Guide To: Choosing a suitable fixed LTE plan in South Africa

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Cellular companies’ home internet solutions connect their wireless home internet subscribers to their cellular network by provisioning monthly data bundles that are used to connect customers to the internet at home. Accessing the internet at home using cellular technology is sometimes called Fixed-LTE (FLTE), Mobile Broadband (MBB), or Wireless Broadband.

What is FLTE?

FLTE is a home internet solution that lets users connect to the internet using a cellular connection on the LTE/4G technology. The F stands for Fixed because the location you may use the service in may be fixed and at a predetermined location by a cellular network.

Accessing the internet using a cellular network has different needs for home internet needs when compared to mobile internet needs, because at home we have more people who need to connect to the internet, they want to stream Netflix or YouTube, make WhatsApp video calls, or go on to Microsoft Teams for a meeting or online class – all that at the same time. A home internet connection has a lot more demand:

  • Multiple connections using different devices at the same time
  • Fast internet speeds
  • Availability of a WiFi connection throughout the home
  • Lots more data bundles than the average
  • A stable, reliable, and consistent internet connection from a trusted internet service provider

So what cellular companies do is configure and set up home connections and prioritize home internet connections over mobile internet connections. The home connection is prioritized by locking the SIM and device to the mast/tower (the SIM and device will only work when connected to that particular cellular mast), giving it higher speeds,  and managing traffic on that tower by keeping the number of home users low or upgrading where necessary. Home internet LTE is designed to just work better than a mobile data connection.

Connecting an FLTE home WiFi to multiple devices and users

You can connect your FLTE WiFi router to as many 64 devices all at once as is the case for the Huawei B535-932 LTE/LTE-A home WiFi router. The device also has an internet port which you can use to connect directly to your smart TV instead of WiFi. The Huawei B612 4G LTE WiFi router connects as many as 32 devices, plus has 4 internet ports at the back. The smaller devices are able to connect up to 10 devices at the same time, as in the case of the Hisense H218 MIFI Router, but are not supported the way other devices intended for FLTE are.

Which FLTE device is best for you: Choose an FLTE device that is meant to be used for home internet, with internet ports in the back, and pair it with a contract meant for home internet connection for better tower management. At a suitable time you may increase your Internet availability throughout your home by connecting your first router to another router placed in a different part of your home using Internet cables.

Getting fast speeds on FLTE

FLTE speeds are not guaranteed but are “best-effort” speeds. A cellular network’s internet is as fast as the local tower will allow them to be. A fibre network’s internet speed can be guaranteed, but not a cellular network speed. The number of people who are using the internet at the same time on the same connection is also a factor that will affect it. This is because the internet connection is always shared when one router is used.

How can you get fast speeds on an FLTE: Choose the network that has a tower closest to you. The closer the better speed you will experience.

Getting a WiFi connection throughout the home

The rule of thumb is that antennas are best. Rabbit ears are better for receiving connections from the tower and spreading a WiFi connection throughout your home. If you’re going to connect your smart TV then your internet connection within the home will always be quicker if you’re connecting using an internet cable. You can always browse the internet with WiFi on your phone or laptop and it will be fast enough to send emails or send WhatsApp messages.

How can you get a good WiFi range within your home: Choose a router with antennas as they are better at sending and receiving connections. Your WiFi router may have 2 bands: 2.4ghz and 5ghz. The 2.4ghz is for when you’re closer to the router, and 5ghz is for connecting when you’re farther away. Test these bands out and see how far each one can be used to connect further away or closer.

Deciding on the data bundles

FLTE is based on data bundles. They may be uncapped data bundles or a set number of data bundles on a particular plan, but all plans will give you a set number of data bundles. You will most likely use around 1.5 gigs of data every hour when streaming an HD movie on Netflix or watching Showmax. Conducting a meeting on Microsoft Teams with everyone’s cameras off (audio only) will likely be around 100MB per hour. You can get a Top-up contract, which is perhaps most suitable for those that are able to make extra payments if they run out, but if that account is for a student or learner then you might want to more strictly control spending on purchasing extra data bundles in the middle of the month.

How much data should I buy: Figure out first what it will be used for so that you can plan your monthly usage amount. Start small, you can always migrate to a higher plan if you need to.

Does your preferred network provider have good coverage?

According to the below coverage map from vccoverage.afrigis.co.za, the township of Jouberton in Klerksdorp has home 4G and mobile 4G coverage. But in most cases, FLTE will be concentrated around residential areas, whereas mobile LTE will be more readily available. For every network operator, you should be able to find a network coverage map that will show both.

Screenshot: Vodacom mobile LTE coverage map. Source: afrigis.co.za
Vodacom mobile LTE coverage map. Source: screenshot afrigis.co.za
Screenshot: Vodacom FLTE coverage map.
Screenshot: Vodacom FLTE coverage map. Source: afrigis.co.za

How can you check for FLTE network coverage: Google FLTE for the network operator’s network and then enter your address ( Google “MTN FLTE”, and then enter your address or suburb when prompted).

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