Upgrading Your Line Speed - Should You?

Jacques du Rand 2021-02-23

So often we see people saying that they're struggling with their internet and they're just going to have to upgrade from their 20Mbs line to 50Mbs or even a 100Mbs line to compensate for the speed, or lack thereof. But does that solve the problem?

The Need for Speed

We've spoken about how much speed you really need before and covered in depth in our article How Much Speed Do You Really Need?
So will only mention a quick recap of the considerations here:

  1. How many people will use it?
  2. Are there any teens in the house?
  3. What will you mostly use it for?

A good rule of thumb is to start with 10Mbs for single households, 20Mbs per couple, and add 10Mbs per teenager.

Since lockdown, and more people drawing on the line simultaneously per household, the numbers may have slightly shifted by 5Mbs or so.

What If You're Not Getting That?

If you feel very frustrated with your internet on a consistent basis there are some things you can check to see if all systems are running properly. A good place to start is to run a speed test.

If the numbers are way off, there is perhaps something wrong with your line. A good old “restart” of the router is a great place to start. It may just need to find a better frequency again. If that doesn't help, getting in touch with your ISP would be the next step.

If the numbers look fine and close to what you're paying for, the problem might be something else, or it could be the sites you visit.

Before we get into what could potentially be causing your slow speed, we should first differentiate between slow internet speed (the fibre line) and slow WiFi.

The effect is the same (buffering), but the cause is not.

In the case of slow WiFi it could be that you are too far from the router, or have too many people or devices on the router. Even if they are not all using the internet, they still might use WiFi bandwidth (spectrum). Or your neighbours router could be interfering with your router's airwave slice. A quick way to test is this of course plugin in your laptop via an ethernet cable directly into the router. (This is also the first thing the call centre support people will tell you to do.)

To improve this, you could look into getting a new or better type of WiFi router, or at the very least one that is dual band (2.4Ghz AND the newer 5Ghz band). The newer premier models have better technology and protocols to deal with multiple users at once, like MU-MIMO and of course come with the new WiFi6 std.

If you are sure it's not the WiFi then you could have an ISP package that is throttling or shaping you. The throttling is very common with LTE packages which usually have a day and night-time mode (data allowance). If you are with a LTE network like Rain I'd start there !

Conducting a line speed test is a good way to see if you're being throttled. The majority of people in South Africa are spending their time on international websites - which take a fraction of a second longer, so be sure you're using an international speed test diagnostics tool (like the one on our page) to test your line speed, and not the local versions. The international speed test will give you a far more appropriate reading.

It's not uncommon to see degraded performance in peak times. This mostly due to more people being home and on their devices during peak times. (like “Netflix hour” 6-8pm). And of course the bigger culprit could be if you're gaming, or watching content on “piracy streaming” sites and find it slow, it is 99.99% the fault of the streaming service, as they just don't have the capacity like the big guys (YouTube, Netflix) to meet the demand. (The latter is not going to be fixed by upgrading your line, as the fault sits on the streaming site side.)

Lastly if all of the above checks out, it could also be that there is an actual issue on the network (Openserve, Vumatel...) and not your ISP. It's quick to check if there are any network outages or maintenance issues for your network here.

When Is A Good Time To Consider Upgrading

A couple of situations where it might be a good time to consider upgrading your line speed include when:

  • you have frequent buffering on every day websites (not “piracy” streaming sites),
  • you struggle running video conferencing calls from home. (Zoom, Google Meet, Teams),
  • your household grows,
  • you are watching more than one streaming service in the household at the same time (Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play),
  • you love smart-home devices, or just have more connected devices in your home.

ISPs Upgrading Infrastructure

There is also some good news and reprieve around the corner. Upgrading may just happen naturally over time - and without costing you more.

We've already seen networks like Openserve update their line speeds and lower costs to consumers. Effective from 1 March 2021. Openserve has also stated that a number of products will see their speeds doubled with no increase to price. However, it is important to note that Openserve is a network, and the ISPs make their own pricing on their base level. As an example, this means that if you were already a client and on a 10Mbs line, you will be upgraded to a 25Mbs line whilst remaining at the 10Mbps price - but again, this will be dependent on the ISP. We can only hope that ISPs will pass on these savings to the consumers.

There is a phased approach, meaning that not all neighbourhoods will get this rollout at the same time. At least there is hope down the line!

It will be only natural to hope that other networks will follow Openserve's suit.

As fibre becomes more standardised and prevalent across the country, we should also naturally see prices come down.

So you might not need to upgrade your line just yet, but if you're struggling with your current ISP, switching your ISP is really easy with Fibre Tiger. The first fibre internet comparison service.