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Jorge Soriano-Garcia

By: Jorge Soriano-Garcia on January 13, 2024

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Fiber Vs. Cable Internet: What Do I Need To Know?

IT Support

Many business leaders are weighing their options when it comes to internet service. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of cable vs. fiber-optic solutions.

After you read this article, you’ll understand the benefits and disadvantages of both options, so that you can make the best choice for your organization.

As a network engineer, I’m often asked about these two options and which I’d recommend for our customers. Some of the factors to consider include speed, cost, performance, and availability. We’ll dive into each of those and more in this article.

We know that not everyone is an IT expert and that’s why we focus on writing articles like this one that explain options in non-technical language. Information is important when you are making decisions about your business infrastructure.

We provide the information you need to learn and fully understand your choices.  

What Is Fiber-Optic Internet Service?

Fiber-optic internet service uses glass as a transmission medium. Data transmits as light which yields faster transmission speeds (up to 10 Gigabytes/second) than any other known technology.


In general terms, the pros of fiber-optic internet are:

    • faster speeds
    • better performance
    • longer life span
    • higher bandwidth (due to gig speed and data transfer speed).


As with all things in life, there are disadvantages to fiber-optic internet as well. They include:

    • cost - the fiber itself is more expensive to begin with and more expensive to repair than cable 
    • durability - fiber more likely to break than cable
    • handling - fiber requires special tools and training to handle

Overall, fiber-optic internet service is a more costly option than cable, but it is faster. 

What Is Cable Internet Service?

Cable internet service uses copper wires and radio frequency to transfer data. The data transmission is asymmetrical with download speeds faster than upload speeds (25-300 megabytes/second)


    • accessibility - cable is available almost anywhere
    • infrastructure - solid infrastructure support
    • cost - copper wire is less expensive than fiber 


    • shared network - everyone's information passes through the same network
    • unpredictable service degradation - service quality depends on how many people are accessing the network at any given time

Overall, cable provides a cheaper, tried and true technology option. 

How Are Fiber-Optic and Cable Similar?

Both cable and fiber-optic options can be used to provide internet service.

In fact, we encourage our customers to use both together when possible: a fiber-optic solution for their primary internet service with a cable backup. This requires both a traditional and fiber-optic cable to be run from the street to the client’s facility.

How Are Fiber-Optic And Cable Internet Service Different?

Here are the main ways cable and fiber-optic internet service are different:

  • Transmission Method

As mentioned above, the main difference is in the method of transmission of data. Cable uses copper wire and radio frequencies to send and receive data, while fiber optics use glass and light.

  • Availability

Another difference is that cable is a known commodity. It is available virtually everywhere, has been in use for years, and there is a solid infrastructure in place to support cable internet service.

Fiber-optic internet service is newer and is not available everywhere. It also doesn’t yet have a highly developed infrastructure in place to support its use.

  • Cost

Fiber-optic internet service is more expensive because fiber is more expensive than cable and requires special tools and training to install it. Cable is the cheaper option.

  • Speed

Lag time is less of an issue with fiber-optic internet. With cable internet service, all of the provider’s clients use a shared network, so at times of peak demand you could experience service degradation.

  • Life Span

In general, fiber-optic internet solutions will have a longer life span than cable solutions.

  • Bandwidth

When comparing Gigabytes and data transfer speed, fiber-optic internet service outperforms cable by a factor of up to ten times.

  • Durability

Copper wire is more durable but prone to degradation over time. Less prone to breakage than fiber.

Which Is Better For Me?

Both fiber-optic and cable internet service have their place.

Fiber-optic is a better option for organizations that use applications requiring lower latency (also known as less lag in service). These applications include voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone systems and multimedia applications.

Cable may be the only option in certain areas.


Cable Internet

Fiber-Optic Internet

Transmission Method

Copper cable & radio frequency

Glass & light


Uses cable company infrastructure

Faster due to glass transmission medium and speed of light transmission


Lower cost

Requires special tools and training to work with the fiber, the fiber itself is also more expensive than copper cable


Shared network could lead to performance degradation depending on the number of people accessing it at any given time

Typically lower latency which means less lag in performance


Has been in use for years and is more commonly available due to a developed infrastructure

Companies are rolling out in the most populated areas first to maximize their return on investment – will take years to get to the same level of availability and infrastructure as cable


More prone to degradation over time

Longer lifespan



Higher bandwidth because of 10 gigabyte speeds (up to 10 times faster than cable)


Durable copper cable

More fragile, more expensive to fix and more likely to break

What’s The Bottom Line?

After reading this article, you have all of the information you need to understand the differences between cable and fiber-optic internet service.

You know the pros and cons of each option, the similarities and differences between the two, and how to decide which is better for you.

The next step at this point would be to explore which options are offered by local providers – and, don't forget, there may be more than one provider that serves your area.

While fiber-optic internet service is likely the way of the future, the infrastructure could take years to catch up. Think about what makes the most sense for your organization in the long-term. If you have the option and the financial resources, fiber-optic could be the perfect choice for you.

At any rate, you now have the information you need to be able to compare your options.

Your network is the backbone of your business. You need it to perform optimally and to keep your data safe. Learn about managed network security and how it boosts overall cybersecurity within your organization.

About Jorge Soriano-Garcia

As a network engineer, Jorge focuses on efficiency and security. He brings a quiet enthusiasm to his work and enjoys the challenge of finding creative solutions to complex networking issues.

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