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There is no doubt the internet has become a necessity for everyone given the digital landscape of the world. To say the least, internet technology has revolutionized the way people connect and communicate, work and learn, shop and bank, as well as how they access entertainment.
 

When your everyday life comes to revolve around access to high-speed internet, it is imperative to choose the right service. And with as many internet service types available in the market, it can become quite challenging and overwhelming to figure out which one will fulfill your needs the best. But, if we eliminate the non-wired modes of data transmission, such as Satellite and Fixed Wireless which are usually the choice of residents in areas that lack wireline services, things become a little simpler. You are left with the wired types which include DSL, Cable and Fiber.

While DSL coverage, which utilizes copper phone lines, is spread out to 89% of the U.S., Coaxial Cable networks are not far behind at 88%. And, Fiber is expected to fast spread out beyond its current 43% coverage level. Meaning, for the most part the 2 competing service types you are likely to have available in your urban or suburban neighborhood are Cable and Fiber.

In our article today, we look at the key differences between coaxial and fiber optic cables. An understanding of this information is likely to help you decide which of the two service types is better for your everyday digital needs. Read on and learn, so you know which way to go when these 2 kinds of the internet are pitched against each other. 

Fiber Optic Vs Coaxial Cables: Know the Difference

Both fiber and coaxial cables deliver high-speed internet, but the output of each type of connection is directly related to the kind of the cable that carries the data to your in-home setup. So, let’s start by taking a good look at these 2 types of guided media cables.

What is a Fiber Optic Cable?

A fiber optic cable is composed of optical fibers which are thinner than human hair. Silica, which is drawing glass in common terms, and plastic, constitute the core and the cladding of these ultra-skinny fibers. And it’s the play of light, which gets caged in the core protected by the cladding, that data signals are carried through these super-tiny optical fibers via light pulses.    

 

An optical fiber cable has the capability to transmit a substantial amount of data up to 60 miles without degradation. While when the distance spans thousands of miles, optical amplifiers are employed to boost the signal and keep data loss at bay.

Learn more about how Fiber Internet works

All in all?

  • Fiber optic cables are able to transmit data without degradation over longer distances.
  • An enormous amount of data can be transferred via these cables, and there is so much more bandwidth.
  • Higher data transfer rates can be reached easily.
  • And, when you have a dedicated Fiber connection, the output is consistent at all times with no slow downs.

Relative to other cable types used for the purpose, fiber optic cables thus allow you to handle a variety of bandwidth extensive online activities on multiple devices, and for multiple users. Which makes these cables the best carriers of data for businesses. As well as for large households where many are engaged in work from home or virtual learning, everyone loves to stream or game, and smart home appliances need a fast and reliable connection. You would want fiber optic cables to deliver the goods when you are in those shoes.   

What is the Max Possible Speed with Fiber Optic Cables?

Coming to the part which everyone wants to know about when picking and internet service.

Well, nowadays business gigabit networks are able to deliver up to 10 Gbps fast internet. But in residential consumption such high speeds are obviously not in demand, and the max we see is the Pro Gigabit service delivered by Xfinity from Comcast. Xfinity Internet delivers up to 3000 Mbps i.e. 3 Gbps speeds in select locations with its Pro Gigabit plan, whereas 2 Gbps fast internet is available across the provider’s footprint.

With that said, the highest speeds offered by competing fiber internet providers e.g. AT&T, reach up to 1 Gbps. Which to be honest is more than adequate to cover extensive needs for a vast majority of U.S. homes.  

Which ISPs Deliver Internet via Fiber Optic Cables?

In the U.S. industry there is a significant number of ISPs engaged in data services over fiber optic cable networks?by one estimate about 1500. But there are only a few which depict significant coverage when it comes to delivering pure Fiber connections. Primarily because of the costs involved in extending fiber optic cable lines to reach out to more neighborhoods and communities.

While we see the Fiber footprint of the likes of Xfinity, AT&T, CenturyLink and Windstream Communications expanding fast across their service locations, availability of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connections is still limited to rather select areas. 

What is a Coaxial Cable?

A coaxial cable, commonly referred to as coax cable, is primarily built with copper. The copper core is surrounded by an insulating sheath, which is then encased in a metal wrapping to prevent noise interference and complete the circuit. In addition to metal, a coax cable utilizes plastic coating in its build to protect the inner layers from damage. These cables use low voltage electricity to transmit data. Data is carried in the center conductor, and surrounding layers prevent signal loss, besides providing protection from electromagnetic interference.

Coaxial cables have been in use since the 20th century. Cable TV systems were established in the U.S. in the late 1940s to boost the reception of broadcast TV networks in remote and hilly regions. Later, these cable lines were also put to use to deliver high-speed internet. In fact broadband delivered over coaxial cable networks is the most popular form of the internet in the U.S. Not only because it is widely available and affordable, but coaxial cables depict an impressive transmission capacity, and are able to deliver high-speed data services with more bandwidth than a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL).

What is the Max Possible Speed with Coaxial Cables?

Leaving hybrid Fiber-Coaxial speeds aside which go up to 1 Gbps, the speed range commonly experienced via coaxial cables is 10-500 for downloads and 5-50 for uploads. Max speed available is definitely not up to par with Fiber, but most certainly adequate for all standard household usage in a regular sized household. You don’t get equal downloads and uploads with coax cable internet either. But again, that is not really much of a concern for household usage as there is not much need for real high uploads.

Moreover, cable broadband is known to slow down during peak traffic times, when the entire neighborhood is sharing the available bandwidth. That is when you are likely to run into time-taking file transfers or a buffering video stream. And, there is little that can undo the affect of bandwidth sharing.

With that said, if you don’t need real high speeds and truck loads of bandwidth, coaxial cables running to your home can get you a solid internet connection.  

Which ISPs Deliver Internet via Coaxial Cables?

Among the 450 or so Cable providers in the U.S., nearly all major ones, such as Charter SpectrumTM , Cox Communications, Optimum & Suddenlink by Altice, WOW! and Mediacom now deliver up to 1 Gbps  downloads widely across their service territories. These ISPs primarily deliver broadband services over a hybrid Fiber-Coaxial network which makes it possible to offer downloads comparable to Fiber, albeit you do not get symmetrical uploads.

With this type of a hybrid service, data is delivered over fiber optic cables until the Node in a neighborhood. And from there onwards, it travels over coaxial cable lines up to the subscriber’s location. So while such a mix of fiber and coaxial cables can deliver plenty of speed, the characteristics of a hybrid connection are not the same as that of an FTTH connection which uses fiber optic cables all the way through.

Fiber Optic Vs Coaxial Cables: Which is Better?

There is no denying the fact fiber optic cables allow a faster and more reliable way to connect to the internet. Currently, it is the best performing internet type available in the market. Whether you are running a small home-based business or working from home, fiber internet increases your productivity while ensuring consistent speed delivery and minimum latency. And if your needs include big uploads, you cannot get better than a pure Fiber connection which delivers equal downloads and uploads.

While at one point in time residential fiber internet came with a higher price point, as Fiber coverage around the U.S. continues to increase, many major ISPs are able to offer 100% Fiber connections at prices comparable to that of internet delivered over a hybrid Fiber-Coaxial network. For instance, currently AT&T Fiber 300 is priced at a super-affordable price of $35/month, which is really a bargain deal if available where you are.

Even if you find another Fiber option in your area that is relatively expensive, it is worth opting for. Because the reliability of Fiber is hard to match. Fiber optic cables are less susceptible to outages and interruptions caused by extreme weather conditions. Plus Coaxial cables are also vulnerable to electromagnetic interference since data is carried by electrical signals, and not light pulses.

With that said, when Fiber is not available, or you cannot find a suitable fiber plan to fit your small-home needs, coaxial cables provide the next best way of connecting to the internet.

The Endnote

Fiber is definitely future proof, and the one type which is likely to become ubiquitous in terms of availability across the U.S. with the passage of time. True that widespread availability will also contribute to it becoming more affordable, but you may not have to wait long. With major nationwide providers focusing on delivery of fiber internet to more American homes, you must check if a fiber optic cable network now reaches your vicinity. Call at 1-855-349-9328 and speak to experts who can determine which type of internet services are available at your address.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Fiber Optic made of?

A fiber optic cable is composed of optical fibers which are thinner than human hair. Silica, which is drawing glass in common terms, and plastic, constitute the core and the cladding of these ultra-skinny fibers. And data signals are carried through these super-tiny optical fibers via light pulses. 

What is a coaxial cable made of?

A coaxial cable is primarily built with copper. The copper core is surrounded by an insulating sheath, which is then encased in a metal wrapping to prevent noise interference and complete the circuit. In addition to metal, a coax cable utilizes plastic coating in its build to protect the inner layers from damage. These cables use low voltage electricity to transmit data.