Unshaped Fibre Explained

Having an internet connection in your home or at your office is no longer just a convenience, it’s a commodity that we have come to rely on for “life” in general. We go online to complete work, to pay bills, to shop, to communicate, and to relax. Because of this demand for the internet, ISPs in South Africa have made it a priority to give consumers options when it comes to how they connect. In this guide, our focus is on unshaped fibre. We’ll elaborate on what it is, and help you to determine if it’s for you.

In This Guide:

What is unshaped fibre?

To understand what unshaped fibre is, it’s best to first describe the “shaped” alternative. Shaping occurs when certain online activities get prioritised above other activities when a network becomes busy.  

For example:

If you’re on a video call, your server will prioritise this call over someone streaming YouTube videos or browsing social media on the same network. This is because there’s not enough bandwidth for such heavy usage and even a one-second data delay can result in a poor-quality video calling experience. All less important activities will therefore run at a slower pace when data consumption surges.

However, if you have an unshaped account, then there is no prioritising. All types of data usage are treated as the same. Even if you are using the internet to stream content, your connection will not slow down for activities such as video calls that are otherwise deemed as more important.

What are the pros and cons of unshaped fibre?

When it comes to deciding on an internet plan, then it’s always good to weigh the pros against the cons to determine which deal is going to best fit in with your needs.

The pros of unshaped fibre:

  • You can enjoy a fast connection no matter what you are using the internet for.
  • Your downloads, torrents, and streaming activity won’t be easily interrupted.
  • You will not receive any surprising out-of-bundle charges.
  • Your ISP will agree to not dictate which of your traffic they deem as more important.

The cons of unshaped fibre:

  • An unshaped connection is typically more expensive than a shaped one.
  • You run the risk of running out of bandwidth quicker.  
  • You will need to monitor your usage to make sure you do not run out of bandwidth unexpectantly (if you’re capped).

Is unshaped the same as uncapped?

The terms “uncapped" and “unshaped” refer to two separate things.

To define what an uncapped connection is, it’s best to first focus on how a “capped” connection works.

The term “capped” refers to how much data your internet plan allows you to use before you are blocked from using the network. In other words, if you’ve subscribed to a data package where you receive a set number of gigabytes of bandwidth per month, you’ll be capped once you deplete this amount. Most ISPs will allow you to top up or add to your bandwidth if you’re capped before the end of the month.

As we’ve learnt, “unshaped” refers to bandwidth that does not prioritise certain internet activities over others, ensuring a continuously fast and more streamlined connection.

What does “unshaped data” mean?

Just like an unshaped fibre line is free from data traffic interference, an unshaped data connection works the same. If your data bundle is shaped, on the other hand, then the ISP can prioritise certain activities over others.

Since data bundles tend to run out quickly if usage isn’t monitored closely, sometimes, a shaped data connection is a more cost-effective solution. This is because a network will slow down less important activity when a network is very busy.

How do I know if unshaped fibre is right for me?

First, you will need to establish if there is fibre in your area. If the cables have not yet been laid in your neighbourhood, then you will have to settle on another type of internet connection until fibre has been brought to your address.

Secondly, we suggest that you ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Will more than one person be using the same internet connection at the same time?
  2. Do I need continuously fast and reliable line speed?
  3. Can I afford a more expensive internet package?

If you have answered “yes” to one or more of the above, then an unshaped fibre line may be a perfect choice for you.

Before signing a contract for the first unshaped fibre deal that comes your way, we encourage you to shop around and compare internet plans from the different South African ISP providers. This way, you can ensure that you are getting cheap internet that works for you.

Where can I get uncapped unshaped fibre?

When it comes to internet service providers, then there is no shortage of options in South Africa. This can, however, make shopping for the best deal somewhat overwhelming. To streamline your search and reduce your admin, we have created an internet comparison tool that’s free to use. Simply enter a few details and we’ll provide you with a list of cheap unshaped fibre options within minutes.

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