Fiber vs. cable: What’s the difference?

Ari Howard

Feb 3, 2021 — 2 min read

Everything you need to know about fiber and cable internet.

Optic fiber cables

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The technical difference between fiber and cable internet is the type of cables used to provide homes with an internet connection. Find out how these cables differ and why that matters when it comes to speed, reliability, availability and pricing. 

What is fiber and cable internet? 

Fiber

Fiber internet, also known as fiber optic, is a type of broadband connection that uses fiber optic cables to transmit data through light signals. Fiber optic is a newer type of technology, compared to cable internet, which is one of the reasons it is not as widely available. 

If fiber is available to you, however, it is likely your best option, as fiber optic is known for being a faster and more reliable form of internet, compared to cable, DSL or satellite internet. The main selling point of fiber internet is that speeds can reach up to 2,000 Mbps and the fiber optic cables are less susceptible to weather conditions than traditional cables. 

Cable

Cable internet is a type of broadband connection that uses copper coaxial cable lines to transmit data through radio frequency signals. Cable internet uses the same coaxial cable line that cable TV uses, which is why most cable internet providers offer internet and TV bundle deals. 

Cable internet is a widely available type of internet service. It is much more available than fiber internet because the cables are much easier to install. Although cable internet tends not to provide as fast internet as fiber, it is still a superior option compared to DSL or satellite internet. 

Fiber vs. cable quick comparison

Is fiber or cable internet better? 

Overall, fiber internet tends to be a better value than cable internet. Although cable offers the cheapest internet plans, fiber optic offers significantly faster upload and download speeds for only a few dollars more each month. Therefore, for those who have the option of selecting a fiber optic provider, that is most likely your best bet. 

Fiber vs. cable speed comparison 

Download speeds: Although both fiber and cable internet will provide the speed you need for streaming, work from home, gaming and more, fiber internet can reach higher max speeds (2,000 Mbps) and tends to offer a cheaper cost/Mbps than cable. 

Upload speeds: When it comes to upload speeds, fiber internet is the clear winner. All fiber internet providers have near-symmetrical upload and download speeds. In contrast, cable internet providers will supply significantly slower upload speeds than their download speeds (the speed that is advertised).

Fiber vs. cable availability

Fiber optic is currently not as widely available as cable internet, according to the FCC. Fiber optic internet providers, however, are working as quickly as they can to continue to expand their services throughout the country. 

Fiber internet – 41%

Cable internet – 81%

Fiber and cable internet FAQs

Is fiber faster than cable?

Yes, fiber optic internet can reach up to 2,000 Mbps, whereas cable internet can only reach 1,000 Mbps. Fiber optic also offers significantly faster upload speeds than cable internet.

The greatest differences between fiber and cable internet are speed and availability. Although fiber internet offers faster and more reliable speeds than cable internet, cable internet is available in significantly more parts of the U.S. than fiber internet. 

Yes. Fiber internet is not the only type of internet that offers high-speed internet. For instance, cable internet can reach up to 1,000 Mbps, which is more than enough speed for most households.

Fiber internet availability is growing throughout the country; however, the process of installing fiber optic cables is extremely lengthy. For this reason, it will likely be a while until fiber internet is as widely available as cable internet.

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Ari Howard

Written by:

Ari Howard

Associate Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content

Ari is an Associate Writer for the Allconnect team, focusing on broadband and wireless news, as well as broadband and TV provider deals. She recently graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband & Wireless Content

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