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How Do iNet Africa Services Work

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Have you ever wondered how your internet gets to your home when you use our service? Or are you considering taking up our services and want to understand how we deliver connectivity. We love curiosity and helping our clients understand more about how we work!

iNet Africa is primarily a Wireless ISP (or WISP as it’s known in the biz). That means we deliver all of our connectivity via wireless radio communication. You can read the differences between wired (nowadays mainly optical fibre) and wireless networks here.

Fig 1

Our distribution system is broken into 3 mains parts:

  • Backhaul/Backbone
  • Towers & Access Points
  • Customer Premise Equipment (CPE)
BACKHAUL/BACKBONEFiber optic cables

The backbone or backhaul of any network is the main source of the internet to our distribution sites or base stations, Seen in the picture above as the link between the internet and our Tower. This is an optical fibre cable that connects all of our base stations to our main offices in Malindi and Watamu and then goes all the way to Mombasa, where it is now routed out to the global internet via undersea optical fibre cables that travel thousands of kilometres on the sea-bed. These optical cables are able to carry up-to 10Gbps of data all the way from Malindi to Mombasa and back to Malindi at only 3 milliseconds (this is called the latency, how long it takes for a packet, fancy word for a piece of data to travel between two internet devices).

To provide the level of reliability that our customers have now gotten accustomed to we have multiple fibres that enter Malindi and Watamu on different pathways to ensure we always have at-least one link online if the other gets damaged or cut.

 

TOWERS & ACCESS POINTS

The wired connection is converted to a wireless signal at our towers using access points.

These are radio’s that take in a wired connection and output a signal in the 5Ghz frequency that is conducted out to the air by a connected antenna into electromagnetic waves, which can be received by other antennas and converted back to wired signals. These radio waves are not harmful to humans at all, high frequencies are ionising, at 5Ghz these signal’s are less harmful than the light that comes out of your light bulbs at home.

The access points are placed on tall towers to provide maximum coverage, due to the nature of the 5Ghz wave we need to have a line of sight between the access points and receiver, meaning the signal can be blocked by tree’s and buildings and being high enough allows us to avoid such obstacles. Malindi and Watamu are quite a flat terrain which allow’s us to have a good coverage using only a few base stations.

 

CUSTOMER PREMISE EQUIPMENT

Signal’s are converted to electromagnetic waves by the antennas, these can be converted back to electricity when they come into contact with another antenna, and the level of that power received is called the signal strength. We mount radio’s with integrated antennas on to the customer’s premises on to a pole upto 20 feet high, the height depends on height of

the building and tree coverage near by. The device is pointed toward the nearest base station and carefully aligned to get the best receive signal. If you already have a connection with us in

Malindi these are the dishes we put on your roof or the flat rectangular receiver on the poles in Watamu. This device converts the received signal back to electrical signals and passes it down to

your router which reconverts it back to WiFi which your devices are able to connect to and access the internet. The setup that we would do at your premise can be seen above in Fig 1 show’s a typical setup in your home. Sometimes we require 2 routers to ensure the WiFi signal has coverage in larger homes.

 

If you have any questions about anything above please call us on 0741216568 or shoot us an email at services@inet.africa

wireless radios on mast

Internet Using Fixed Wireless vs Fiber: Whats the difference?

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Over the last few years, there is been a climbing demand for fixed internet access. There are more and more homes and businesses are coming online in Kenya every day. To meet be able to meet this growing demand, many internet companies are offering a variety of connectivity solutions. Two major options you may have heard of are Fiber or Fixed Wireless broadband. If you don’t fully understand the difference between them and which to choose, you aren’t alone! We hope this article will help you understand the difference and make a more informed choice to the tech that best fits your needs.

Let’s first understand what each of these technologies are, and how they work:

Fixed wireless: With this setup, the internet service provider will install a receiver/subscriber somewhere on your property. The receiver connects wirelessly to the internet providers’ tower to one of multiple access points or AP’s that bridge to the wider internet. Wireless connections are usually in the microwave 5Ghz spectrum and are capable of over 1Gbps given the right equipment.

 

Fiber: The medium used for transmission of information in this solution are fiber optic cables. They work by encoding information into bursts of lights and sending them over the optical fibers. These fibers may come to your premises either overhead, usually on wooden poles, or through underground trenches. They are then connected to a router to provide access over WiFi. Fiber is able to deliver incredible max speeds of over 10Gbps at literally the speed of light!

What’s right for me?

As technology moves forward we have certain facts that get overturned. If you had asked the question, fiber or wireless, 3-5 years ago. The resounding answer would be easy; fiber, without a doubt! We have come a long way since then and the lines between the advantages of fiber over fixed wireless are becoming blurred. Let’s breakdown each technology by 3 main criteria: Cost, Speeds, Latency & Reliability.

Cost

The cost of laying fiber is significantly higher per KM of coverage than fixed wireless. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in a populated area. Chances are you don’t have fiber available and pulling fiber can be an expensive process. As wireless radios today are capable of covering up to 20KM with a single AP, getting coverage in areas that don’t already have fiber cables nearby can be a lot easier on your pocket.

Speed

Optical fibers are able to deliver a much higher maximum throughput achieving up to 10Gbps without much difficulty. While wireless tends to max out around the 1Gbps mark for most systems. Now the speeds I am talking about here are the total capacity that is possible. The average consumer generally use between 10-100Mbps. Both technologies are easily able to deliver speeds to the average consumer.

Latency

Latency means the time taken between requesting a resource, like a website and the response starting to download. It is an important factor to consider if you plan to do large amounts of voice calling or gaming. In this case, fiber is the theoretical winner. You can expect fiber to have 2-3 ms of latency vs 3-4 ms in a wireless link. The difference is negligible to most users but those with the aforementioned requirements.

Reliability

Due to being physically placed in public areas fiber is extremely prone to being cut. In metro areas of Kenya, where the fiber cables are hung from electric poles or laid underground along roadsides. We tend to see a lot of cuts due to upgrades and works. Wireless, on the other hand, is placed at private properties with power backups and close by technicians. The drawback is they are prone to interference especially In crowded metro areas, this can affect service reliability.

To summarize, fiber and wireless internet access in today’s market are becoming indistinguishable. We recommend fiber in crowded metro areas while wireless access is perfect for suburbs and surrounding areas.