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Fiber vs Cable Internet: Which One Is Better in 2024?

When it comes to internet connection, there are two solid options available: fiber vs cable internet. There’s often a debate on which is better. To determine which a superior choice is, it is important to compare both cables. This is exactly what we are going to do in this post.

If you are in a dilemma to choose between fiber and cable internet, give this article a read.

Fiber vs Cable Internet

What Is Cable Internet?

Cable internet uses coaxial cables or cable TV lines to deliver internet connection to homes and offices. It has fast download speeds, wide availability, and great reliability. Also, it is easily accessible everywhere.

These cables have a copper-made core and consist of an insulating sheet, an outer plastic layer, and copper and aluminum shields.

When cable internet providers set up these cables, they make all the connections from homes come together at one spot, usually at your neighborhood’s entrance. The rest is covered by a fiber network unless you live in an area, where they are yet to install fiber cables.

Cable internet can be as fast as the fiber internet. However, cable companies reduce speeds because of the way they distribute bandwidth across different networks. Compared to satellite internet or DSL, cable is much faster. Plus, it is available in more places than the fiber internet that comes directly to your home.

Cable internet is the best option for those who are not yet ready for fiber internet. Another reason people opt for cable internet is the price factor. It is much less expensive than fiber.

Related Post: Coaxial Cable Connector Types

What Is Fiber Internet?

Fiber internet uses fiber optic lines to connect your office or home to the internet. It’s known to offer extremely fast upload and download speeds. However, this type of internet service is not available in every area.

Fiber internet works by sending information using light signals. It’s like Morse code, but instead of sound, it uses light. These light signals travel through thin plastic or glass cables, often as thin as a human hair.

Each cable usually has one thin plastic or glass core, surrounded by a reflective coating. This coating helps keep the light signals inside the cable, even if the cable curves or bends. The cable is also protected by a strong material called Kevlar.

Sometimes, you will see bundles of these cables together in a single sleeve. Each cable can carry a lot of data and is not affected by interference from electrical signals. Unlike traditional cable internet, fiber internet doesn’t rely on active equipment along the lines, reducing the chances of connection problems.

These cables are designed to transfer data over long distances. It offers a modern and high-speed way to get internet at home or office. However, it’s available only in limited areas.

Installing fiber internet infrastructure is an expensive and time-consuming process. This is the reason that many internet providers still use older technology in some areas.

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Difference Between Fiber vs Cable Internet

Now that you are familiar with the basics of cable and fiber internet, it’s time to point out the key differences between the two. Both promise high-speed internet, but they do so in different ways. In this section, we will draw a detailed comparison between the two cable types and find out which one is better.

#1. Fiber vs Cable Internet: How They Work?

How Cable Internet Work

Cable internet operates using a technology similar to cable TV. It relies on data transmission through a coaxial cable, also known as ‘coax’. This cable consists of a copper core surrounded by a woven copper shield, a protective insulator, and an outer plastic layer.

For cable internet to function, you need a cable modem termination system at your ISP’s location and a cable modem in your office.

The cable modem termination system serves as the connection point between your modem and the internet. A coax cable can deliver both TV and internet access at the same time. This is why providers offer bundled packages that include both services.

How Fiber Internet Work

Fiber optics, on the other hand, uses special cables containing plastic or glass fibers that transfer data using light. Whether it’s a podcast or a phone call, your data travels within this beam of light.

The process is made possible by what is called ‘total internal reflection.’ When light comes in contact with a material, it gets refracted, absorbed, or reflected. 

In the case of fiber optics, if the light gets absorbed, there won’t be any connection at the other end. Similarly, if it gets refracted through the cable, the data won’t reach its destination. It will work only if light continually bounces from one end of the cable to the other.

Fiber optic cables have two layers, including cladding and core. Both layers are made of silicon dioxide. In some cases, the outer cover may use other materials to achieve a lower refractive index than the core. It prevents the light from escaping the cable during the transfer process.

#2. Fiber vs Cable Internet: Structure

Cable internet and fiber internet have different structures. Cable internet uses a coaxial cable to send data. Inside the coax cable, there’s a copper core surrounded by aluminum insulation, an outer plastic layer, and a copper shield.

One advantage of coax cable is that it can provide both internet and television services simultaneously. This allows service providers to bundle these services together. To access cable internet, you will need a cable modem termination system and a cable modem.

On the other hand, fiber internet uses fiber optic cables to transmit data. These fiber optic cables are made of glass or plastic and transmit data using modulated light. These thin strands of fiber can carry digital information over long distances.

There are two types of fiber internet to consider: broadband fiber-optic network and Direct Internet Access fiber. While both can connect you to the internet, they serve different purposes. DIA fiber is used for critical operations, and broadband fiber is a more budget-friendly option. The former is suitable for businesses and the latter for residential use.

It’s worth noting that fiber optic connections are less common than coax cables. Installing fiber can be costly, often requiring skilled technicians. In contrast, cable internet is easier to install and more widely available.

#3. Fiber vs Cable Internet: Reliability

When it comes to reliability, both cable and fiber internet connections are quite dependable. But cable internet can be susceptible to issues related to electricity.

If you reside in an area prone to frequent power outages and cable interruptions, relying solely on cable internet might not be a secure option. In such situations, it’s advisable to have backup internet sources available.

A fiber optic internet connection remains unaffected by electricity disruptions. You can still access your fiber-optic network even during power outages because fiber cables are constructed from non-conductive materials like glass. This shields the cables from power voltage fluctuations and reduces the risk of fires.

Due to its resistance to interruptions caused by electrical problems, a fiber network proves to be a more dependable choice and delivers reliable service.

#4. Fiber vs Cable Internet: Speed

In terms of speed, cable networks offer download speeds ranging from 10 to 500 Mbps and upload speeds between 5 to 50 Mbps. These broadband speeds are sufficient for both households and small businesses.

Cable networks can handle tasks like video streaming, heavy downloading, and online gaming. But because it’s a shared network, the speed decreases by 25% during periods of high traffic.

Fiber-optic internet services provide faster speeds compared to cable networks. The speed ranges from 250 to 1,000 Mbps in both download and upload directions.

It can accommodate numerous users simultaneously without compromising overall performance and is an excellent choice for high-demand applications that require consistent performance, even during peak usage hours.

#5. Fiber vs Cable Internet: Availability

Cable networks are widely accessible across the nation. If you have a TV network, you can easily get cable internet. Simply contact your television service provider and request an installation.

On the other hand, fiber internet connections are not as readily accessible as cable internet. While obtaining fiber internet may be more challenging for businesses in remote areas, it is an ideal choice for metropolitan cities.

#6. Fiber vs Cable Internet: Cost

In the past, cable internet was considered cheaper than fiber internet, but the costs of fiber optic cables have decreased.

Cable internet costs are primarily influenced by your location and any additional services like phone and television. You have the option to bundle your TV and internet services with your provider to enjoy some extra savings.

The pricing for fiber-optic internet is slightly on the higher side and varies depending on your internet speed, location, and usage patterns. Additionally, you have to pay for activation and installation fees.

Fiber vs Cable Internet: Winner

The choice between cable and fiber internet depends on your location, budget, and specific needs. If you live in an area where both options are available and the cost is not a concern, fiber internet is the superior choice for its excellent speed and reliability.

However, if you are on a budget or live in an area where fiber is not yet accessible, cable internet is a good option.

Conclusion

The comparison between cable vs fiber internet comes down to the need for speed, budget, and reliability. As technology continues to progress, fiber internet will likely become cheaper and more accessible, making the choice clearer for consumers in the future.