Fiber vs. Cable Internet: Which is Best?

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.

Depending on where you live, you might have access to several types of internet connections. This is most common in urban and suburban areas, where there are typically more internet service providers and, therefore, various connection types.

Two of those internet services are often fiber internet and cable internet. They have many similarities in terms of speeds, performance, and distribution. But, they have key differences, as well. Here we give a breakdown of what each is capable of and what their strengths and weaknesses are. So, which is best? Read on if you have a choice between the two and find out if cable or fiber internet is best for you.

What is Fiber Internet?

Fiber internet uses fiber optic technology to transmit data. Fiber cables are comprised of glass filaments, or fibers, bundled together to form cables. The glass fibers transmit data in the form of light from one point to another across the fiber network. 

This means that, theoretically, fiber internet cables are capable of transmitting data at the speed of light. However, the technology and hardware required to maintain a fiber network aren’t quite there yet. But, fiber internet delivers some of the fastest internet speeds available today and has the most potential for growth.

Fiber internet is a relatively new internet service technology and therefore is somewhat limited in availability. It’s commonly available in large metropolitan areas and areas with high population densities. It is, however, an area of focus for many internet service providers, so it will likely become more common and offer higher speeds  in the next several years.

Pros:

  • Capable of multi-gig speeds
  • Equal download and upload speeds
  • Huge potential for growth over the next several years

Cons:

  • Currently has limited availability
  • Can be expensive

Fiber Internet Providers

ProviderStarting PriceMax DownloadData Caps
Frontier49.99/mo. – $149.99/mo. w/Auto Pay & Paperless Bill2000 Mbps – Call for detailsNo
CenturyLink$50/mo. – $70/mo.20 Mbps – 940 MbpsNo
AT&T$55/mo. – $80/mo.300 Mbps – 940 MbpsNo
ProviderFrontier
Starting Price49.99/mo. – $149.99/mo. w/Auto Pay & Paperless Bill
Max Download2000 Mbps – Call for details
Data CapsNo
ProviderCenturyLink
Starting Price$50/mo. – $70/mo.
Max Download20 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Data CapsNo
ProviderAT&T
Starting Price$55/mo. – $80/mo.
Max Download300 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Data CapsNo

What is Cable Internet?

Cable internet uses the same cables and infrastructure used to distribute cable TV. It comes into the home over a copper-based cable, called coaxial cable, or “coax.” The copper cables used for cable internet differ from the copper wires used for DSL internet in that it is solid copper and capable of transmitting more data at once at higher speeds. 

Since cable TV has been around a while and is one of the most used forms of paid TV, the cable network is well established and widely available. It is ubiquitous in urban and suburban areas, and even in some remote, rural areas.

After DSL, cable was one of the first forms of broadband internet to replace dial-up internet. Since its inception, cable internet has grown in capability and capacity, and even rivals the speed of fiber internet in some areas. 

Perhaps its greatest disadvantage is that it runs on a shared network. So, at peak times when many other people are using a cable internet connection in your area, you will likely see reduced performance on your connection.

Pros:

  • 1 Gbps plans are commonplace, with some multi-gig plans available
  • Widely available, especially in urban and suburban areas
  • Often the more affordable option 

Cons:

  • Operates on a shared network, which could be slower during peak use times
  • While fast, cable internet does not have the same speed potential of fiber internet

Cable Internet Providers

ProviderStarting PriceMax DownloadData Caps
Xfinity$19.99/mo. – $299.95/mo.1,200Mbps – 3GbpsYes
Spectrum$49.99/mo. – $89.99/mo.300 Mbps – 1000 MbpsNo
Cox$49.99/mo.1000 MbpsYes
ProviderXfinity
Starting Price$19.99/mo. – $299.95/mo.
Max Download1,200Mbps – 3Gbps
Data CapsYes
ProviderSpectrum
Starting Price$49.99/mo. – $89.99/mo.
Max Download300 Mbps – 1000 Mbps
Data CapsNo
ProviderCox
Starting Price$49.99/mo.
Max Download1000 Mbps
Data CapsYes

Which is Better?

There’s no clear path to determining which is better between fiber internet and cable internet. They both are excellent broadband connections.

One clear advantage cable has is availability. You are much more likely to have access to cable internet right now than fiber. However, many internet service providers are investing billions of dollars into expanding and enhancing their fiber networks. So, for now, cable wins when it comes to availability. 

When considering speed, fiber might have the advantage here with its capability to deliver unbelievable internet speeds. The only thing that is slowing it down right now is the technology and hardware have yet to be developed to fully realize fiber’s incredible speed capabilities. But don’t count cable internet out of the multi-gig race. Xfinity currently has a 3 Gig plan in select areas and could surpass that benchmark in late 2023.

If it is important to you, fiber internet does offer synchronous speeds, where your download speed and upload speed are the same. If you’re a digital creator, social influencer, or stream your online gaming frequently, then having a faster upload speed will certainly benefit your endeavors.

One thing to keep in mind is that fiber is the way of the future for ground-based, wireline internet service. As mentioned, it has huge speed potential and massive bandwidth capabilities, so it will be able to provide excellent service to millions of people as it continues to expand. In addition, fiber consumes less energy than cable and DSL internet service. Transmitting light pulses take significantly less energy than transmitting electric pulses along copper wires.

Which One Is Right For You?

Let’s just say that you really can’t go wrong with fiber internet or cable internet. Finding out which one is right for you will come down to your needs, cost, and availability. If you have access to fiber internet and it meets the needs of your internet lifestyle and budget, then go with fiber. As the technology advances, you’ll continue to see speeds increase and maybe even see your monthly bill decrease. Or at least stay the same but with better, faster service.

If you have access to both cable and fiber internet, then you have some comparing to do. Which one offers faster internet speeds? Do they include unlimited data home internet? And most importantly, if they each offer similar features and speeds, which one costs less per month?

Find the Best Provider Near You

To find the best internet services in your area, enter your zip code below to find a provider that meets your needs.

Enter your zip code to see providers near you

search
Keith Carlson
Written By
Keith Carlson
Written By
Keith Carlson
Keith is a Contributing Writer for HighSpeedOptions with over 10 years of experience in writing and marketing. He has written for and contributed to organizations in the non-profit, financial, and enterprise internet and cable service industries. At HighSpeedOptions, Keith covers everything from broadband news to emerging technologies and how they complement different lifestyles and budgetary needs. In his free time, Keith enjoys spending time with his family, reading as many books as he can, and photography.