What is Fiber Optic Internet?

Posted by Gretchen Thomas on June 8, 2021
Cloud Services, Hardware & Software Support

What is Fiber Optic Internet? You are a business owner and you have heard of Fiber Optic Communication. But you don’t know exactly what it is or how it compares to your current way of accessing the Internet. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read the full article, here is the short description:

Fiber Optic Internet* is a new way of connecting to the Internet via laser light signals. These signals propagate through cables filled with glass filament. This amounts to speeds 100 times faster than the original copper wire Internet. But availability is still limited. You may or may not be able to get it. It’s mainly in big cities on the East Coast. But a few other startup companies also offer it in other places. And even though the overall long-term bill is lower than traditional cable, the upfront costs can be pricey.

*Note: You may have heard of Fiber Optic Internet referred to as Fiber Internet, Fiber Optic Network or Fiber Optic Communication. It’s all the same thing.

Fiber Optic Internet vs. Broadband vs. DSL Points of Comparison

How Internet Cables Work

We can access the Internet through telephone wires (DSL), through coaxial cables (Broadband or traditional High-Speed Internet), and now through fiber optic cables. DSL and Broadband both use copper wires, through which electricity passes to transmit signals to and from the Internet. But fiber optic cables are filled with glass filaments through which light is propagated to transfer signals to and from the Internet.

DSL uses the same wires that your telephone service uses. Broadband uses separate copper cables with a larger bandwidth. The larger the bandwidth, the larger the capacity to download and upload your favorite websites as well as other valuable data and images. With fiber optic cables, specialized technicians install two concurrent thinner and delicate cables. Your computer sends data out through one and receives it through the other.

Fiber Optic Internet Speed

Fiber Optic Internet speeds can get up to 1 to 2 gigabit per second (1000-2000 Mbps). Broadband speeds are usually between 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps. And DSL speeds are usually between 25 and 100 Mbps. Higher speeds translate into faster load times, higher-quality streaming, and less time wasted watching the spinning beach ball on your screen.

Reliability

There are a number of variables that affect the strength and consistency of copper-wire Internet signals, which don’t affect the strength and consistency of Fiber Optic Internet signals. Three of those variables are:

  • Distance from your local node and your ISP (Internet Service Provider)
  • Your data download/upload speed
  • Electromagnetic Interference

Distance from your local node and your ISP

The longer the copper-wire cables for DSL and Broadband, the higher the distortion and attenuation of the signal. That means that the further your business is located from your local node and your ISP, the lower your signal strength. Attenuation is the reduction of the force of your Internet signal or electrical current. You want that force to be strong and consistent.

Your data download/upload speed

Additionally, the data download/upload speed affects the quality of your Internet connection. The faster the speed combined with limited bandwidth, the more distortion to the signal.

Electromagnetic Interference

Lastly, anything that carries an electrical current has the potential to interfere with a copper-wire cable Internet signal. Electromagnetic interference can come from power lines, radiation, or even the sun.

None of these variables affect the strength and consistency of Fiber Optic Internet signals, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things that do. For example, if imperfections in the glass filament cables receive an overload of light energy, the fibers can fuse together. This is known as fiber fuse. If this happens, it can ruin long strips of cable before the problem is even detected, which will subsequently have to be replaced.

The bottom line is that Broadband and Fiber are both reliable and fast, but Fiber is the most reliable and the fastest.

Upfront vs. Long-term maintenance Costs

The installation of Fiber Optic Internet is more expensive upfront than broadband or DSL. This is because the technology is new and those who service it have to be specially trained on how to set up and maintain the equipment. Furthermore, the equipment itself requires specialized equipment for monitoring and troubleshooting.

However, the long-term maintenance of Fiber Optic Internet is less expensive. The overall costs of maintaining and scaling Fiber are less than those for DSL and Broadband. Additionally, costs are projected to reduce over time as the technology becomes more widely available (Fiber Optic Market by Cable Type).

My family and I live in an area where Fiber Optic Internet is available (UTOPIA – Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency) so we opted in for residential service. The upfront cost for us was not bad because our city is part of an 11-city co-op that joined together to build, deploy, and operate the infrastructure. We pay $30/month to rent our portion of the infrastructure and then $39/month to our ISP. We chose this service over Broadband because we were sick of their yearly plans ending and rates going sky high until we noticed and called in to get their next special offer.

Conclusion

If Fiber Optic Internet is already available in your city, the upfront costs are manageable. So that is most likely your company’s best option. Because it is not yet widely available, you may need to choose high-speed Broadband, which still offers premium speeds and services. DSL is outdated. If you have it, know that you have superior options available at reasonable rates.

Read a case study about how we helped one of our clients increase their Internet speeds at three locations: Customized High-Speed Internet For Your Unique Business: Case Study


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