February 23, 2024

How Does Fiber Internet Work? FAQ for Businesses

In this article, we answer key questions for business owners undergoing digital transformation about how fiber-optic internet works. This technology provides the highest data transmission speeds available for accessing any content.

On one hand, trends in internet access have shifted dramatically over the last 20 years: the newest technologies offer incredible data transmission speeds that were previously thought impossible. On the other hand, the proliferation of high-speed internet still leaves much to be desired.

The highest data transmission speed is offered by fiber-optic internet connections. However, in the early 2020s, it still covers only about 20% of the North American market. The most common type, accounting for more than 50%, is the slower cable internet connection.

Moreover, in some areas, the outdated DSL technology is still in use, and many users only have access to mobile connections. This is very important to consider when developing websites or mobile applications for your business.

What Types of Internet Are Used Today?

Business clients of all sizes and industries can use various technologies to connect to the internet. Moreover, they often combine them: cellular networks are used on the go, while at home or in the office, preference is given to cable or fiber-optic connections.

1. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)

Internet connections via DSL use telephone lines to send data. On one hand, this type of connection is still quite widespread and accessible in North America. On the other hand, it offers very low data transmission speeds and high latency.

2. Cable Internet

Statistics show that about half of your business's potential clients in the USA and Canada use coaxial cable internet connections. This technology, similar to cable television, offers faster speeds than DSL, but its quality can decrease due to the high number of users, connected via copper wire.

3. Fiber-Optic Internet

Fiber-optic internet provides some of the highest data transmission speeds by using light signals transmitted through fiber optic cable as thick as a human hair. Fiber connections are ideal for consuming high-quality content, including high-definition video.

4. Satellite Internet

Satellite internet, such as Starlink promoted by Elon Musk, is available almost anywhere on the planet. It is generally considered fast, but its quality can vary significantly depending on various factors. Moreover, the connection is usually quite expensive.

5. Mobile Internet (3G, 4G/LTE, 5G)

Mobile internet connections deserve special attention. Their quality and speed greatly depend on the technology used by consumers. 5G, the latest generation of mobile networks, guarantees high speed and minimal latency. However, it is not available everywhere and to everyone.

The primary advantage of a fiber connection is often its high data transmission speed.

What Are the Advantages of Fiber Internet?

Fiber networks represent one of the most advanced ways to connect to the internet, essentially using light to transmit data. This technology is significantly different from traditional methods of connection, such as DSL and cable internet connections, offering numerous advantages to users.

1. High Data Transmission Speed

The data transmission speed of fiber networks far exceeds the capabilities of most other types of internet connections. This allows for streaming video content in the highest quality, playing games with minimal delays, and more.

2. Low Latency

Since this type of internet connection uses light signals to transmit data, information is delivered with much lower latency. This is important for modern multiplayer games as well as video conferencing, which is especially crucial for remote work.

3. High Reliability

Fiber cables are the least susceptible to any external influences, including electromagnetic interference. Moreover, they are not prone to corrosion, thus providing a more stable and reliable connection over a really long period.

4. Symmetrical Connection

Unlike most other types of connections, fiber internet often offers equally high upload and download speeds, which is ideal for using cloud services that are becoming increasingly popular year by year.

5. Scalability and Future Development

To increase the bandwidth of the current fiber network, it is often not necessary to change cables. Therefore, investment in it becomes a significant contribution to the future, as users' needs for high-speed data transmission are constantly increasing.

The key disadvantage of a fiber internet connection is often considered to be the cost of deploying the network.

What Are the Disadvantages of Fiber Internet?

Despite the numerous advantages, using fiber-optic internet is usually not without significant drawbacks that can negatively impact the decision to use it. The majority of these are related to the cost of implementation and maintenance.

1. High Installation Costs

In regions of North America where the necessary infrastructure is not yet in place, laying fiber-optic cables can be very costly. This leads to very high initial expenses for both users and companies operating in this niche.

2. Limited Coverage

Due to the low population density, especially in Canada, fiber networks may be unavailable to users in remote areas. This is important to consider when creating any internet resources whose target audience may be outside of major cities.

3. Complexity and Maintenance Costs

On one hand, fiber-optic cables are more resistant to external influences. On the other hand, their repair and maintenance can be much more complex and expensive compared to traditional cable networks. Both service providers and users take this into account.

4. Complexity of Installation in Existing Buildings

One particularly costly stage of implementing fiber networks is laying new cables in already constructed buildings. This requires significant effort, financial investment, and more. This is why this type of internet connection is often initially implemented in new developments.

5. Dependence on Physical Infrastructure

Fiber networks are quite reliable if protected from physical damage. The integrity of the equipment often suffers during construction works or natural disasters, leading to disruptions in high-speed internet connections.

The speed of internet connections through fiber networks is often most affected by network congestion.

Can Fiber-Optic Internet Speeds Vary?

The speed of fiber-optic internet varies depending on the quality of the equipment used, the distance to the data center, network congestion, service provider's tariff plans, regular maintenance, and the actual condition of the entire network as a whole.

What Are the Typical Speed Ranges for Fiber Optic Internet Service?

The base speed for fiber-optic internet usually starts at 100 Mbps and can reach 1 Gbps in premium connection packages. Moreover, some regions already offer services with speeds up to 10 Gbps, making such connections ideal for truly fast internet access.

What Types of Fiber-Optic Are Used for the Internet?

There are several types of fiber-optic cables that differ in operation principle, bandwidth, cost, complexity of installation, and more. Therefore, service providers most often choose between three basic types of fiber-optic cables:

  • Single-mode fiber — used for long distances data transmission.
  • Multi-mode fiber — typically used within buildings and for other short-distance applications.
  • Plastic Optical Fiber (POF) — cost-effective solutions for internal networks within homes and offices.
To take full advantage of speed of light internet, the equipment used must also support it.

What Equipment Do I Need for Fiber Optic Internet?

To connect to fiber-optic internet, you usually need a fiber-optic modem or router that can convert optical signals into data and handle high speeds. In North America, such equipment is most often provided by service providers.

Is Fiber Optic Internet Available Everywhere?

As previously noted, fiber connection is available to only 20% of consumers in North America. Therefore, when developing any digital products for end-users, it's important to also consider more common cable and mobile types of internet connections.

How Does Fiber Optic Internet Impact Home Office or Remote Work?

The high data transmission speed and minimal delays when using the internet allow for the exchange of large volumes of data, active use of cloud technologies, participation in video conferences, and not worrying about the capabilities of your internet connection.

What Future Developments Can We Expect in Fiber Optic Internet Technology?

In the last couple of years, the availability of fiber-optic internet has increased by 10%. Furthermore, service providers in North America intend to annually increase the number of access points to high-speed optical network by 2–2.5 million. According to experts, the fiber market is expected to grow by almost 30% from 2023 to 2030.

All this indicates that in the near future, high internet speeds will become available to an even greater number of users, that get fiber. This information is important to incorporate into the future strategy for developing and evolving websites or mobile applications for your business.

Is your business in the need of a digital transformation?


Nick Gric



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