these services as yet, but they’re all capped options. Vox Telecom is the cheapest deal so far for a 100GB cap on a 20Mb/s connection. 40Mb/s and a 100GB cap is pretty acceptable at around R1400. The uncapped specials, however, are where you really want to be because in today’s world, you can never really know how much data you need until you have a pattern spanning over six months and even then, controlling your monthly spend isn’t something everyone can do.
As Mybroadband points out, the Do Uncapped Elite is probably the most cost-effective, ducking in under R2100 whilst still giving you the freedom to do as you wish. It may be the case that we’re going to see Telkom beginning to ask some downloaders to tone it down. Afrihost has their ridiculous “Download Leaderboard” which lists the amounts of bandwidth some of their pirating users manage to chew through. If people on 20 and 40Mb/s profiles start going through 500GB every month on average, we may see the company implementing a stricter Fair Use Policy.
Still, VDSL is launching next month and chances are you’ll be able to sign up for it by…2015? That’s Telkom’s mandate for high-speed broadband access and honestly, 2015 might be cutting it a bit close. However, judging by the seriousness at which they’re approaching this, it might not be that far-fetched. Keep an eye out for MSANs in your area and bookmark the BroadBand Stats page. As more MSANs are rolled out and exchanges are upgraded, they’ll be marked here for your convenience.
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