Which Internet Type Is Right for You? Cable or Fiber?
As fiber-optic Internet reaches more residences in the U.S., the cable versus fiber debate is becoming more prevalent. With that discussion in mind, let us answer some of the most common questions.
What is the Difference Between Fiber and Cable?
Fiber, cable, satellite, DSL and wireless internet are all means of connecting you to the internet. These are channels through which you send data to servers and receive responses. The core difference between all of these methods is how the data is transmitted. Cable internet uses coaxial cables and transmits electrical signals over them. Coax cables have copper wire at the core, and that wire is insulated with aluminum, protected with a copper shield and encapsulated within an outer plastic layer.
Fiber internet uses fiber-optic cables. There are strands of glass at the core of these cables that are encapsulated in multiple layers of plastic. The signal is not electric but rather light, and when a pulse of light is sent out, it continues to bounce from side to side of the cable until it reaches its destination. Both coax and fiber cables can either be strung or buried underground. It is more common for coax to be strung because it is faster and cheaper and allowed for more rapid deployment during the cutting cable boom. Burying fiber cables is still more expensive and time-consuming, but many companies and municipalities opt to do it anyway because fiber is expensive and it protects investments long term.
Why Is Cable More Widely Available?
Cable had a head start not just in regard to the fundamental technology but the infrastructure. When cable internet service providers became prominent in the U.S., much of the infrastructure used had been built in the 1970s and the 1980s. Consider that the main fiber-optic cables that now serve as the backbone of the Internet were not installed until the mid-1990s. It really was not until the aughts that private companies began burying fiber as a means of providing Internet to end-users.
Are There Differences in the Quality of Service?
There are some fundamental advantages that fiber has over cable. Even if both have buried lines, a fiber infrastructure requires less maintenance overall. It is also inherently faster since it uses light as opposed to electricity. Use of electricity has some other issues beyond just slower speeds, and that includes electromagnetic interference and signal degradation. Not only is fiber faster, but it is more dependable. That is supported by the statistics, which show that fiber outages are much less common.
Is Fiber Better Than Cable?
Let us approach this question first from an objective perspective. Fiber is better than cable. It is faster. Current fiber infrastructures allow for much more bandwidth. If you purchase a 1 Gbps fiber plan, that means that you get a 1 Gbps download and a 1 Gbps upload. If you purchase a 300 Mbps cable plan, you may get 300 Mbps download but probably closer to 20 Mbps upload. Fiber is also cheaper when you look at from the perspective of how much you get in return, such as cents per Mbps. If you want the best of both worlds, Spectrum internet offers hybrid fiber and coaxial cable internet which offer an affordable plans both residential and business internet.
Is Fiber Better Than Cable for You?
As far as a lump sum you pay each month, fiber is generally more expensive. That gap is closing but still has a way to go for the average American. Cable speeds are quite good. The average American now has access to 200-300 Mbps, which is good enough for the average household. In order to answer this question for you personally, you have to decide what you need and what you can afford. However, if you work from home and reliability and upload speeds are very important, then yes, it probably is.