How Fiber Handles More Users and More Data at Higher Speeds
There are a lot of advantages to fiber internet. You’ve seen the claims. But for many, there’s only one big advantage: being more efficient when you’re living your online life. It’s particularly important now that we’ve got more people in our homes who are connecting/streaming/gaming/working/creating media all at the same time. Rationing internet time just isn’t the answer anymore.
You want better bandwidth. So how does fiber handle more users? Does it really beat copper?
Here are some good reasons. And it all starts inside.
Fiber’s innovative construction
Since the 19th century, copper cables have been the foundation of communications infrastructure. Using electrical pulses to send binary data from point A to point B, they formed the backbone of telephones, television and the internet.
But over the years, limitations have been evident. Because copper is a natural conductor, the cables are vulnerable to electromagnetic interference. In other words, when they’re near other radio and electric signals, they leak data. What’s more, copper has a tendency toward signal attenuation, or signal loss, which is when data sent gets weakened, distorted or even lost entirely during transmission.
Fiber optic cables were developed to send data differently. Instead of using electrical pulses to send data, fiber optic cables carry beams of light (that’s right, lasers) through flexible glass or plastic. These cables are nonmetallic, so they’re not vulnerable to electromagnetic interference or signal attenuation.
Bandwidth—the feature you’re looking for—is more powerful with fiber. Copper cables transmit data more slowly than fiber optic cables for one simple reason: Electricity is slower than light. This means it can achieve much more bandwidth, which means much faster speeds.
Fiber sends data at roughly 70% the speed of light. But how fast is that, really?
To answer that question, we have to find out the bandwidth: the maximum amount of data transmitted over an internet connection in a given amount of time.
In practice, many internet service providers (ISPs) are offering fiber internet that can reach speeds of 2 gigabits per second (or more!). To put that in perspective, it would take about two seconds to download an entire feature movie in HD with 2 gig fiber internet.
People still tend to download data more than they upload it. But upload speeds have never been more key to the way we live. No one wants to wait hours to attach a mega video file to a remote server or to miss an important move when gaming.
With traditional internet, ISPs dedicate more bandwidth for downloads than uploads. A cable internet connection with a 500 Mbps download speed could have a 50 Mbps upload speed. With fiber, there’s enough bandwidth for ISPs to provide the same speed for both, and then some. A fiber internet connection might have a 1,000 Mbps download and upload speed.
Have you ever gotten to the end of the month and noticed your internet seems weirdly slow? It could be throttling. Some ISPs put a cap on the amount of data you can use each month, then they throttle bandwidth when you’re reaching the limit of that data cap. It’s worth checking to see if you’re unknowingly in that situation.
Fiber internet removes the need for throttling. There’s enough bandwidth to go around.
Streaming is essentially receiving and/or transmitting data in a continuous flow. And fiber can handle a lot more data. In practice, this means you’re a lot less likely to experience frustrating lag.
More room for more users
Picture a road. A one-lane street with lots of drivers will quickly devolve into a traffic jam. A multi-lane superhighway with lots of drivers can keep everybody moving. A broadband connection with high bandwidth is like a superhighway: There’s room for everyone.
It’s unlikely that even the most streaming-addicted, social media–loving, gamer-filled households would notice slowdowns with a high-speed fiber connection. But if you feel you need more capability, kick up your speed to a gig or more, if it’s available.
One advantage that you can’t miss out on: Fiber optic cables are weather resistant.
You might have lived through major weather disasters from blizzards to tornados to hurricanes that ravaged your internet connectivity. After Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012, for example, water made contact with copper cables, necessitating major repairs to bring back reliable internet.
Though fiber is not invincible, it’s much less vulnerable to the elements. Flexible glass and strong cladding make fiber cables less likely to go offline in a disaster.
Better bandwidth starts here
Think about who uses the internet and how they use it in your home. Do you work remotely, taking video calls from 9 am to noon? Do you have kids who play mega multiplayer video games? Do any of you create and upload lots of video? Do you have multiple smart home devices? Do you love to use virtual reality?
If the answer is yes, get your whole house on fiber. It will work for today, and prepare you for all the technology you want to connect with in the future.