broadband vs fiber

Difference Between Broadband and Fiber Optic

broadband vs fiber

When the Internet was first introduced, we connected through telephone lines because using existing, wide-spread infrastructure made sense. Dial-up service though was slow and by today’s standards ancient technology. We have come a long way in the last thirty years and as technology continues to develop, connections are able to transmit more and more information at faster and faster speeds. What technologies give you the best Internet connectivity? Does standard broadband provide enough for your Internet usage? Is a fiber optic connection a better option?

Let’s dig a little deeper into the two sides of the fiber vs. broadband question to help you decide what type of internet connection is right for you.

To understand more about the fiber vs. broadband choice, it’s best to know the definition of each. Let’s start by giving you more information on what we are talking about when we use these terms. 

What is Broadband?

Broadband internet is a general term used to refer to high-speed internet or as the term specifically means, it is an internet connection that has the ability to handle a broad bandwidth of data. Most Internet connections at this point are broadband connections. The types of things we use the Internet for, from streaming shows, gaming, logging into video conference meetings or Webinars, or creating music and videos, or editing photos and projects, we need a connection that is able to transmit a lot of information quickly. That is the purpose of broadband.

In this way when we use the term broadband, we are using a general umbrella term for a high-speed Internet connection. We are not necessarily talking about the type of Internet connection we have. There are different types of broadband depending on the technology you are using to connect to the Internet.

The five main types of broadband technologies include:

  • Cable internet
  • Wireless internet
  • Satellite internet
  • Digital subscriber line (DSL) internet
  • Fiber-optic internet 

Cable Broadband

Cable technology means that your ISP is delivering high-speed Internet via a coaxial cable, just like your TV signal is delivered. This technology uses an Internet connection, a modem, and a WiFi router in your home. It is a reliable and fast way to access a broadband connection, and is widely available across the country, although can be more limited in rural areas. 

Wireless Broadband

This type of broadband technology uses radio signals to connect you to the internet. It is a technology that is not tied down by cables or wires. The speed of this type of connection depends on several different factors though, including location and type of equipment. It does provide connections in more remote areas where other technologies are unavailable. The connection speed however is usually slower than other broadband technologies and can also be unreliable depending on the weather, obstructions, and the quality of the equipment being used. 

Satellite Internet

Just like the name suggests, this type of broadband technology depends on satellite signals, much like those used for satellite TV, to connect you to the Internet. Connection is dependent on the use of a satellite dish, modem, and line of sight. Since it delivers your Internet connection from the sky, this type of technology is useful in remote or rural areas where other types of broadband connections are unavailable. Satellite is a reliable technology for interconnectivity, but it is slower than other broadband services, especially in inclement weather. 

DSL Internet

DSL or Direct Service Line internet service is a technology that transmits your Internet through different frequencies using old-fashioned copper wire. The same copper wire that is used to access a landline telephone. This type of broadband is not considered exceptionally fast. It is probably the slowest of all broadband connections and used more often in rural areas, where other broadband services are unavailable. Since it does use existing phone lines, it is usually a cheaper option. 

Fiber-optic Internet

The final type of broadband connectivity is fiber-optic. Yes, that’s right. In the fiber vs. broadband question, what we are really talking about is standard broadband vs fiber-optic broadband. Standard broadband connectivity uses cable, wireless, satellite, or DSL technology. Fiber-optic broadband uses a new fiber-optic cable technology. So, then, what is fiber-optic technology? 

Fiber-optic Technology

Fiber-optic internet provides an Internet connection through specialized cords that use light to communicate. This is a technology that was developed specifically for Internet connectivity. It does not use any existing infrastructure, such as cable, phone lines, satellites or radio, but relies on the building of new fiber-optic infrastructure. The speeds fiber-optic Internet can achieve far surpasses other broadband technology since it was specifically developed for connecting to the Internet.

Now that we know more about each of these options, we can examine the broadband vs fiber internet question a little closer. 

Fiber Internet Vs Broadband: What’s the Difference?

The difference between broadband and fiber can be brought down to:

  • Speed
  • Reliability
  • Availability

When comparing fiber vs. broadband, it is best to look at these three components. 

Speed

When getting things done via the Internet, speed matters. Internet speed is based on how long it takes for your connection to download and upload data. Upload speed refers to how fast it takes for you to send information, whether you are sending large files or pictures, gaming, or in a video conference meeting. Download speed refers to how quickly you can get information from the Internet. This includes streaming your favorite show, or large files you use to get whatever done you need to get done. The Internet is full of information and tools for our everyday lives, but using them takes bandwidth, so speed matters. 

How Speed Is Measured

Data is measured in bits, so speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps). One Mbps is 1,000,000 bits of data transferred per second. One Gbps is 1,000,000,000 bits of data transferred per second. The higher the Mbps or Gbps, the faster the Internet speed. To put that in perspective, one song is about 3.28 megabytes, while a standard streaming movie is about 1-2 Gigabytes.

When comparing fiber vs. broadband in terms of speed, fiber is going to win out every time. It is the fastest communication technology that has been developed to transmit data. The slowest fiber plans will match the most rapid standard broadband plans, which is about 300 Mbps. This means they can be about the same, but fiber can reach speeds that other forms of broadband technology just do not get to, ever. Fiber-optic Internet plans typically start at about 500 Mbps but can easily surpass speeds of 1 to 5 Gbps. The technology also continues to grow and has the potential to become much faster. 

Reliability

What is meant by Internet reliability can also be summed up as a consistent, constant, and reliable Internet connection under varying circumstances, such as inclement weather conditions. This means your Internet Service Provider (ISP) ensures that there is minimum downtime with your connection. It does not easily disconnect, nor does it fluctuate between a lower speed to a higher speed connection. In other words, it is consistently and constantly connected at a high-speed. If your ISP promises an Internet connection at a high-speed and then does not deliver that speed consistently and under varying conditions, then you do not have reliable Internet.

Reliability also factors into how many devices can be connected to the Internet in your home with each device still receiving a high-speed, broadband performance. With everything in our households–from cell phones, computers, TVs and tablets–connected to the Internet, it is important to have a reliable service that can deliver high-speed performance to multiple devices simultaneously.

Overall, a reliable Internet connection provides high-speed Internet usage anywhere, anytime, to every device in your household.

There is a balance achieved when comparing fiber vs. broadband in terms of reliability. Both standard broadband and fiber Internet are reliable Internet options. What technologies you are using to obtain standard broadband through is a consideration. Cable and DSL are the most reliable, while satellite and wireless can be affected the most by weather and other shifting factors. Cable can also be affected by power outages, however, since it uses electricity. Fiber Internet delivers a reliable connection that is not easily affected by external factors, such as extreme weather or network latency issues. Fiber also delivers the best speed consistency over other broadband technologies.

In terms of growth, fiber Internet also has the most potential. It is the best type of connection to handle the addition of multiple devices. It can do so more easily and more reliably than standard broadband without sacrificing consistency and constancy of high-speed performance. 

Availability

One of the biggest issues when comparing fiber vs. broadband is the matter of availability and the factor where fiber falls short. Since fiber requires building an infrastructure for fiber-optic cable, this technology is not available in all areas. Much of standard broadband technologies, as explained earlier, are built on top of existing communication infrastructure like cable television, phone lines, and satellites. This makes it more available in remote, exurban or rural areas because there has been more time to build the infrastructure for these technologies. Fiber, on the other hand, is newer and has had less time for a full build out. 

Fiber-optic Internet is most available in larger urban centers, where building the required infrastructure for fiber-optic Internet is most cost effective. Fiber is catching up though, and it is only a matter of time. There are initiatives, like those available through WWT, that are making fiber more and more available throughout the country. As time goes on and fiber becomes more available, it will outstrip any other current broadband technologies. 

Difference Between Broadband and Fiber Optic
Difference Between Broadband and Fiber Optic

Fiber Vs Standard Broadband: Which is better for you?

When looking at fiber vs. broadband, the natural question is to ask which one is better, but there are a few better questions to ask. One question to consider is which offers the most potential for growth? The other is which one is most available and affordable where you are located?

Overall, as we have made clear, there is no Internet technology that can give you a faster Internet connection than fiber-optic. As we rely more and more on the Internet to live our daily lives, from entertainment, healthcare, education and employment, we need a fast, reliable Internet connection. The fiber vs broadband question is overwhelmingly in favor of fiber in this regard.

There is also the question of outdated communication infrastructure that could play into the reliability of standard broadband connections. As cable and DSL are both older communication infrastructure networks, over time, they will become less and less reliable as the infrastructure ages and is replaced by newer technologies, like fiber, that are built specifically for faster and more reliable Internet connections. In other words, fiber is the future while other standard broadband technologies will eventually become less reliable and certainly slower. Fiber has far more growth potential than standard broadband.

At the moment, however, where you are located does dictate whether a fiber-optic Internet connection is available to you. Building fiber-optic communication infrastructure is vital. The faster the infrastructure can be built, the faster a fiber-optic Internet connection will be available to more and more consumers. If you are trying to decide if fiber broadband is right for you instead of ADSL broadband, the first thing you need to know is if fiber Internet is currently available where you are. 

Final thoughts: Fiber Vs. Broadband

The question of Fiber optic vs broadband depends mostly on where you are located. If fiber-optic is available where you are, the matter of fiber vs broadband though becomes quite simple. Fiber is going to give you a faster, more reliable Internet connection than any other standard broadband connection. The best thing you can do is look into the availability of fiber where you are. If you are in Western Wisconsin, the fiber Internet available through West Wisconsin Telcom can give you the fast, reliable Internet you are looking for.

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