Before you commit to an internet service provider, you need to know exactly what you’re shopping for. These days, that means being educated on the important difference between cable and fiber internet. Picking the right provider for you can be the difference between just getting by, or a connection that provides whatever you need from it.
A lot of people think that new is always better, so fiber must be better than cable, but that’s not always true. There are several factors to consider when comparing the different types of internet connections available. Find out how to compare the two and which one is best for you.
One of the most important aspects of your internet is how fast your service is. Both your upload and download speeds matter, as they affect how quickly you can send and receive information from your computer.
You can see this the most during peak hours. If your connection isn’t fast enough and doesn’t have the bandwidth to deal with your requests, you will start to see delays and longer loading times.
The Sweet Spot
There is a sweet spot when it comes to speed. While it’s always nice to have very fast speeds, if you’re not using all of the bandwidth that you have available to you, you could be overpaying for your internet service.
It is sort of like when you buy a car. You could spend more money on the sports car that can go 0-60 in 2.5 seconds, but if all you’re doing is taking your kids to school and band practice, that’s not what you need. In the same way, you can get fiber speeds, but if you only go online to check emails and social media, you don’t really need it.
Cable internet has speed restrictions simply because of the wires and hardware that are used to provide it. Download speeds will be anywhere from 10-500 Mbps (megabits per second). On the other hand, fiber optic internet provides speeds 100 times faster because it is not limited by copper wiring.
The speed difference when considering fiber vs cable internet is most visible with multiple users. Cable internet shares bandwidth between users. You can see this when one person in your family is watching cat videos on their phone, another is playing a video game online, and you are trying to stream HD video to catch up on your favorite guilty pleasure TV show. In that situation, if you are using cable, you have to share the internet connection. This can lead to long loading times, lag, and decreased quality and resolution.
If it only came down to members of your household, that would be one thing, but cable customers actually share that bandwidth with fellow customers in their same neighborhood. Fiber internet doesn’t have this limitation and can host multiple devices without a delay in service.
Depending on where you live, the providers that service your area, and the speeds you want, the prices will change. One thing always stays true: Higher speeds tend to cost more. This means that fiber internet is still generally more expensive than cable. While this difference in cost used to be drastic, over the years the price gap between cable and fiber internet has gotten smaller.
Cable’s Already There
Cable internet is generally more accessible and already available in most homes and cities, which makes installation and activation fees lower. Another benefit of cable internet is that you can combine your internet service with a television package for additional savings.
Fiber optic internet will usually be more expensive, depending on your location. Not every city has a fiber optic network already established in it, but we’ll get into that next. The cost of fiber optic internet has historically been a lot higher than cable, but it has been dropping significantly in price over the years, as the infrastructure is improved in many areas.
Accessibility and availability are probably the biggest drawbacks of fiber internet. For many, the debate between fiber vs cable isn’t even a debate because they don’t have access to a fiber network. While fiber is available in most major cities and metropolitan areas, in more rural areas, cable may be the only option.
When you are considering fiber vs cable, one of the biggest differences involves the hardware that sustains each service. The hardware difference between fiber and cable internet determines the manner in which information is transmitted.
Cable uses coaxial cable, which transmits data through electric signals that are carried through copper wire. Your cable box works through this exact same process. That’s why cable TV is often packaged with cable internet. The biggest limitation to speed and quality of the internet is dependent on the copper wiring that is used.
Speed of Light
Fiber internet uses optical fiber, in which pulses of light are modulated to carry information. Because it is using light rather than electrical impulses to transmit information, there are additional security and stability benefits of fiber networks. For example, copper cable wiring is susceptible to EM interference and surges, while fiber optic cable is immune to interference from other sources.
Fiber optic cable has a much longer lifespan. Copper cable has a life of about five years before it starts to deteriorate and has to be replaced, whereas fiber optic cable can last anywhere from 30-50 years.
When it comes down to fiber optics vs cable, fiber wins in most categories, with the only loss coming in price and availability. And that is quickly changing as prices are continually decreasing and networks are starting to stretch beyond major cities and into rural communities.
No matter which internet provider you are looking into, make sure you are paying for what you will use. Fiber provides fast upload and download speeds, but at a cost, while cable internet is more accessible and can be bundled with cable TV packages to potentially make it a cheaper internet option.
Contact Us Today
If you’re struggling to know what could work for you, FirstDigital s can help. Visit our fiber page to find out if it’s the right option for your home. With FirstDigital, you’ll find that we provide customized solutions that work with you, so you don’t pay for something you don’t need.