Why is fiber optic so fast, but devices on my home network so slow?
With recent advances in technology, every home and business from big cities to rural towns are hitting internet speeds that were unimaginable just a few short years ago. A big part of why our internet speeds have taken such a giant leap forward is the introduction of fiber optic cable. It leaves all other forms of broadband in the dust and has allowed us to bring fast, reliable internet service to underserved communities.
But why is fiber optic so fast? What about it is causing internet service providers to leave traditional technologies behind? Let’s take a look at what fiber optics are, how they work, what equipment is needed for fiber optic internet, and how to get the most out of your fiber optic connection.
Why is fiber optic so fast?
Fiber optic cables are the wave of the future, and for a good reason. They transmit data incredibly quickly, and they allow us to get nearly identical upload and download speeds, which is something that’s never been possible throughout the history of home internet service. The reason fiber is so fast comes down to its construction, as well as the way it passes information.
How fiber optic cables work
Fiber optic cables work differently from broadband technologies of the past. Older equipment for internet connections like coaxial cables and telephone lines work by sending electronic pulses down the length of the copper wire, passing digital data from local hubs into your home network and all the devices connected to it.
Fiber optics are built on glass cores, surrounded by cladding and an outer layer. Lasers are pulsed through the glass core, and the cladding keeps the light progressing down the length of the cable. The outer layer keeps the whole thing protected from outside elements.
Since fiber optics are sending light through glass cables, rather than electric pulses through copper cables, that information can be sent at the speed of light, and the signal suffers virtually no degradation for spans of 60 miles. Signal boosters placed at 60 mile intervals keep the data flowing fast and lossless.
Is fiber faster than cable?
Many people feel like their cable connections are pretty fast and wonder whether fiber is actually that much faster. I can recall a similar argument circulating in the days when DVDs began replacing VHS. Is it really that much better?
Since fiber optic cables transmit data at about the speed of light, fiber is much faster than cable. And, since upload speeds are generally much slower than upload speeds with cable and other broadband technology, the speed increase that comes with a switch to fiber optic internet is exponentially multiplied for anyone who uploads data on a regular basis.
Why is my home network so slow?
If you’ve got a fiber optic connection in your neighborhood but are still getting slower speeds than you’d expect in your home or office, you’re probably wondering why. Well, it depends. There are multiple possibilities when it comes down to the potential causes of slow internet. Each may have a different solution, so pay close attention to the specifics affecting the speed of your internet.
Is your home network actually slow?
Just because web pages on your phone are loading slowly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a slow internet connection. So, if my internet connection isn’t slow, why am I not getting my full internet speed? Sometimes our devices are simply bogged down by open web pages or apps refreshing and updating in the background.
The first thing you’ll want to do is identify what kind of speeds you’re actually getting and compare those to the speeds you’re expecting. Close whatever you’ve got open in the background, and run an internet speed check on a couple of devices. If you can hardwire one with an ethernet connection, that will give you the most comprehensive set of data regarding your speeds.
If your connection is fast, but your device speeds are much slower than you’d expect, it’s time to determine the cause and come up with a solution.
Why is fiber optic so fast in some parts of my home but so slow in others?
The likely culprit: Router Issues
You may also need to replace that old router. Routers become outdated every few years or so, and if your router is out of date, it may not be capable of producing internet speeds capable with fiber optics, and it may even be downright incompatible.
If your internet speeds are quite fast when you’re near the router but slow when you are on the other side of your home, it may be time to address the issue.
The solution: Use a WiFi repeater or mesh network
If you live in a large apartment or home and you are having speed issues in certain parts of your home, you may want to install a WiFi repeater or mesh network.
Both are similar in the fact that they extend strong signals to every corner of your home, but they are different in the way they operate. An extender rebroadcasts a signal it is already receiving, and a mesh creates multiple pieces, so the network doesn’t have to travel all the way from the hub, and a single point of failure won’t take your internet service down.
Why is fiber optic so fast at my neighbor’s house but slow at mine?
The likely culprit: The last mile
The point where your local fiber optic infrastructure meets traditional internet infrastructure is referred to as the last mile, no matter how long the actual distance may be. Copper cables are unable to use laser pulses to send information, so the signal is transformed when it reaches the last mile, and the data can only flow as fast as those old copper cables will allow them to.
If your house and connection to the main pipeline is still fitted with outdated coaxial cables, you’ll suffer a bottleneck when the data reaches that piece of the equation.
The solution: Fiber to the home (FTTH)
If your slow network is caused by older equipment on your property, it may be time to consider Fiber to the home. Also known as fiber to the premises (FTTP), fiber to the home eliminates the bottleneck created by outdated cables. With an FTTH connection, those lightning fast fiber speeds continue all the way into your home, allowing you to harness all the speed fiber has to offer.
Why is fiber optic so fast in the afternoon but so slow in the evening?
The likely culprit: Local competition for bandwidth
The internet service in your neighborhood is supplied in the same way as any of the other utilities we all use on a daily basis. Whether we’re talking about water, electricity, or internet service, your provider sends a large amount through the main pipeline, and that supply splits off and gets shared with everyone on the same grid.
If every home has 5 or 6 connected devices, those homes’ usage is multiplied. If your internet speeds are good all day, but find yourself asking ,why is my internet so slow all of a sudden, once dinner time comes around, this may be the cause of your issues.
The solution: Conservation
When we all share a resource or utility, one great way to ensure there is enough to go around is to conserve it. If your household uses a lot of bandwidth on any given day, it’s a good idea to limit bandwidth for certain devices in order to effectively conserve your bandwidth. How do you do it?
Turn off devices you aren’t using, and check your device settings to make sure they aren’t continually updating in the background, eating up bandwidth that could be improving your internet speeds. Setting them to update in the middle of the night ensures they only use up bandwidth when few people are actually streaming or video calling.
Why is fiber optic so fast?
The reason fiber optic is so fast comes down to a combination of having the right internet equipment and utilizing best practices. Getting the most out of your fiber optic internet connection requires up to date equipment and paying attention to how and when you use your connected devices. If you’re ready to equip your home network to handle the high speed internet of the future, reach out to 24-7 & West Wisconsin Telcom to see what options are available in your area.