A wireless solution to transmission woes

Fibre optic
Steven Williams in the Stilbaai EasyComs office

FOR MANY of us, an internet service that is fast, reliable and, best of all, immune to load shedding blackouts is just a pipe dream.

But in Hessequa about 400 businesses, farmers and even private individuals already enjoy such a service, thanks to the marvels of fibre optic break-out delivered via a reliable wireless network, run on solar back-up systems.

Where do they find such a service? EasyComs Communications in Stilbaai, which has been operating here and in surrounding Hessequa areas for 11 years, provides a fibre optic break-out alternative to what we have come to know as the unreliable copper cable connectivity Telkom sells.

Copper cable reduces us to gibbering wrecks when our connection to the internet falters, slows down or simply stops, our computer screens go blank, and the important message we are trying to send goes nowhere, sometimes for hours on end.

Steven Williams in the Stilbaai office of EasyComs says his father, Ian Williams, started the business out of sheer frustration when the office he was running in Stilbaai at the time could not get the kind of internet service necessary to connect to main offices elsewhere.

“He did some research and found out how to bring a service in from Riversdale, where the only ADSL lines were available at that time. He sourced Wi-Fi (local area wireless technology), and with that equipment employed a technician and long-standing partner, Joseph Saayman, from neighbouring Melkhoutfontein to build the wireless backhaul network, thus offering rural areas the high-quality internet you normally get only in large city centres.”

Williams senior’s intention was to use the network as a solution to his own connectivity struggles, but he soon found himself extending it to the Hessequa municipality when they asked for it.

He connected all the Hessequa municipal offices, and continued to offer the service for five or six years before it was tendered to several bidders, and EasyComs was outbid.

“We still had our network so we decided to focus on rural areas and farmers who don’t have connectivity,” Williams junior recalls.

EasyComs relied on “word of mouth” as their marketing tool. After connecting just a few farmers, news of the marvels of this wireless solution had others beating a path to EasyComs’ door.

“We built up our network to more than 400 customers, mostly businesses, but also private owners.

“We serve provincial ministers and businesses that have several interconnected offices and outlets.

“Our wireless network runs from around Swellendam to George, which is the closest town from which to access our fibre optic cable,” says Williams junior.

“Our network provides high-quality internet access, especially to rural areas, where the need is great.

“We also offer an alternative power system as back-up when Eskom is load shedding.”

The difference between a fibre optic solution and Telkom’s copper lines lies in something called contention ratio, which is the ratio of the potential maximum demand to the actual bandwidth, says Williams.

“We do not have the same contention ratios. The higher the contention ratio, the greater the number of people that may be trying to use the actual bandwidth at any one time and, therefore, the lower the effective bandwidth offered, especially at peak times.

“Telkom’s copper network has a limited capacity, which cannot maintain the amount of data they sell if everyone is online at the same time. So they assume that a certain percentage of users will be busy at once but, if the network becomes busier than usual, everything slows down.”

Another benefit of fibre optic cable is that it has no value for thieves.

“Copper wire theft in our country often results in lines going down for weeks on end – lines that Telkom replaces only in areas where there are big numbers of users, like Cape Town and Johannesburg. But if the copper lines in Jongensfontein, for instance, go down, users must wait much longer for Telkom technicians to repair or replace them.”

EasyComs offers fixed monthly packages at speeds, capped, to suit the user’s needs. The basic internet service costs R330 a month for 1 Mbps speed and 3 GB of usage. There are no line rentals or additional costs. Various speeds and sizes of access packages are available, with extra e-mail addresses and other added value.

Among the add-on services are telephones, “so for farmers and other users who can’t get Telkom lines or prefer not to use Telkom, we can provide that service with a telephone that runs through the internet”, says Williams.

To find out more, go to www.easycoms.co.za

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