How Does Fibre Work?

In 2020, chances are you have an internet connection.

Over the years we’ve heard of and experienced a few forms of internet connection. Whether fixed ADSL or “mobile data” gets you through; do you really understand the journey and inner workings of your connection?  

With fixed line internet connections, we’ve certainly come a long way since copper cables have plagued us. Copper theft and environmental factors have had a major impact on our usage and connection over the years until usable fixed fibre solutions made an appearance in 2008, growing steadily in South Africa. But delving deeper into the inner workings of this fantastic option, let’s break down what fibre really is and how we’re able to receive a working internet connection through it?  

Fibre optic cables have been around since the 1970’s, slowing replacing electrical cabling to provide internet connections around the world. Unfortunately, this is quite an expensive process with workmen labour, equipment and materials used which is one of the prime reasons of slow fibre rollout in South Africa.

What is Fibre?

Fibre comprises of 3 layers of material in a single fibre: the inner layer called the core, the outer, called the cladding and a plastic protective cover called a buffer coating. The core comprises of glass that is as thin as human hair that allows light to pass through while the second layer, the cladding is thicker glass or plastic that is wrapped around to protect the core and help reflect light and prevent any data loss. The cladding and buffer coating serve as a means of protection. Inside the core is where the magic truly happens! Light travels through this core in pulses which is translated into information that travels from the source to your terminal called an ONT (Optical Network Terminal). These light pulses translate into binary code, a language on which the internet is built on.

How is Fibre installed?

A fibre connection is achieved by bundling many of these single fibres and layering them underground or overhead in areas. If you opt for a fixed fibre line, you’ll go through a process like this depending on the provider and ISP you choose:

  1. If you’re starting out, you would check your coverage and find the Fibre Network Operator in your area. Remember, this is area specific as only a single FNO can provide infrastructure to an area at a time. You can check your area on our coverage map.
  2. If your area is covered, you can start shopping for an ISP. Also depending on coverage, you can search for a provider or browse through a list of providers. The Fibre Network Operator can also recommend an ISP for you.
  3. On many occasions, the ISP will offer a package that covers installation costs of fibre to your home and provide you with a device to connect to. Unfortunately, some existing routers may not be suitable for use on a fibre connection.
  4. Once you’ve applied and been approved, a suitable time will be arranged for the installer to visit you and install your fibre. The process can take anywhere from 4-8 hours; all depending on the provider. Some trenching may be needed depending on your area, to bring the cabling into your home. Some providers opt for overhead cable into your property.
  5. Once lain or pulled overhead into your home, the cables are connected to a box called an ONT, that will be placed at a single point in your home.
  6. After your ONT installation is complete, your fibre wireless router will be setup and speeds tested. Now time to enjoy fast speeds and stable connection.

Remember, the line installation is a once off payment and you only need to pay your ISP for your fibre package going forward. In the long run you save more for a stable connection that can be used freely in your house by your family members.