If you run a small business or manage the network for a larger company, you've probably been tasked with choosing between two of the most popular types of internet service: cable and fiber. In this article, we'll explore how these two options differ from one another and whether either is right for your organization. Note that this guide focuses specifically on business-grade internet access.
Cable internet is broadband internet delivered over a cable network. It's also known as coaxial cable, because the same type of cable used by cable television networks is used to deliver your internet service. Cable Internet works by sending signals from your modem to the nearest cable provider, where it connects to their equipment. Cable modems typically process data at speeds between 10 Mbps (megabits per second) and 1 Gbps (gigabits per second). From there, the signal is sent over copper wires into your business. Once inside your business, it travels through regular phone lines to your computer or device(s).
Cable internet is a shared medium. It's not a dedicated connection that you can use to send and receive data by yourself. Instead, cable internet works by splitting download and upload speeds between multiple users. As a result cable internet is not always fast. During peak hours, when more users are online at the same time and there's a limited amount of bandwidth available to handle their traffic, cable internet can be slow.
As a shared medium cable internet comes at an affordable price tag with most offerings positioning high download speed. However, more often than not the high download speed service often come with low lackluster upload speeds and data caps, which if exceeded you will be charged extra. Cable ISP's also tend to require minimum term contracts and lock customers in to service.
Cable internet is extremely accessible and widely available. The coaxial cable network spans across the US far and wide mainly above ground. Cable transmits data through electrical signals along the copper network. Unfortunately these transport signals lose much of its signal strength over long distances which has a detrimental effect on performance.
Cable Internet is also extremely vulnerable to the environment where service can be effected by water, lightening and wind causing regular outages and effect productivity and ultimately revenue. Further more it also doesn't offer the same level of security as fiber does. When using a digital signal over copper wires, your data is susceptible to being recorded and stolen by hackers—and if someone snoops around enough, they could even find out what sites you're visiting!
Fiber internet is broadband internet delivered over a fiber-optic. Fiber-optic cables are made up of thin strands of glass that can transmit large amounts of data over long distances at very high speeds. Fiber-optic has the ability to process data at Tbps speeds however most standard market offering can range from 50 Mbps up to 5Gbps speeds. Much higher speeds are available and often come in the form of dedicated internet connections (more about that in my next article).
Fiber internet is not a a shared medium like cable. Fiber-optic cables are only shared between the internet service provider (ISP) and your business. Your carrier will provide a fixed fiber connection between your building and their equipment at a mile-to-mile point called an “ONU” (optical network unit). The ONU is then connected to the ISP's 100% Fiber network.
Because Fiber is a closed system it is so much more secure, resilient and reliable than cable internet technologies. The closed system makes the fiber internet service less vulnerable to the environment eliminating potential down time caused by water, lighting, wind damage or even public utility companies accidentally cutting wrong cables. This gives fiber internet a much longer life span ultimately helping reduce maintenance fees and costs that often come with cable making fiber a more cost effective solution in the long run.
The ticket purchase price for fiber internet typically appears more expensive than cable internet at first glance. However once you peel back the onion and realize all the additional features, services, symmetrical speeds, additional bandwidth, security, reliability, and flexibility makes the price worthwhile.
Contrary to cable internet offering, fiber internet likely comes with symmetrical speed (equal up and download speed). Your business upload speed is what dictates how well your customers can hear or see you during meetings. The way business use technology today upload speed is becoming just as, if not more important than download speed, especially if you leverage cloud compute, use VOIP telephony or collaboration services like Zoom or Microsoft Teams on the same connection.
Fiber internet is not yet as accessible and widely available as cable. However their continues to be tremendous investment in infrastructure throughout the U.S.
For company's who are in need of a more secure, reliable and faster internet connection, we recommend going with a fiber internet connection if it becomes available in your area. It has a lot of benefits over cable and it’s definitely worth it if you are comfortable with the slight increase in the price tag!