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Fiber vs. cable internet: What’s the difference?

Woman on on a video call, waving to the camera in her laptop's screen

While many of us feel up to date on the latest tech terms and trends, the Internet is something most people take for granted. Once people have it, they’re generally satisfied, but digging a bit deeper may help you uncover the benefits of fiber internet over traditional cable when it comes to your internet service provider.

Understanding the advantages of fiber internet can make you a savvier consumer and give you the tools you need to make the right decision about the best fit for your home, family and wallet. You can use this guide to help when you’re weighing fiber vs. cable internet and looking to make that decision.

What’s the difference between fiber internet and cable?

Fiber-optic cables utilize small glass fibers to move data via light pulses. The data travels in a similar fashion to how electricity moves through copper, but fiber cables can carry multiple signals. The small size of fiber cables allows them to be bundled into larger packages, supporting an increase in available data. Traditional cable uses copper wires, which can be affected by several elements, including distance and weather. While that technology worked wonders with the telephone, it’s less effective when it comes to the Internet.

Fiber-optic cables are incredibly strong and more durable than copper wires, which makes them good for use in a variety of environments. For instance, they’re not affected by weather conditions like lightning storms. Because the information carried by fiber-optic cables literally travels at the speed of light, data arrives much faster than it does with copper wires, avoiding the bottleneck effect that slows down internet speed at the most important point: where it enters your home.

How do upload and download speeds compare for fiber vs. cable internet?

Upload and download speeds are two of the most important metrics for evaluating internet speed and performance. Upload speed measures how much data you can send from your device across the Internet in a single second, while download speed measures how quickly you’re able to transfer data from an online source to your device—essentially how long it takes to stream and download content.

Fiber-optic cables can send data up to 1,000 times faster than copper cables, making it easier to connect, upload data, stream and visit websites. Fiber also makes it possible to offer the same fast speed whether you’re uploading or downloading—a major upgrade over cable internet, which generally has significantly slower upload speeds than download speeds. A fiber internet connection means you’ll be able to stream, download and utilize multiple devices without any concerns about slowdowns or buffering.

With a gigabit fiber connection, you can download a two-hour HD movie in around 40 seconds. The same download would take more than 25 minutes on a 25 Mbps connection, which is where the FCC sets the bar for “high-speed broadband” today.

Is fiber internet more reliable and secure than cable?

With an increase in hybrid work, remote schooling and internet usage in general, you need a connection you can count on. Fiber internet is less prone to signal interference, and the newer infrastructure of the system means you avoid the inevitable breakdowns that come with older cable infrastructure. Fiber can withstand temperature changes, contact with water and other environmental changes better than cable, and because the line comes directly into the home, issues that cable has regarding signals from far away satellites or towers don’t apply.

Fiber internet has some critical advantages from a security standpoint as well. Because fiber doesn’t radiate a signal, it’s harder for hackers to extract data from it. Attempting to “tap into” fiber internet would likely result in breaking the glass fibers, an event that would be quickly discovered by the system’s administrators. With cable, hackers can more easily intercept signals to gain access to networks.

What are the cost differences between fiber and cable?

You might expect that an upgraded service and lightning-fast internet would result in astronomical bills, but that’s not the case. In fact, fiber internet and cable are usually priced within the same range, but consider some of the advantages you can get with fiber over cable:

  • Faster upload and download speeds with up to a gigabit of data
  • No contract for the length of your plan (with Ting)
  • A more secure browsing experience
  • The ability to stream and download on multiple devices without buffering
  • Lightning-fast internet delivered right to your home

In the end, you want the best possible option for your home’s internet service. With its powerful mix of speed, reliability, security and value, nothing beats Ting’s 1000 Mbps upload and download speeds. Upgrade to Ting’s fiber internet and bring blazing-fast upload and download speeds to your home.