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Fiber vs. cable
internet: What's
best for your
small business?

Author: Gary Hilson

For many small businesses, the past few years have shown the benefits of making the right investments in technology. According to the Salesforce "Small and Medium Business Trends" report, more than two-thirds of respondents said they could not have survived the pandemic using technology from a decade ago. Meanwhile, 42% of growing small and medium businesses have accelerated their technology investments in 2021, compared with 33% in August 2020.

What lies at the heart of all this technology? The internet. Having reliable internet connectivity is the key, and deciding between fiber vs. cable internet can have a huge impact on your bottom line. But what is fiber internet? And how does it differ from cable? Understanding this can make a big difference in your productivity, responsiveness and competitive advantage.

What is fiber internet?

Fiber internet, also known as fiber broadband, is internet delivered via fiber optic networks. Fiber optics use light to transmit signals via fine, thin plastics or glass fiber optic cables that are the diameter of a strand of human hair. While it's still a cable, it is a different type of technology than cable internet that moves data in the form of flashes of light. Fiber-optic cables transfer internet data exclusively.

Cable internet transmits data via electric signals over coaxial cables composed of a copper core insulated with aluminum, a copper shield, and an outer plastic layer. These cables are the same used to deliver cable television.

Fiber vs. cable internet considerations

Each small business will have its own quirks in terms of internet usage. You'll want to consider—what are your needs, and what is fiber internet able to offer you vs. cable internet? Important assessment criteria for your internet include speed, reliability, access and cost.

Speed

When it comes to fiber vs. cable internet, speed differs. Fiber internet can provide bandwidth speeds up to around 1,000 Mbps. Download (250–1,000 Mbps) and upload speeds (250–940 Mbps) are nearly symmetrical.

Although coaxial cables have evolved and improved since their inception, cable internet speeds remain slower, particularly when uploading. Download speeds can range between 10-500 Mbps, while upload speeds will likely be between 5-50 Mbps.

Here's a simple guide to gauge internet speed requirements:

  • 100 Mbps would suit up to 10 users performing basic tasks, such as sending emails, browsing the internet and downloading document files
  • 300 Mbps would be sufficient for 15-20 internet users and also allow for large-volume work, such as video production
  • 1,000 Mbps would be enough for around 30 users and can easily handle streaming conference calls, data-intensive projects and cloud-based applications

If you want to know more about how your company can prepare for the next wave of innovation, take this 5G assessment tool.

Reliability

We've all experienced the frustrations of our internet not working, and there is no point having fast internet if it is unreliable. So, which is more reliable out of fiber vs. cable internet? Fiber internet is not as susceptible to electromagnetic interference because it doesn't depend on electricity. This means the connection impact by power outages, thunderstorms, high-voltage electrical equipment or power lines is minimal. However, if your business office has lost power, you may not be able to connect unless you have back up power technology in place.

On the other hand, cable internet may have copper wires that are vulnerable to electromagnetic interference. Copper wires can also weaken over time. Plus, the shared-network nature of cable means it is susceptible to slowdowns and connection gaps during peak hours—something not relevant to fiber internet.

Access

What is fiber internet lacking most? Access—at least for now. Depending on where your business is located, it may be difficult to access fiber as the infrastructure is not available everywhere. Cable internet is much easier to access because it's as widely available as a standard telephone line. This handy tool will help you determine what internet services are available in your area—so you can better decide between fiber vs. cable internet.

Cost

Given its ultra-fast speeds and impressive reliability, the big question is—what is fiber internet going to cost? While your specific needs will be the most important factor in the price, fiber internet is generally more expensive than cable. This makes sense given the massive investment in thousands of miles of fiber cabling to support cutting-edge speeds. However, while cable internet is often cheaper, the true cost includes slower speeds and spottier connection.

Better communication supports better collaboration

Most businesses today have some sort of digital footprint—at least a website, if not an e-commerce presence. Communication between customers and suppliers is often online. This means slow internet slows down your business, and having no internet can halt your business in its tracks.

The speed and reliability of business fiber internet means your team can get more done faster. You can support multiple devices at higher speeds and make it easier to access resources such as cloud storage and online software suites. With remote work becoming the norm recently, fiber internet is also better suited to support video conferencing and real-time collaboration tools. Overall, it's the better choice for business tools that require higher bandwidth.

Regardless of your final choice between fiber vs. cable internet, Verizon Fios can provide a flexible, affordable and secure connection with bandwidth that will keep pace with your business growth.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.