How Fast Is Fiber Optic Internet vs. Broadband Download Speeds

Compare Fiber Internet vs. Broadband Speeds

Like any Internet service, fiber optic Internet download speeds depend on your connection. Not all fiber services are created equal, much like broadband. Fiber is not distance sensitive like copper based services, but speeds can vary. However, there’s no doubt that;

In the United States, fiber internet service is available to businesses just about everywhere. Fiber internet for home users is limited to specific locations, but is growing. New fiber providers such as Google Fiber have entered the market and have ambitious expansion plans. At speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second, fiber internet delivers much faster downloads than broadband.

As an example, if your broadband download speed is 50Mbps, (extremely generous – average U.S internet speeds only just topped 18.7Mbps in 2017), downloading a game, 100 songs, a full HD quality movie or 100 photos is up to 20 times faster with a Gigabit fiber connection.

Download Speed Comparison Table

Using common file types and sizes from the site, the below table gives an indication on how fast fast fiber optic Internet service is. See approximate times for how long it takes to download movies, songs, videos, TV shows and audio books, compared to common broadband speeds.

All download speeds are estimates. Speeds vary depending on your Internet connection. This is due to a few factors including line quality and modem / ISP bandwidth used to keep your Internet line open.

Length and type of media Approximate size 1Mbps 5Mbps 10Mbps 20Mbps 100Mbps 1000Mbps (Gigabit)
4-minute song 4 MB 30s 5s 3s 1.5s 0.3s 0.03s
5-minute video 30 MB 3m 40s 26s 13s 2.5s 0.2s
9-hour audiobook 110 MB 10m 2m 1.5m 46s 9.2s 0.9s
45-minute TV show 200 MB 20m 5m 3m 1.5m 16s 1.7s
45-minute HDTV show 600 MB 1h 15m 8.5m 4m 50s 5s
2-hour movie 1.0-1.5 GB 2h 24m 21.5m 10.5m 1.5m 8s
2-hour HD movie 3.0-4.5 GB 6h 72m 60m 32m 4.5m 25s
Misc. Archive 10 GB Forget it Nope Too long Slow Better 1m 20s

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How Much Download Speed Do You Need?

The below table is a household broadband speed guide, provided by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It shows the minimum download speeds required to perform various web based tasks. This is extremely useful in the time of remote work, due to Coronavirus.

Activity Bare minimum download speed
Streaming SD music
Browsing, email, and social media 1Mbps
Streaming SD video 3-4Mbps
Streaming HD video 5-8Mbps
Streaming 4K video 15-25Mbps
Online multiplayer games 4Mbps
Video calls 6Mbps

The above minimum bandwidth requirements also show the importance of bandwidth considerations for business connectivity. For example, if a large number of employees in your workforce use VoIP or video conferencing for communications, bandwidth requirements need to be adequate to support these activities. This is also where a service like MPLS or SD-WAN can be useful for prioritizing bandwidth usage, to ensure smooth operations.

Where can I get Fiber Optic Internet?

Unfortunately, fiber internet service is not available to home users in all residential areas. Select larger carriers have scaled out nationwide deployments, mainly Verizon and AT&T. Google Fiber is the new player in the fiber game. Google currently offers fiber and TV service plans to certain areas of Austin, Orange County, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Nashville, Atlanta, The Triangle and Provo. Google Fiber plans to expand service to various cities in the future.

There are other options worth checking out in your local area; SureWest, iProvo, UTOPIA, Veracity Networks, CenturyLink, Peak and cSpire. These fiber ISPs specialize in fiber delivery to home users. For dedicated business fiber, our service covers the San Francisco Bay Area. You can see our coverage in this fiber Internet map.

Looking for more info on fiber? Check our infographic for the 10 main benefits of fiber internet service at your business. Or, watch this video on how fiber optic cables work.

Fiber Optic Internet FAQs

What is fiber optic internet?

As the name would suggest, fiber optic internet is internet that is provided through special fibers or strands that are bundled into optic cables. Unlike copper lines, which are typically used for cable or DSL services, fiber optic lines are composed of plastic or glass strands that are used to transmit light. Light moves and reflects along the bends and curves in the optical cable. The light transmits information through encoded light signals, or binary. This is then decoded to present information (images, text, sounds, etc.) to the end user. This particular transmission method can transport more data than copper, which was originally designed to transmit only voice (i.e., early telephone services). When it comes to today’s digital requirements, fiber optic internet is significantly quicker and more reliable than its predecessors. A fiber optic internet connection allows users to access, upload and transmit information at speeds that surpass traditional internet mediums, such as copper based DSL or cable connections.

Using fiber optic cables, which bundle glass strands to transmit data, a fiber optic internet connection offers high speed upload and download times. Fiber internet speed does not degrade over longer distances, like copper based internet connections. Additionally, a fiber connection allows for greater data capacity while limiting loss and interference. As it becomes more available and to satisfy user demands, fiber optic internet is becoming the main source of competition for broadband, DSL, cable, and satellite internet services

When was fiber optic internet invented?

When viewed over time, fiber optic internet is considered to be a relatively new technology.

  • The foundational innovations behind fiber optic internet actually date as far back as 2500 B.C. At that time, the Romans found it was possible to draw glass into fibers.
  • Between the 1700s and the 1800s, the roots of fiber optic communication experienced significant growth, with the invention of the optical telegraph in 1790 (Claude Chappe) and the Photophone in 1880 (Alexander Graham Bell).
  • Also during the mid-1800s, two valuable observations made by Daniel Colladon (1841) and John Tyndall (1854), both of which discovered the ability to conduct light through streams of water, further set the stage for fiber optic theory.
  • By 1926, RCA Rocky point Laboratory in Long Island, NY, worked with Clarence Hansel to outline the principles (and later patents in the U.S.A and Britain) of, fiber-optic image bundling. Following that, the world experienced a surge of advancements in the design and use of communication fibers. Each advancement paved the way for the fiber optic service we know today.
  • In the early 1970s, Corning Glass researchers invented Optical Waveguide Fibers, commonly known as fiber optic wire. This innovation allowed for the transfer of information via light wave patterns. This information could then be decoded at the final destination. The information transfer rate was 65,000 times faster than copper wire, showing researchers the true potential of fiber optics.

When did fiber optic internet become available?

  • 1975 – the U.S. government had used fiber optic cables to link two computers, reducing interference.
  • 1977 – Chicago became home to the first fiber optic telephone communication systems, which were buried underneath the city. At that time, the optical fiber carried what is equivalent to 672 voice channels.
  • 1988 – the first transatlantic fiber-optic cable, TAT-8, successfully transmitted data across the ocean floor from New Jersey to England and France. TAT-8 was less than 1 inch thick in diameter. It was capable of handling 40,000 simultaneous voice calls.

At the close of the century, 80% of long-distance telephone traffic was traversing the globe via fiber optic cables.

Fiber optic internet is currently available in certain locations across the United States and in other countries around the world. However, only 25% of the USA’s population have access to fiber optic internet based service. Many United States based ISPs are working to increase availability every day. Typically, companies are focusing fiber optic installation efforts in highly populated urban locations. Fiber access relies on the installation of fiber optic cables in your area. Currently, in order to maximize the impact of fiber optic installations, fiber optic is typically limited to dense urban areas.

Depending on where you live in the USA, fiber optic internet may be available to you right now. With over two hundred fiber optic internet providers, fiber access is expanding. There are a variety of fiber providers across the United States of America. These include the large corporations such as Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and the more recent Google Fiber. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) including Fastmetrics, provide fiber optic internet availability maps. This fiber optic availability map can help you determine if fiber optic internet is available in the Bay Area or Los Angeles.

What countries have fiber optic internet?

Fiber optic internet services are available worldwide. Residential and businesses are using high speed fiber internet across Asia (Japan, South Korea, etc.), Europe (Sweden, Norway, UK, Denmark, etc.), and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc.), South America (Brazil, Argentina, Peru, etc.), Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), and North America (Canada, Mexico, etc.).

Can I get fiber optic internet in California?

Though only a small percentage of California has access to fiber optic internet service, Fastmetrics offers fiber optic internet service to businesses in commercial buildings throughout San Francisco, San Jose, Mountain View, Redwood City, Fremont, Oakland, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Menlo Park, Napa and to most commercial buildings in the wider San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles areas.

This fiber service is complemented with a growing network of fiber optic ready buildings, that compose our fiberIVY network. If you live outside of those areas, please call your local internet service provider to find out if fiber optic internet is available where you live.

Who offers fiber optic internet?

Currently, there are over 200 internet service providers that offer fiber optic internet. Fastmetrics is proud to join major fiber providers like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Google Fiber.

What is the speed of fiber optic internet?

One of the main reasons for the growing popularity of fiber optic internet services is the speed, or the much faster data transmission times.

Here is a quick overview of fiber optic internet download speeds;

  • Fiber optics: Up to 10 Gbps (a data transfer rate up to 10 billion bits per second)
  • Cable connections: 25 – 300 Mbps (a data transfer rate up to 300 million bits per second).
  • Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL): 0.5 – 75 Mbps.
  • Satellite: 5 – 25 Mbps.

Fiber optic internet is consistently faster than cable. Fiber optic internet speeds clearly surpass older internet connection technologies. Fiber speed can still vary, based on a variety of factors. Factors include location and the type of fiber connection available (FTTH, FTTN, etc).

Is fiber internet better?

Fiber optic internet is currently the fastest, most-reliable internet service available. Fiber increases download and upload speeds and offers users faster access to various media types and larger file sizes. When it comes to business communications, fiber optic internet can increase productivity while reducing latency. Typically, fiber service offers unlimited data usage, faster cloud access, high speed symmetric connectivity, and unparalleled scalability. For those reasons, fiber optic internet is often a better solution, when it is available.

How expensive is fiber optic internet?

Fiber optic internet offers a faster and more reliable way to connect and use the internet. As such, it is often more expensive than other connections types like cable and DSL. However, businesses may find that the additional costs of a fiber connection yield various benefits, including;

  • A more productive workplace with higher output.
  • Increased reliability and less costly downtime.
  • Faster and more reliable access to cloud based services.
  • Lower latency and faster data transfers.
  • Higher quality, uninterrupted streaming and conferencing.

To find out more about fiber optic internet pricing and affordability, please call Fastmetrics toll-free; 1-800-724-100 or contact us via online chat.

How is fiber optic internet installed?

If existing fiber optic internet cables are available in your city, town or neighborhood, fiber installation into a home or business can vary, based on unique locational needs. For Fiber To The Premise (FTTP) or Fiber To The Home (FTTH), installation may include the laying of fiber cable, splicing and provisioning of network equipment. Once a connection is made, an optical network terminal (ONT) will need to be installed. Once installed, a technician will connect the ONT to your router, switch or directly to a single computer. For a Fiber To The Node (FTTN) installation, fiber cable will terminate at a nearby off premise hub. The final distance from the fiber node or ‘hub’ to a home or business will be run with cable or DSL technology.

Be sure to ask your local internet service provider what type of fiber optic connection is available to you. Also ask about any costs and equipment requirements, associated with installation for your home or business.

Does fiber optic internet require a modem?

Assuming FTTP or FTTH is available, you will not need a modem. You will likely need a similar device, such as a switch. In some cases, a fiber optic internet connection will require the use of an optical network terminal (ONT). This hardware translates the light signal into digital signals that can be used to terminate the line and provide a signal for telephone, television, and internet purposes.

Is fiber optic internet good for gaming?

For many gamers, internet speed and bandwidth is essential for productive gaming sessions. Because fiber optic internet provides lower latency and is capable of downloading games and movies at a faster rate when compared to other internet connections, many support fiber as the ideal solution for both gaming and HD video streaming.

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