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Data speed has always mattered when it comes to internet service, but it matters today more than ever. After all, these days, people are streaming HD video for hours a day and using sophisticated digital collaboration tools in both their personal and professional lives.
Fiber internet is equipped to provide the speeds that modern consumers need. You’ve probably heard about this technology that’s supposed to provide the next generation of internet service, but is it available in your area? Do you need special parts like NEMA enclosures to install your connection? What about the different types of fiber like FTTP and FTTC that you might have heard of?
If you’re not sure where to start with investigating your options for fiber internet, this guide is for you. We’ll explore what fiber internet is, its advantages and drawbacks, and how you can get your home wired for speed.
What Is Fiber Internet?
Fiber internet is a technology that provides internet service over extremely high-speed fiber-optic cables. By changing the physical medium that we use to receive internet service, fiber internet will change the whole game.
Here’s how: Right now, most people in the U.S. get their internet service through coaxial cable internet, although some areas are still stuck with older technologies like DSL or even dial-up. All of these technologies use copper wire to transmit the signals that carry information over the internet.
In contrast, fiber optic cables are made from long, ultra-thin strands of glass that transmit extremely fast light pulses. Telecom companies already use these cables for the core “trunk line” infrastructure of the internet that carries data around the world, but they’ve only recently started bringing fiber to consumer internet packages.
Pros and Cons of Fiber Internet
- Fiber internet is, by far, the fastest internet technology we have right now. Its upload speeds, in particular, are a huge step up from copper wire service.
- Fiber cables experience less signal loss than copper cables. Since the cables don’t transmit electricity, they’re immune to electromagnetic interference from both nearby devices and weather conditions.
- Fiber internet is a “future-proof” technology in that it’s not being used for anything close to its maximum potential data speeds right now. When we require higher speeds, fiber will be there waiting for us.
- Fiber doesn’t experience the same network slowdowns that copper networks do when too many users are competing for bandwidth simultaneously.
- Fiber cables are more secure than coaxial cables because they’re extremely difficult to intercept signals from.
- Currently, fiber internet service is still usually more expensive than cable internet. The price is coming down, but very slowly, which prevents it from being an accessible technology for many people.
- Fiber broadband infrastructure is still unavailable in large portions of the U.S., including both rural and some urban areas. You might not have the option to get fiber at all, or you might be stuck with a slower form of fiber.
- The cost and effort of installing fiber currently might not be worth it for users who are happy with their current cable internet speeds. However, in the future, remote collaboration apps and other tools may require you to upgrade anyway.
Can I Get Fiber Internet Where I Live?
You might have heard that one of the biggest obstacles to fiber adoption is that a lot of people don’t have access to it. However, that’s finally starting to change, so start by researching whether you’re one of the approximately one-third of consumers who now have the option for fiber broadband.
The good news is that many cities, large and small, have worked hard with telecom partners to expand fiber coverage. If you live in a city like Dallas, Denver, Seattle, or Atlanta, there’s a strong chance that you have at least one fiber broadband provider available. Even some small towns have made big investments in their fiber networks to lure businesses and remote workers.
The bad news is that a lot of Americans still don’t have access to high speed fiber infrastructure. If you’re part of the two-thirds who lack it, there’s unfortunately not a lot you can do other than contact your elected representatives and ISPs to let them know that fiber infrastructure is a high priority for you.
Types of Fiber
You’ll find several different types of fiber broadband available on the market today. Here’s the difference between them:
- Fiber to the Premises: The fastest and most direct type of fiber broadband, FTTP runs a fiber service line directly to your home. Unlike other types, it doesn’t use coaxial cables at all—it’s pure fiber, all the way down to the network box. It’s also more expensive than other types of fiber.
- Fiber to the Curb: FTTC involves installing a series of fiber optic cable nets in neighborhoods that serve the immediate neighborhood, usually within a range of about 1,000 feet. Then, standard coaxial cables provide the connection to your house. It’s not as fast as FTTP, but it’s cheaper to install, and the cables’ short distance means FTTC is still quite peppy.
- Fiber to the Node: In FTTN, the ISP connects a fiber optic line to a local node that serves hundreds or thousands of local households over copper coax cables. It’s the slowest type of fiber internet.
What Do I Need for Fiber Internet?
First, your home needs a fiber broadband connection. There’s a chance your home might already be wired for fiber internet if a previous owner or tenant had it installed. If you’re not wired for fiber broadband yet, contact an ISP that offers fiber and learn about their offerings.
The process of installing fiber isn’t too tricky. A technician from your ISP will come and install an optical network terminal (ONT) box in your home. This is basically the fiber equivalent of a modem, in that it serves as the primary interface between the larger telecom network and your home internet.
ONT boxes aren’t commercially available, so you won’t need to buy your own, and you might even forget it’s there after a while. ONTs are often installed outside, out of sight, with an IP65 enclosure or a similar outdoor box to make sure weather can’t harm them. Again, there’s no need to buy your own enclosure.
Last but not least, you’ll need a router that matches the speed capabilities of your fiber connection. Numerous models of gigabit internet routers are now available to give you the blazing-fast speeds that you’ve always wanted—and, with fiber internet, the speeds that you’ll now have.