DSL vs Fiber: Main Differences

DSL vs Fiber optic internet

HighSpeedOptions prides itself on providing honest, quality content. While we may be compensated when you make a purchase through links on our site, all opinions are our own. Here's how we make money.

There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing an internet service provider. From knowing what providers are in your area to understanding what internet speed you need, there are many factors worth weighing to make your final decision. But what about internet connection type?

Wireless, DSL, cable, satellite, and fiber optic are just a few high-speed internet connections you’ve probably heard of, but probably don’t know how they differ, or which one might be best for your lifestyle. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll break down the differences between two popular choices — DSL internet and fiber internet.

What is DSL Internet?

DSL internet cables

DSL, or digital subscriber line, is an internet connection that transfers data using the copper telephone lines already installed in most homes and businesses. DSL separates connections from your phone, so you can use the internet and home phone at the same time — no dial-up tones needed.

How is DSL Installed?

To install DSL internet you will need a landline phone connection, a modem to receive internet signals, and a reliable internet router to connect those signals to your devices. DSL can be self-installed or done professionally by your provider.

What is Fiber Optic Internet?

fiber optic internet cables

Fiber internet is a connection that transfers data through fiber optic cables. These “cables” are thin, transparent glass fibers that transmit data that has been converted into light signals.

How is Fiber Installed?

Fiber installation is more complicated than DSL. First, you need to live in an area that offers fiber internet connections. If fiber is available in your area, the provider will bring fiber cables from their existing network to your home and a main fiber terminal will be set up in your neighborhood. An Optical Network Terminal connected outside of your house receives the light signals from the fiber optic cables and transfers the signals through an ethernet cable connected to a router, which then connects to your devices.

DSL vs. Fiber Speeds

DSL is one of the slowest internet connections, but is still faster than dial-up. On the other hand, fiber is the Usain Bolt of broadband internet — the fastest connection & speed available.

DSL Download Speeds: .5 – 35 Mbps on average

Good for activities like: light web browsing, sending and receiving emails, streaming videos on one or two devices, and light gaming

Fiber Download Speeds: 250 – 1,000 Mbps on average

Good for activities like: heavy internet usage, streaming HD or 4K videos on multiple devices simultaneously, online multiplayer gaming, and live-stream gaming like on Twitch

 

Pros and Cons of DSL

thumb_upPros

  • check_circle

    Doesn’t require new wiring – uses phone lines

  • check_circle

    Available in rural areas

  • check_circle

    Connection isn’t slowed down by neighbors

thumb_downCons

  • cancel

    Speed depends on how close you are to provider’s central office

  • cancel

    Service not available everywhere

  • cancel

    Not the fastest high-speed internet option

 

Pros and Cons of Fiber

thumb_upPros

  • check_circle

    Faster connection speed and carrying capacity than DSL and cable

  • check_circle

    More secure from cyber crimes

  • check_circle

    Not vulnerable to inclement weather damage, and human or electrical interference

thumb_downCons

  • cancel

    Not widely available, offered by select internet service providers

  • cancel

    Requires new infrastructure and professional installation

  • cancel

    Speed can be slower during “peak” hours

  • cancel

    Typically costs more than DSL and cable

 

DSL and fiber are on two different ends of the broadband spectrum, but one isn’t necessarily better than the other. There are pros and cons to both of these high-speed internet connections, and the best one for you will depend on where you live, your internet habits, your budget, and ultimately what internet providers are available near you. Use our internet service provider search tool below to get started!

Enter your zip code to see providers near you

search
Anna Ellison
Written By
Anna Ellison
Written By
Anna Ellison
Anna is a Contributing Writer for HighSpeedOptions, covering broadband, TV, and streaming content. She started her career as a content writer in the fintech industry in 2017 before joining the mobile ad-tech space a year later. She graduated with a degree in Professional Writing from Michigan State University, which kickstarted her love of giving companies a voice and telling their stories.