Articles

What is Fiber Internet?

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Over the last few years, fiber has been a buzzword. You’ve probably heard it’s stronger, better, faster; that we at Kinetic by Windstream are already offering it in several markets; that we have plans to expand. But what exactly is fiber Internet? 

It’s simply another type of Internet connection, just like DSL and cable. The three make up the majority of all available Internet connections, but they each have their differences. And, to fully understand — and appreciate — fiber Internet, you’ll want a better grasp on how it compares with DSL and cable Internet connections.

Luckily, Kinetic by Windstream is here to help you sort them out and become a fiber Internet expert with this guide. 

DSL, Cable and Fiber: How Do They Work?

First, let’s get to the underbelly of it all — the infrastructure. 

DSL — short for digital subscriber line — was the successor to dial-up Internet. Like dial-up, DSL provides a connection through the use of copper telephone wires. Unlike dial-up, DSL uses a frequency that allows for high-speed Internet that will not interfere with any landline phone data.

Cable Internet uses electrical currents that pass through television, or coaxial, cables, made primarily of copper, to service high-speed Internet. These Internet users will also need a cable modem. 

Fiber Internet uses light passing through glass tubing, called fiber-optic cables, to transmit data. These fiber-optic Internet cables go directly to your home.

Keep these in mind as we share the other differences between DSL, cable and fiber-optic Internet.

The Speed Test: DSL, Cable and Fiber Compared

Remember that there are two different types of speeds: upload and download. You’re likely more interested in download speeds, which are usually the advertised ones. But, a handful of you — whether you work from home or video chat often — may also need good upload speeds. 

DSL Internet speeds have increased over time, but typically cap at 100 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speeds. Cable Internet speeds have gone a bit further, providing up to 500 Mbps download speed and up to 50 Mbps upload speed in some areas. Fiber-optic Internet, though, can provide speeds up to one gig (or 1,000 Mbps) — and that’s for both download and upload.

Don’t forget, too, that there are other factors that can affect your speed. If you’re debating between fiber-optic Internet versus cable, for example, you’ll be interested to know that cable connections are shared with your neighbors. That means, at times, you may be at the mercy of your bandwidth-hogging neighbor. DSL and fiber-optic Internet, meanwhile, are not shared connections. Those lines typically go straight to your household, so you’ll only be sharing with your family. 

DSL, Cable and Fiber: Which Is Most Reliable?

This is the part when you’ll want to recall some of that information about the infrastructure. Cable Internet, for example, uses electrical currents to transmit data. That transportation method makes it more susceptible to outside forces, such as power outages and weather. 

And, because cable and DSL were both built on existing infrastructure, you may run into aging issues that can affect the reliability of your connection. DSL connections are also sensitive to distance: the further away you live from a hub, the higher the likelihood of a spotty Internet connection. 

Fiber-optic Internet cables aren’t vulnerable to the same factors because of their infrastructure. 

DSL, Cable and Fiber: What’s Available?

According to BroadbandNow, DSL is available in most places, as 90 percent of Americans have access to it. About 89 percent of Americans have access to cable Internet, the website says, and fiber Internet’s availability nationwide sits at 25 percent. 

In the fiber Internet versus DSL fight, the former loses. The biggest drawback for fiber Internet is that it isn’t readily available everywhere. That’s mostly due to the fact that making it accessible means that service providers must lay out new fiber-optic Internet cables, which is a costly task. But, as the copper infrastructure begins to erode more and as demand for a faster, reliable Internet connection rises, — and we may already be in the midst of this — providers may start expanding their fiber-optic Internet availability.

DSL, Cable and Fiber: What’s It Going to Cost?

Costs will obviously vary by the speed you select, the market you’re in, if you’re getting a bundle and what type of connection you receive. When fiber-optic Internet first came onto the market, its asking price was much higher than those for DSL and cable. Since then, though, the price has leveled out, but still slightly more expensive than the other two options.

Is Fiber-Optic Internet Better?

In short, yes. There are so many ways that fiber beats out DSL and cable, including speed and reliability. It’s worth noting that fiber Internet is typically associated with speeds up to one gig, but providers have also offered it to lower tiers, such as 25 Mbps or even 100 Mbps. This connection’s biggest downside is that it isn’t available everywhere quite yet, but know that Kinetic by Windstream is always working to expand our services and bring other places into our Kinetic community.

That’s great, you think, but is it really for me?

To answer that, we’ll need you to do a little exercise. Tally up all the connected devices you have at home. That includes cellphones, tablets, laptops, video game consoles and smart home technology like televisions, thermostats, lights and appliances. How has your Internet performed thus far? Are you adding any more devices? Are they always connected simultaneously? You’ll want to account for your entire household here to get the most accurate picture.

Because of its faster speeds, fiber-optic Internet is a great solution for those who stream high-definition shows and movies, have an abundant smart home technology collection, need significant upload speeds, or video chat or live stream often. Because of its reliability, it’d be a great option for anyone who works from home occasionally.

Don’t fall into any of those categories? That’s OK! Fiber opens up so many possibilities for any Internet user. 

Learn how with our fiber-optic Internet solution, Kinetic Gig!