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​​Fiber Optics vs. Cable: What’s the Best Option for Your Business?

Staying connected in the modern world isn’t a straightforward endeavor for businesses. With so many choices available, including standard cable, fiber optic, and even satellite Internet, you need to determine which option is right for you.

Internet penetration rates have increased considerably over the years, with 90% of Americans having some form of Internet access. However, you need consistent, reliable, and fast connections for business use to provide a better first impression to your clients and maintain efficiency.

Before answering “Is fiber optic Internet better?” we’ll discuss the differences between cable and fiber optics and how to determine the right option for your business.

Fiber Optics vs. Cable

Faster Internet speeds are vital for keeping up with an increase in heavy-duty streaming for communication. Business and consumer video usage reached 79% of all Internet traffic in 2021, changing how commercial entities use the Internet.

Discussing fiber optics vs. cable is a conversation every business owner must have when creating an office network. So, what’s the difference between fiber Internet cable and standard cable?

Fiber Optic

Fiber optic cables comprise multiple strands of glass, barely thicker than a single human hair.

The core of each strand allows light to travel. The central core is also surrounded by an additional layer of glass known as cladding.

Cladding is designed to reflect light inward to prevent signal loss when negotiating bends in the cable. Two types of optical fiber cables exist, single-mode and multi-mode. Single-mode cables use glass strands and a laser to produce light, whereas multi-mode uses LEDs.

Now, is fiber better than cable?

Fiber optic Internet is the evolution of standard wired cables. It’s designed for high-performance data transmission over long distances. An estimated 43% of American households and businesses now use some form of fiber optic Internet cable.

So, why is fiber Internet a better option for many companies? There are various reasons. For example, Wave Division Multiplexing (WDM) techniques come to the fore within a single-mode optical fiber network. WDM increases the data-carrying capacity of each glass strand because it enables multiple wavelengths to combine and separate. In other words, fiber optics allow multiple simultaneous communication streams.

Using fiber optics is the gold standard for Internet speed, reliability, and overall capacity for today's businesses.

Cable

Cable Internet is most commonly found in residential and older commercial buildings.

Traditional cables include a copper core, aluminum insulation, copper shielding, and an outer plastic layer to protect the cable. Unlike fiber optic cables, standard cables rely on electricity to power data transmission.

Internet service providers utilize data signals from a coaxial cable connected to a modem. The modem relies on an Ethernet cable to connect Internet-enabled devices to high-speed Internet. Routers are used to broadcast signals throughout your home or business.

Cable Internet service providers often use the same cable as your television cable since TV usage takes up a minor portion of the overall network. It’s an efficiency issue, meaning cable Internet subscribers don’t need additional cabling for their Internet.

Truthfully, comparing fiber vs. coax is like comparing Windows 98 to Windows 10. Fiber may be pricier, but its superior performance on every front makes it a must for businesses that rely on strong Internet performance.

Is Fiber Internet Better Than Cable for Business?

Comparing fiber optics vs. cable means assessing various performance aspects and determining which package fulfills your business needs.

Let’s run through the most vital cable vs. fiber metrics to determine which type of Internet package is best for your business.

Upload/Download Speeds

Both types of cable operate using different transmission technology. Fiber optic speeds are far superior to cable.

Typical fiber speeds range from 250 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps, depending on your package. To put this into perspective, a 1,000 Mbps connection would enable a business to download a two-hour conference video in 10 seconds. Downloading the same video with a 20 Mbps connection would take over 10 minutes.

These powerful fiber optic connections are far faster than what non-commercial users have.

Another advantage is that fiber optic providers run identical upload and download speeds. In other words, you can upload data as quickly as you can download it. It’s a unique selling point that cable cannot match, with cable Internet upload speeds a fraction of their download speeds.

Cable’s inferior transmission technology means typical download speeds range from just 10 Mbps at their slowest to roughly 200 Mbps at their highest.

Since businesses tend to rely on their employees using the Internet simultaneously, fiber optic is the best choice.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is another word for efficiency. The higher your bandwidth, the faster and more efficient your Internet connection.

Investing in fiber optic cables dramatically increases your bandwidth potential. Unfortunately, coaxial cables used by cable Internet providers are limited because they were only designed for transmitting and downloading data.

Slower upload speeds make standard cables a poor choice for today's businesses, especially with many companies relying on VoIP and video as their primary communication methods.

Availability

Internet markets differ across the country. There’s a stark difference between fiber vs. cable Internet availability. If you’re lucky enough, the chances are you’ll have access to both options, but businesses outside will need to rely on dedicated lines.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), fiber optic speeds are only available within 14% of domestic markets. In contrast, cable Internet is available in 88% of markets.

The disparity arises because implementing fiber technology is time-consuming and expensive. Businesses looking for superior Internet will need to purchase a Direct Internet Access (DIA) fiber package.

DIA packages enable your service provider to build a direct fiber optic line to your business for your exclusive use. Unfortunately, these packages can be expensive, but it’s an investment well worth making.

Security

Cyberattacks are among the top threats to businesses of all sizes. Malicious actors worldwide are becoming more common, with the number of successful cyberattacks in 2021 increasing by 15.1% year-over-year. It’s a trend that has been nearly constant for the last decade.

One of the most significant benefits of fiber optic cable is the additional security for your Internet. Identifying compromised cables becomes more straightforward because they will emit visible light from transmissions.

With the rising number of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, businesses must pay more attention to how they’re securing their networks.

The reason why fiber optic is more secure is due to how it functions. Data moves through these cables at close to the speed of light. These signals are much more challenging for hackers to intercept and use against you. While not impossible, fiber optic data interception is far less likely.

Reliability

Outages can cripple businesses. Nearly all your operations go offline without an active Internet connection, meaning customers are left in the dark. Unfortunately, customers are far less tolerant of outages than ever. Every outage or slowdown risks your clients going elsewhere.

Any number of factors can cause a loss of connectivity, or a weakened signal, such as:

  • Temperature fluctuations

  • Severe weather and natural disasters

  • Excessive moisture

  • Electronic interference

  • Radio signal interference

Coaxial cables are more susceptible to the above risks than fiber optic cables.

Additionally, it doesn’t account for the fact that cable company personnel can make mistakes during routine maintenance. Since cable is designed for multiple uses, the chances of errors impacting your connectivity increase.

Fiber optic networks are usually independent of everything else. Independence from cable company equipment and termination points reduces the risk of something going wrong.

Another bonus for fiber optics is that they don’t require electricity to transmit data. Issues with your electricity supply won’t have the same impact on a fiber optic network as they would with standard cabling.

Less Throttling

Regarding fiber optic Internet vs. cable, throttling is a component to watch. Throttling happens when there’s an overload on the network. Your Internet provider will intervene if everyone maxes out their Internet usage at once.

Throttling is a defensive measure to reduce the risk of an outage across the entire network. Some providers may even throttle your connection if you exceed specific download or upload amounts. Businesses operating in fast-paced corporate environments cannot risk seeing their connections throttled for any reason.

Fiber optic Internet packages are less vulnerable to throttling because the network has a far higher capacity. It’s nearly impossible for fiber optic networks to reach the risk of overload, further increasing your reliability.

With a DIA package, your business gains exclusivity over the network, meaning you don’t have to worry about other clients in your area sharing your network and throttling your connection speeds.

Cost

Comparing fiber optic vs. cable Internet may lead you to believe that if you’re on a budget, the best option is cable. Cable Internet is cheaper to install, but that’s where the benefits stop.

The total cost of ownership for a fiber optic network is dramatically lower. Fiber optic cables have much higher life expectancies and require less hardware and maintenance.

Moreover, fiber optic is a more affordable proposition for businesses. Increasing adoption rates and industry competition have consistently driven prices down over the last few years.

Increase Your Connectivity with Signal Solutions

Deciding between fiber optics vs. cable is a no-brainer. Investing in fiber optic Internet surpasses traditional cabled Internet in every way. With businesses requiring faster speeds and better bandwidth, fiber optic’s benefits make it the ideal choice for growing businesses looking to scale in the future.

At Signal Solutions, we believe cutting-edge businesses require state-of-the-art data transport solutions. As one of the leading providers of next-generation network technology, we have served industries across California since 1987.

If you want to install structured cabling in San Francisco and take your network connectivity to the next level, turn to the professionals at Signal Solutions. Schedule a consultation to get started!

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