No doubt you have come across an ad or have heard someone talking about 5G — that it is here, and it is fantastic. The news surrounding 5G has sparked a lot of questions; Is 5G available for everyone to use? How does 5G compare to Fiber Internet? Is 5G any better than what is available today? The barrage of ads hyping up 5G has led to a lot of confusion, especially among the uninformed consumer. Below we will get into the minutia of which technology is better for your home and business for today and tomorrow, Fiber Internet or 5G.
Fiber Internet is not like your typical DSL or cable Internet. It allows for faster speeds and is far more reliable; it will take your streaming, surfing, gaming, working, and learning that you do online to the next level! With Fiber Internet, you will experience faster upload and download speeds; unlimited bandwidth that gives way to using several devices at the same time and experiencing minimal to no buffering for seamless gaming, video conferencing, and so much more. 5G is a new wireless technology that works in three different groups, or bands, of radio frequencies — low, middle, and high. 5G speeds in each frequency band vary widely. The low band has the lowest speeds, with more simultaneous users and bandwidth at the middle and high frequency bands. The vast number of unused frequencies is the most significant benefit of the high-band tier. 5G will allow for greater numbers of channels and, in turn, faster speeds, lower latency, and the ability to connect more devices at the same time.
Today fiber Internet is helping to transform communities around the world by bringing faster and more reliable Internet speeds to homes and businesses. Fiber Internet allows users to connect to the next generation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. A fiber Internet connection can supply enough bandwidth to support the latest tech gadgets on the market for consumers from newer smartphones to tablets, home automation devices, advanced game systems, and easy, buffer-free streaming of online and TV content.
To better understand why Fiber Internet is the best technology for the 21st century, it is important to understand what makes Fiber Internet so much better. Fiber Internet networks are made up of fiber optic cables, which are comprised of long thin, carefully crafted strands of glass covered in a hard-plastic sheath for durability. The glass has the ability to pass a large number of light frequencies through the strand with very little loss allowing for faster transmission of information. The light in the fiber strand can carry over hundreds of miles without encountering any interruptions, giving way to more usable bandwidth than coaxial cables.
Fiber Advantage #1: Low Latency
Low latency is another area where fiber shines. Latency is the delay in transmission time it takes data to travel from one point to another. Low latency is very important for time-sensitive uses of the Internet like phone and video calls, online video gaming, stock trading, and other applications where any delay matters. Fiber Internet uses a glass strand where light easily passes through the strand with little to zero interruptions, which gives way to faster travel times for data. A fiber Internet connection typically has much lower latency than 5G, wireless, cable or DSL.
Fiber Advantage #2: High Speed
Internet speeds, or bandwidth, in fiber networks exceed that of 5G, wireless, DSL, cable, or hybrid systems. This is due to the higher capacity of fiber optics and its ability to support large amounts of data transmissions over long distances. Today’s fiber-optic systems have been found to scale to incredible throughput speeds. Researchers have found that a 100% fiber optic-based system can offer speeds over 100 terabits a second. That is 100,000 Gigabits a second! No wireline or wireless system has been found to reach even close to these speeds.
Currently, fiber is only limited in speed by the technology we place at each end. This makes direct fiber to the home and business a “future-proof” investment for communities and network carriers. Once the fiber cable is installed to a home or business, speed upgrades are just a matter of upgrading the equipment on both ends of the fiber. This means that once you have fiber Internet installed, moving to higher speeds will be quick and easy.
We know mobile wireless delivers data service to mobile devices through the air and is one of the few ways to offer flexible Internet service to public areas. Over the past few decades, wireless and wireline Internet services have coexisted to deliver various Internet options to consumers and businesses. Fifth-generation cellular Internet service, known as 5G, is marketed to compete directly with wireline options, marketing the idea to replace your other Internet services altogether.
5G is a wireless technology that delivers data service to mobile devices through the air like other wireless phone services. Wireless service is deployed through a wireless base station that serves the surrounding area. As a result, 5G transmitters will work more like WiFi, providing service to small, open areas, rather than drop-in replacements for 4G. In addition, wireless signals diminish in power over a distance far more quickly than fiber; therefore, to cover the same area as traditional wireless systems, 5G availability requires more devices at different locations to be deployed. Like its predecessors, 5G continues to use fiber optics to serve these transmitter sites.
5G Disadvantage #1: Higher Latency
5G promises some latency improvements over 4G/LTE to users. Technology improvements to antennas and encoding equipment will allow mobile phone carriers to make better use of data passing through the system; however, long-distance 5G does not look to be a step forward at this time. Latency challenges persist due to the nature of wireless technology, and the short coverage area that is central to 5G technology makes for a difficult replacement for wireline and fiber connectivity options.
5G Disadvantage #2: Inconsistent Speeds
In optimal conditions that rely heavily on signal strength and interference, 5G’s speeds are much faster than its predecessors. 5G is prone to external issues due to the nature of its use of high-frequency wave signals. The high-frequency wave signals do not easily pass through buildings, thick foliage, inclement weather, or other obstacles. Tests have revealed that 5G has a difficult time penetrating walls and modern UV coated windows, this issue is reduced by additional equipment being placed within the building or home. The most commonly delivered 5G, low-band, will deliver speeds around 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps. This looks to be the predominant user experience within structures, and behind obstructions once services are rolled out with the additional equipment. The high band can see speeds up to 2 Gbps but is limited to what has been called the “5G shuffle”. This “shuffle” is the bouncing around between local 5G transmitters to deliver gigabit speeds. Both distance and interference can dramatically decrease this performance.
Technology is continually evolving and making significant advancements every day. Fiber Internet is one technology that has been proven to scale to the needs of individuals and businesses alike and will be used well into the future. 5G offers excellent flexibility while on the go in areas where it is fully deployed. But 5G is still very new, and how it will actually work in real-world scenarios has yet to be seen. What we do know is that fiber Internet delivers faster speeds and is the way to go for the most reliable service with the ability to reach incredible speeds in the very near future.
And for third party’s perspective on fiber vs 5G check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s article on the subject: Why Fiber is Vastly Superior to Cable and 5G.
Published: March 30, 2020