Why do we pay more for faster fibre?

Why do we pay more for faster fibre?

To answer this question, we first need to understand the basics of the fibre optic networks that connect our homes and businesses. First of all, we need to explain the difference between an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and a Fibre Network Operator (FNO). 

The difference between an ISP and a FNO

Whenever you are connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, cellular, fibre or a copper connection, your internet service provider is responsible for handling the data that traverses the network. Providing access to the larger network that eventually becomes the internet, that is the responsibility of the Fibre Network Operator. 


The teams of technicians that are working tirelessly next to the road digging trenches and laying cables, those are FNO teams. When you run out of data or need to upgrade your line speed, that’s your ISP working for you. Companies like LinkAfrica, DFA and Openserve are all FNO companies, whereas Afrihost, PacketSky and WebAfrica are all ISP companies. 

The FNO infrastructure determines the ISP's service

Today the internet consists of beams of light that criss-cross the nearly 300 000Km of fibre optic cable in South Africa. Managing this vast network requires an innumerable number of network nodes that comprise different types of technology to allow subscribers access to the internet. 

Fibre nNetwork oOperators utilise two kinds of network technologies to extend their networks to ISP subscribers: Active Ethernet and Passive Optical Networks

In Active Ethernet (AE) technology, the network operator installs powered network equipment that is capable of providing a dedicated link to each subscriber. This is the equivalent of providing a point-to-point link between the subscriber and the network node. 

Passive Optical Networks on the other hand provide a point-to-multipoint access model for subscribers to the network. This type of technology is less expensive to install and maintain when compared to active ethernet infrastructure but compromises on bandwidth capacity. 

Another type of technology worth mentioning is that of Wavelength Division Multiplexing. In WDM, each subscriber node only responds to a specific wavelength of light inside the fibre optic cable. WDM allows for multiple subscribers to be active on a single strand of fibre optic cable without the need for expensive routing equipment. 

Considering the data costs

A faster internet connection naturally leads to higher data consumption. A user with a 20 Mbps fibre connection can download about 9 GB of data per hour. On the other hand, with a 100 Mbps fibre connection, a user will be able to download about 45 GB of data per hour. The significant increase in bandwidth consumption that comes with higher connection speeds inevitably leads to higher connectivity costs. 


Fibre optic technology has revolutionised how we build our networks and connect to the internet. Intellifi is proud to be part of an industry that continuously advances the frontier of communication science and human connection. 


Osborn, V. (2019, October 21). Fibre: Active Ethernet vs. Passive Optical Networks. Retrieved from Scoop: https://scoop.co.za/blog/post/fibre-active-ethernet-vs-passive-optical-networks

Vermeulen, J. (2021, September 19). Why you pay more for faster fibre in South Africa. Retrieved from MyBroadband.co.za: https://mybroadband.co.za/news/fibre/414800-why-you-pay-more-for-faster-fibre-in-south-africa.html?utm_source=newsletter

Wooding, S. (2021, September 21). Data Transfer Calculator. Retrieved from Omni Calculator: https://www.omnicalculator.com/other/data-transfer

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