Computer Corner

There are numerous Internet connection options available in Zimbabwe today. But choosing how to connect can be confusing; Fibre, Wireless Internet, ADSL, VSAT, 3G/HSPDA/LTE; which is best?

Wireless Internet:

In Zimbabwe there are a couple of major wireless Internet services namely UHF and Wi-Max.

Advantages:

1. Easy to install. Can be installed within 1 hour.

2. If you move house your Internet hardware can be easily moved to your new residence.

3. Wireless Internet connections can meet most homes and small business Internet needs.

4. Cheap to install and run.

Disadvantages:

1. Interference. Wireless signals by nature are susceptible to interference.

2. Network coverage can be limited. Many base stations are needed to provide wide areas of signal coverage.

3. Power outages at the base station affects many clients.

4. Lightning risk to base stations and antenna on roofs can attract a negligible but increased lightning risk.

5. Weather affecting. Rain and wind storms can negatively affect network stability and reliability.

Fibre optics:

An optical fibre is a flexible, transparent fibre made of high quality glass or plastic.

Advantages:

1. Fast. Fibre optic cables can carry more information than wireless or copper based solutions.

2. Cheap. Fibre optic cable can be produced cheaper than copper.

3. Interference Free.

4. Very thin. A single fibre optic strand is about the same diameter as a human hair. In Europe fibre optic cable are run into home via the municipal water piping.

5. Uses less energy. Thus cheaper to operate and in Zimbabwe with unreliable power, fibre optic networks can operate better on backup inverters.

6. More future proof. Once you have installed fibre optics it is here to stay for a while!

Disadvantages:

1. Long distance installations can be expensive despite cheap cable costs.

2. Installation delays. Fibre optic cable can take time to install thus causing delays in business processes.

3. Special skills are need to repair a cable in the event of damage which can mean lengthy repair times.

4. Installation damage. Underground installations cause damage to properties, roads and gardens. Noticed in and around Harare.

ADSL:

ADSL, provides Internet services over your existing phone line allowing data/Internet to flow over the line while a phone call is in progress.

Advantages:

1. Cheap and quick to install.

2. Cheap to operate with multiple packages to choose from.

3. Reasonable speeds.

4. Phone line can still receive calls and make calls while the Internet is connected.

5. Existing phone lines can be used.

Disadvantages:

1. Real lightning risk.

2. Service reliability dependant on condition of copper/phone network.

3. ADSL is more effective the closer the user is to the telephone exchange.

4. If the telephone network is affected by water during the rainy season expect little to no Internet service.

VSAT:

VSAT, basically Internet services via a satellite dish.

Advantages:

1. Access in Remote areas. Internet services can be achieved from any location if you have a power source and a clear view of the sky.

2. Installation can be done within a few hours.

Disadvantages:

1. Running costs are normally much higher than other forms of connectivity options. However, costs are coming down.

2. Initial installation costs are normally higher than other connectivity options. As above costs are coming down.

3. Installation is complicated and skilled technicians are required.

4. Internet service notably slower than alternatives due to network latency.

5. During heavy rain showers certain VSAT solutions are negatively affected and Internet services can be temporarily disrupted.

3G/HSPDA/LTE:

3G/HSPDA/LTE, is the means by which mobile phone operators deliver Internet services over their mobile networks.

Smart Phones are becoming more and more a part of our everyday lives. To use them to their full potential they need an Internet connection. This connection is provided by 3G/HSPDA or LTE. 3G being the slowest, and LTE being the fastest.

Advantages:

1. Ultimate mobility. Provided you are within the data network coverage area, you will have Internet services.

2. No additional hardware required other than your 3G modem or smart phone.

3. No installation needed.

Disadvantages:

1. Expensive for large amounts of data.

2. Suitable to small homes and offices only.

3. Unreliable if mobile network is busy.

4. Data only available on data enabled base stations and often remote areas do not support 3G/HSPDA/LTE.

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