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Fiber vs Cable Internet:
A Guide to the Differences in Speed, Cost and More

Posted October 1, 2018

A solid internet connection is key to effective business communication. The connection you choose will impact the satisfaction of your employees, customers, and partners. It affects your productivity, efficiency, and reputation on a daily basis and can seriously impact your bottom line.

The typical internet user doesn’t know the difference between the various types of internet access. They just want a business internet service that gets the job done without any lag time, choppiness, or frozen screens of death. Sure, most options give you high-speed internet access, but they are still very different in several ways. And as a business, you want to invest in the internet connection that offers you the best reliable service for your budget and needs.

There two major available internet connections. These are fiber and cable. Fiber and cable internet connections differ in their structure, functionality, reliability, and even speed. Here’s a major comparison of fiber and cable internet connection factors to help you answer the question, “What should I get? Fiber vs cable?”

Fiber vs Cable: Structure

Cable internet uses the same technology as cable television. It uses a coaxial cable (coax) to transmit data. The coax cable contains a copper core that is insulated with aluminum, a copper shield, and an outer plastic layer.

Coax cable can supply both the internet connection and television network at the same time. This allows the service provider to bundle the two services together, but to access the cable internet you need a cable modem and a cable modem termination system.

On the other hand, a fiber internet connection is transmitted using fiber optic cable. The fiber optic internet cable contains plastic or glass that transmits modulated light. These thin strands of fiber can carry digital information over very long distances.

There are two types of fiber and a discussion of the differences here is important. There is Direct Internet Access (DIA) fiber and there is broadband fiber (FiOS, FTTB, etc.). While both services will connect you to the internet, they are designed for different types of use. DIA is usually for mission-critical operations such as companies who rely on the internet to do their business without interruption, while broadband fiber is considered a “best effort” internet service more ideal for residential needs or businesses looking for low cost even if far less reliable and prone to some interruptions. DIA provides a dedicated line to your office with a static IP. What this means in terms of reliability is especially significant.

DIA fiber will usually have guaranteed Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to ensure your business receives the service quality and speeds promised by your internet provider. This includes bandwidth availability with money-back commitments. Although broadband fiber is better than coax cable, there is still risk of down-time and money-back guarantees are less likely.

DIA fiber provides symmetrical service meaning you get the same upload speeds as download speeds. Broadband offers shared, asymmetrical service with varying upload and download speeds and service that is often shared with neighboring businesses. There is no doubt that DIA fiber is in another class when compared to broadband fiber. It’s a high-quality, secure, private connection for businesses that demand reliability and can’t afford to impact their operation with the cost of an outage.

Fiber optic connections are still not as common as the coax cables, though. The process of installing can be quite extensive, it can be expensive and can be intrusive. These installations can require a lot of skilled technicians. Cable internet is much easier to install (like typical residential cable) which is why it tends to be more broadly available.

Fiber vs Cable: Availability

Cable networks are easily accessible and available just about everywhere, about 89% coverage nationwide. If you can access a television network, you can access a cable internet. All you need to do is to call your television service provider and order an installation.

Despite its expansion, fiber internet connections are not as easily accessible as cable internet though they are certainly more available than they used to be. They are currently available for about 25% of locations and 10 Gb is becoming increasingly common in metro areas. Fiber may be more difficult to obtain for businesses in remote areas, but it is ideal for larger metropolitan locations.

Fiber vs Cable: Reliability

Fiber and cable internet connections are almost equally reliable. However, cable internet connections are impacted by factors that affect electricity.

If you live in an area with frequent cable interruptions and electricity outages, cable internet may not be a reliable source of internet for you. If you use cable internet you may need backup sources of the internet for such cases.

A fiber optic internet access does not experience interruptions from electricity disruptions. You’ll still be able to access your fiber-optic network without electricity because the cables are made of glass and do not conduct electricity. This protects the cables from fluctuating power voltages and risk of fires.

Since the fiber network cannot be interrupted as easily as other types of internet connectivity, it provides a more reliable network choice between the two network connections. In other words, a fiber network provides a consistent service.

Fiber vs Cable: Speed

The download speed of cable network ranges from 10 to 500 megabits per second (Mbps). Its upload speed range is 5 to 50 Mbps. This broadband speed is sufficient for most small-scale businesses and homes.

The cable network speed can accommodate some heavy downloading, video streaming and gaming. However, since it is a shared network, whenever the traffic is high, the network speed is slower. You can expect up to a 25% reduction in speed during peak-use periods.

Fiber-optic internet services is faster compared to the cable network with a speed of not less than 250-1,000 Mbps in both directions. Many people can access the fiber network at the same time without affecting the overall performance. This makes it ideal for high demand use that needs to stay constant, even during peak periods.

Fiber vs Cable: Cost

It used to be considered that a cable internet connection was quite a bit cheaper than a fiber internet connection, but the costs associated with fiber optic have come down significantly. It is now more comparable to cable service costs, though still more expensive typically.

While cable is mainly determined by your location, television, and phone services, you can choose to purchase a combined internet and television package, or a bundle, from your service provider to get some additional savings.

The fiber-optic internet cost can be more expensive and will depend on your usage, the speed of the internet you want, and your location. You may also need to pay installation and activation fees.

Conclusion

For businesses that need the fastest internet connections, have larger bandwidth demands, and need reliability for essential functions, fiber may be the best choices. With fiber, you can use it for both video and voice applications, server hosting, and application hosting. You can also get the fastest speeds over longer distances with fiber. The most demanding users should opt for fiber.

Alternatively, businesses that don’t have servers at their locations, don’t have a lot of content needs, and don’t necessarily have mission-critical internet applications, may choose cable for the savings benefit.

To help you determine the best internet connectivity options for your business needs, contact MegaPath providers today for a free consultation and hassle-free quote.

 

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