Fiber optic Internet has some very serious advantages as well as a few drawbacks when compared to the competition. Understanding these strengths and weaknesses can literally be the difference between getting the best deal on a service or missing out completely. Worse, not knowing enough about fiber could result in you buying far more than you need or perhaps not buying enough and feeling like you are settling each time you pay your broadband bills.
This article will offer a basic overview of fiber optic services as well as a comparisons between fiber optic performance versus the broadband performance of other common high speed Internet technologies. And now, without further ado…
Understanding Fiber Optic Internet
The entire backbone of the Internet is literally riddled with fiber optics, and for some very good reasons. The fact is that electrical signals degrade over the distance that they have to travel. Repeaters that strengthen and re-send signals are an answer to this, but lining an entire country (or globe) with such repeating stations is not entirely practical both from a logical standpoint as well as a carbon standpoint. Simply put, all of those signals being boosted over and over and over again would result in massive energy consumption, and there is still a very deep and ongoing debate as to the ramifications of carbon footprints on the planet we dwell on.
Fiber optics on the other hand send higher density signals with the power of light. Light is far cheaper than electricity and can travel hundreds of times the distance with only a slender fraction of signal degradation compared to electrical signals. This means that signals are capable of sending more information over a great distance without repeaters, and all at a lower price point. That being said, let’s take a look at how fiber optic services stack up against the competition.
Fiber Optic Internet vs. DSL Service
DSL services, generally known as Digital Subscriber Lines, are provided from local telecom providers and they rely on pushing data through a rather thin set of metal wires. These thin wires result in some very interesting physics problems and have more often than not limited the service speeds and deployment ranges. Additional concerns about line reliability and margins (The difference between signal quality and background noise) render some areas that do have high speed DSL to be less than 100% stable.
In short, there is no comparison between fiber optics and DSL services. No matter how much finesse DSL attempts to apply to situation, they are still in a completely different league than fiber optic based offerings, and not in a good way. The fastest DSL plans tend to barely match up to low- to mid-tier fiber optic offerings, and the upper-end fiber optic Internet plans blow DSL lines out of the water even while carrying video and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) data to compete with both telecoms and digital cable all at once over a single connection. Of course, you may pay more for the fastest fiber optic connections, and DSL certainly has better penetration than fiber optic internet at this time, but that one landslide victory for DSL is not enough and is changing constantly.
Fiber Optic Internet vs. Cable Broadband
The situation with the comparison between fiber optic Internet and cable broadband systems is similar, but the added thickness of cables and additional performance make cable modems a bit more of a challenge. The higher latencies do tend to offset this to a large degree however, and as a result there is still a massive price and performance advantage that favors fiber optics. Again, the market penetration of cable modem based systems is still far and away better than anything that fiber optics can manage, but that is slowly shifting.
Fiber Optic Internet vs. Wireless Broadband
One competitor that may have a much smaller market penetration advantage over fiber optic Internet service is wireless broadband. The downside to wireless broadband is the limited data cap and the performance is certainly far from on par with what fiber optics can bring to the table. The great broadband debate may ultimate come down to these two forms of broadband, as the electrical wiring situation may prove to be a physics-limiting solution for both DSL and cable broadband systems in the long run.