What Is Fiber Internet, Anyway?

published Sep 26, 2022
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Road excavation for the laying of optical fiber cables for high-speed internet

When you open up the internet browser on your phone, computer, or tablet, you probably expect a quick connection and nearly immediate access to the World Wide Web. There are a number of different connection options, some that are outdated (*cough* dial up *cough*) and some up-and-comers, like fiber optic, to explore.

Fiber optic internet connection is a sought after, high-speed option, but what exactly is it? First, it’s important to understand how we get connected to the internet in the first place.

What is the internet?

Silly question, right? Not so fast. The internet is a stunningly complex network of cables that connect devices, servers, routers, and more. The global internet depends on physical cables that are laid below the land and sea connecting servers across the globe. WiFi, which stands for wireless fidelity, sends a signal that allows our devices to connect to networks wirelessly.

Internet connections fall under the larger umbrella of broadband connections. According to the Federal Communications Commission, or the FCC, “broadband commonly refers to high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial up access.” Broadband connections include digital subscriber line (DSL), cable modems, satellite, wireless, and fiber connections.

Fiber Optic vs. Cable Internet Connection 

Fiber optic internet differs from the widely used cable high-speed internet in the type of cables that are used to transmit data. Cable internet uses coaxial cables which contain a copper core to transmit data. These are the same cables that allow you to connect cable to your TV and a coaxial, or coax, cable can provide both internet and television simultaneously.

A fiber optic cable uses light rather than electricity to deliver internet service. And fiber optic cables can send data at roughly 70 percent the speed of light — which is really, really, really fast. This means that fiber internet can be as fast as 940 Megabits per second (Mbps), compared to cable internet’s speed of 50 to 500 Mbps.

Is fiber internet the same as WiFi?

Fiber internet can support WiFi when it is paired with a router to send the wireless signal. While you may be able to use the router that you previously paired with DSL or cable internet, an upgrade may be needed to support the faster speeds of fiber-optic.

Types of Fiber-Optic Networks

  • Fiber to the Home (FTTH): Also referred to as Fiber to the Premises (FTTP), this connection runs directly to the home. This is the fastest fiber optic connection because the cables are connected to terminals that are directly connected to the home, apartment, or business.
  • Fiber to the Curb (FTTC): A Fiber to the Curb connection requires copper cables to carry the signals from the curb, where the fiber optic cables end, to the home or business that will use the internet.
  • Fiber to the Building (FTTB): When the fiber optic cable runs to a point on a shared property and is then connected via other cables, it is called a Fiber to the Building connection.

In short, fiber optic internet is an incredibly fast internet option that is becoming a more popular option over other types of broadband connections.