Fiber vs Cable Internet: Understanding the Difference

Fiber Internet

  • Symmetrical Internet Speeds
  • Limited availability
  • Ultra-low latency 
  • Best for VR & AR gaming

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Cable Internet

  • Asymmetric Internet Speeds 
  • Widely available
  • Slower upload capabilities 
  • Best for HD Video Streaming

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They are not just different at their core, they are different in their price, performance, speeds, coverage, and much more. 

If you have been wondering about the differences between fiber and cable internet services, then you are in luck because we will use the most recent data and real-life examples to explore these two broadband technologies. 

It is their distinction that makes them unique so let’s understand those first before you ditch one for the other.

Table of Contents

What is Fiber Optic Internet?

Fiber-optic internet is the fastest broadband technology that is currently available in the USA. Thin strands made of glass are combined to form fiber-optic cables. These cables are used to transmit internet signals in the form of light pulses. So, it can be said that fiber-optic internet distributes internet data at the speed of light. 

The high bandwidth capabilities of a fiber internet allow it to deliver equal upload and download speeds of up to 100 Gbps (100,000 Mbps). However, for home internet users, the maximum speeds are capped at 50 Gbps (only offered by Ziply Fiber). 



  • Blistering-fast speeds 
  • Symmetrical upload and download speeds 
  • 99.99 percent network reliability 
  • Ultra-low latency 
  • Better gaming performance 
  • Future-proof


  • Limited availability around the country 
  • Expensive to construct and maintain 
  • Higher speed tiers can be costly

Best Fiber Internet Providers

There are over one thousand fiber internet providers in the USA. Together, they offer speeds of up to 50 Gigs for a starting price of $39.99 per month. The following are the 5 best fiber internet providers in the USA, serving more than 30 million subscribers.

Provider  Starting Price  Maximum Speed  Customer Rating 
AT&T Fiber  $55.00/mo.  5,000 Mbps  4.50/ 5 stars 
Verizon Fios  $49.99/mo.  2,000 Mbps  3.61/ 5 stars
Optimum Fiber  $40.00/mo.  8,000 Mbps  3.80/ 5 stars 
Frontier Fiber  $44.99/mo.  5,000 Mbps  3.30/ 5 stars 
Kinetic (Windstream) $39.99/mo.  8,000 Mbps  3.03/ 5 stars 

What is Cable Internet?

Cable internet is the second most popular type of broadband technology in the United States. Cable internet service providers use the existing coaxial cable network, installed by cable TV providers, to transmit high-speed internet service to individual homes. 

Nearly 85 percent of the homes in America can access download speeds of up to 1 Gig on their cable internet plans. Some cable internet providers like Xfinity, Cox, and Mediacom can offer download speeds of up to 2 Gigs in select markets but the upload capabilities are limited to 1,000 Mbps or lower. 



  • Widely available (even in rural areas) 
  • 99.90 percent network uptime 
  • Ultrafast download speeds of up to 2,000 Mbps 
  • Comparatively less expensive plans than fiber
  • Cost-saving cable internet and TV bundles 
  • Low latency rate


  • Asymmetric speeds 
  • Slower upload capabilities 
  • Less popular for high-bandwidth activities

Best Cable Internet Providers

Out of the long list of internet service providers in the USA, 400+ offer coaxial cable internet. You can get a cable internet plan for as low as $20 per month and receive asymmetric speeds of up to 2 Gbps. Here are the top 5 cable internet providers in the country.

Provider  Starting Price  Maximum Speed  Customer Rating 
Spectrum  $49.99/mo.  1,000 Mbps  3.70/ 5 stars 
Xfinity  $20.00/mo.  1,200 Mbps  4.20/ 5 stars 
Cox Communications $50.00/mo.  1,000 Mbps  3.65/ 5 stars 
Optimum  $40.00/mo.  940 Mbps  3.80/ 5 stars
Mediacom  $24.99/mo.  2,000 Mbps  2.73/ 5 stars 

What is the Difference Between Fiber and Cable Internet?

The main difference between fiber and cable internet is their transmission method. The former uses fiber-optic cables while the latter relies on coaxial cables for broadband internet transmission. 

The difference in the type of internet connection affects all the other factors such as their speeds, cost, reliability, coverage area, and network performance. In this section, we will compare the two most widely used, wired, broadband technologies, fiber and cable internet,  to see how their distinct features translate to an increase or decrease in consumer demand.   

Fiber vs Cable Internet – At A Glance 
Features  Fiber Internet  Cable Internet 
Transmission Method   Fiber-optic cables  Coaxial cables 
Starting Price  $39.99/mo.  $20.00/mo.
Maximum Speed  50,000 Mbps  2,000 Mbps 
Upload/ Download Speed  Symmetric  Asymmetric 
Availability  85% of the US households  51.5% of the US households
Reliability  99.99% 99.90%
Typical Latency  10 to 12 ms 13 to 27 ms 
Best For  VR and AR gaming  HD video streaming 
Customer Preference  63% of the internet users  25.2% of the internet users

Price – Fiber vs Cable Internet 

A decade ago, fiber internet would have been considered a luxury for most internet users. But today, the story is quite different. Increased competition in the fiber broadband market has led to a reduction in monthly internet fees as fiber providers continue to outcompete one another based on price points. 

You can purchase a fiber internet plan for as low as $39.99 per month. However, multigigabit speed tiers can be as pricey as $300 per month. 

When it comes to the cost of cable internet, providers have generally kept the prices unchanged. On average, cable internet plans cost between $40 to $60 per month, with Xfinity deals being the cheapest. 

Speed – Fiber vs Cable Internet 

The fastest speed available on a fiber internet connection is 50 Gbps. In contrast, cable internet typically delivers speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps. If we follow these numbers, then fiber-optic internet is 50 times faster than cable internet. 

The hyperfast speeds of fiber internet become more obvious when we compare the maximum upload speeds of the two. Most cable internet providers in the nation can deliver up to 50 Mbps of upload speeds. 

Whereas, fiber internet is the only internet technology that can deliver equal upload speeds of up to 50 Gigs. Therefore, the upload speed of fiber internet is 1,000 times faster than cable internet. 

Availability – Fiber vs Cable Internet 

Fiber-optic cables are expensive to manufacture and maintain. Also, as the most advanced internet technology, their adoption has remained restricted across the country. 

At the moment, around 51.5 percent of U.S. households can access 100 percent fiber-optic network, of which AT&T and Verizon alone contribute 2.2 million route miles. In comparison, the cable internet network spans countrywide. More than 85 percent of the homes in America can connect to a coaxial cable network and enjoy gigabit speeds. 

Network Reliability – Fiber vs Cable Internet

Both, fiber and cable internet are extremely reliable and deliver maximum uptime, guaranteeing uninterrupted broadband connectivity. 

However, the structure of fiber-optic cables is better for reducing signal interference and the high bandwidth capabilities ensure that the connection is up and running even during peak hours. For this reason, the network reliability of fiber internet increases to 99.99 percent. 

On the other hand, cable internet providers offer reliability of up to 99.90 percent because speed fluctuations during network congestion are a common occurrence.  

Performance – Fiber vs Cable Internet

The performance of fiber internet is unmatched! With incredibly fast speeds ultra-low latencies and unlimited data allowance, fiber internet delivers the best value for the money. 

You can enjoy virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) gaming, ultra-high-definition (4K and 8K) video streaming, home automation, and cloud-based content sharing on fiber internet plans. It is the best type of internet to support multi-device connectivity on shared networks.  

Cable Internet ranks the second best on performance charts. Even though the slow upload speeds, slighter higher latency, and data caps (in the case of some providers and plans) make it inferior to a fiber-optic connection, you can still rely on it for most of the bandwidth-hungry online activities. 

Customer Preference – Fiber vs Cable Internet

According to an annual consumer research report, 63 percent of internet users in America, including those who are subscribed to cable internet, prefer fiber internet. They see it as a future-proof solution for digital connectivity and believe that applications for telehealth, home security, and senior independence work best over a fiber internet connection.

The same report states that customer demand for cable internet has dropped by 14 share points. Only 25.2 percent of the internet users who were surveyed still prefer cable internet over other forms of broadband technology. 

Is Fiber Optic Better than Cable Internet?

After going over all the differences between fiber and cable internet, we can undoubtedly say that fiber is the way to go. Its symmetrical multigigabit speeds and other features like low latency, high network reliability, unlimited data, and market competitive rates make it a sustainable option for future internet needs.

However, if you are living in an area that is yet to become fiber-ready, then cable internet is a good alternative for gigabit internet connectivity. Ultimately, the choice between fiber and cable internet will depend on your needs and circumstances. 

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