Working from Home Is Inevitable. Are You Prepared This Time Around?

a man and his child use fibre internet to work from home

More people than ever before were using fibre internet (otherwise known as fibre to the home, or FTTH) in their homes last year, as we've all had to adjust to working (and learning, and playing, and everything else) from home during the pandemic. With nationwide vaccine rollouts and herd immunity still a long way off, 2021 could be another year of working from home for many of us, and if you don't have a fibre connection yet, here's what you need to consider.


If you're still struggling with a slow, old internet connection, you're getting left behind! A survey by research consultancy Willis Towers Watson found that about half of companies had 75% of their staff working remotely, and local companies expected about 33% of their staff to still be working from home in three years' time. Some big corporations are even making it a permanent arrangement, with global tech giants Twitter and Facebook announcing that all of their employees could work from home forever!


"This is the reality that we're all going to have to live with," says Chris Peters, managing director of Fibre Compare. "More people are working from home than ever before, and employers are now demanding that their staff have better connectivity at home."


Peters estimates that demand for fibre internet has increased by about 300% since the lockdown started. That's huge, especially given that South Africa already had a booming fibre industry, with subscriptions having grown by almost 170% between 2015 and 2019.


Most of that growth has been in the major metros, but fibre deployment continues to spread into suburbia and further afield into provincial towns and remote dorpies.


Fibre is becoming an essential, next to food, water and electricity


In pre-COVID times (remember those?), FTTH was considered a luxury, used mostly by wealthy households for streaming Netflix, Showmax, Twitch, etc. But 2020 saw a massive shift to more accessible, more affordable fibre connections as a locked-down nation migrated to remote working, online learning and hosting family gatherings via video call. (OK, yes... and also watching hours upon hours of YouTube.)


"I've heard people saying that fibre is an essential service like water or electricity," says Peters. "It's definitely no longer a luxury. And traditional packages like ADSL are just not realistic anymore in terms of how we use the internet."


While the number of fibre users has grown, so too has the field of internet service providers (ISPs). It's almost impossible to keep track of the exact number of ISPs offering fibre currently operating in South Africa, but there are definitely more than there were before. MyBroadband's annual ISP ranking has, in five short years, grown from a list of barely 10 to over 30. This means more choice, more competition... and lower prices.


In 2014, an uncapped 1 Gigabit-per-second fibre line cost more than R40,000 a month (if you could get one). By 2017 the price had dropped a zero and down to around R3,000. In early 2021 it's half that, at around R1,600.


That's why it's worth regularly checking and comparing to see what's available.


Why it's good to keep checking the numbers

Peters says a fibre package is a lot like a cellphone contract. A R900 per month contract for a smartphone now may seem like the best deal ever, but 12 months later, you're stuck paying that monthly premium for a phone that is outdated.


"In the fibre industry, prices change quite rapidly. Two years ago the price of a 10Mbps fibre line was close to R1,000 a month; now it's half of that. So it's worth looking at what you're currently paying, and seeing if you can get a better connection for the same price," he says.


This obviously doesn't apply if you've recently had your fibre line installed, and that installation cost has been factored into your monthly pricing. But as Peters points out, that sunk cost stops being a factor once the installation has been paid off.


Switching fibre providers is not difficult or complicated


"There's a big misconception that it's hard to switch fibre providers. It's really not," Peters says. "A lot of fibre contracts nowadays are month to month, so if you want to change providers you simply put in your 30-day notice and switch over to the new ISP." (Be sure to check the Ts and Cs on your specific contract, though.)


If – or when – you make the change to a new FTTH connection, pay close attention to the line speeds. You'll be quoted on both download and upload speeds, and in some cases they aren't the same.


"Download speed is important when you're streaming YouTube or Netflix or DStv because you're downloading content from the internet," says Peters. "If you're working or learning from home and you're doing video calls, upload speed becomes increasingly important. When you're on a video call you're uploading content to the internet, so if you have a 200Mbps download and a 10Mbps upload, you'll only get the performance of a 10Mbps line on your Zoom calls."


Ready to relook your internet setup? To compare home-fibre deals, simply go to's free online home fibre comparison tool and enter your location.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.

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