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Fiber vs. Ethernet Cable vs. DSL: Which Is Better?

April 10, 2020

Nowadays, the Internet plays an important role in personal and business usage. Internet providers continue to enhance their infrastructures, providing different internet services. Before deploying the internet, you need to determine what kind of internet connection suits your needs. In this post, our focus will be on fiber vs. Etherner cable vs. DSL, the three types of physical wires for internet connections.

Fiber vs. Ethernet Cable vs. DSL Cable: What's the difference?

Structure

To some extent, DSL cables have a similar structure as Ethernet cables: both of them are constructed of copper cables to transfer data using electrical impulse. The difference is that DSL uses the standard phone plug while typical Ethernet cables have two extra pairs of twisted copper wires with a larger plug as shown in the figure below. As for the fiber optic cable, the structure is evidently distinct. Optical cable consists of fiber core wire, outer jacket and strengthening members, and it delivers data using fiber instead.

Fiber vs. Ethernet Cable vs. DSL Cable

Speed

Speed is a key point for choosing the best cable for the Internet. Historically, DSL speeds are slow and it is difficult to specify the exact speed. How fast the DSL is often depends on your DSL internet provider and the technology used, generally less than 1 Mbps, but still some up to 100 Mbps.

Ethernet speed has been limited to 10 Mbps once a while, however, the development of Fast Gigabit offers rates of up to 100 Mbps and now Gigabit Ethernet is getting popular, delivering data at a higher rate. For home use, in general, Ethernet cable download speed usually starts from 10Mbps to 500Mbps, and the upload speed is from 5Mbps to 50Mbps.

Fiber optic cable speed is the fastest among these three internet access technologies. The download and upload speed of a fiber patch cord can be anywhere from 250Mbps to 1000Mbps and not affected by the distance from ISP. Fiber optic cables usually contain many strands, and a single strand of fiber optic cable has been proven to be able to carry data at up to an extremely fast 100Tbps, which suggests the superior speed of fiber optic cables.

Fiber Optic Cable

Security

DSL provides customers with a dedicated line, therefore it is less likely to cause Internet security issues. The information passes between the central office and the customers’ home without passing through connection to other customers’ modem.

Ethernet cables using electrical signals are vulnerable to electromagnetic interference and easy to get intercepted by hackers at the hardware level.

The light transmission in fiber optic cables is not susceptible to EMI and RFI as the copper connections do and any physical break in the system is easy to identify, thus there is no way for hackers to listen in on the transmission. Overall, fiber optic cables are the most secure ones with high security and low privacy risk.

Cost

The cost of DSL, Ethernet or fiber cable varies depending on your specific need, your location, your provider, the terms of the agreement and other elements. When you are about to install one of them for internet access, you should take not only the cable cost into account but also the installation and activation fees.

Typically, the fiber optic internet cost is the most expensive one because the fiber installation is more complicated than coax with many variables to be considered and you need to pay for the devices matched with fiber optic cables, professional installers, etc. Since the Ethernet cable infrastructure is more expensive than the telephone, ethernet cable installation costs more compared with DSL.

Fiber vs. Ethernet vs. DSL Cable: Comparison of Pros and Cons

fiber optic cable ethernet cable DSL cable
Pros gigabit speed higher speed economical
large communication capacity widely available widely available
Cons higher price higher cost slower speed
limited availability speed can be affected unstable connection

Conclusion

Overall, DSL cable is suitable for rural customers, ethernet cable is ideal for people who don’t have access to fiber or they have no requirements for lightning-fast speeds. As for Fiber optic cables, though they have not been so available as the scale of DSL and Ethernet cables, the big advantages of fast speed and high security, which is also the tendency of the network, can not be denied, so they are best for individuals or businesses that need the fastest internet connections and highest security. And we can expect that fiber optic cables will develop to a point that it will become the mainstream of internet connections.

FAQ about Fiber vs. Ethernet Cable vs. DSL Cable

What Is Fiber Optic Cable?

Fiber optic cable is a high-speed data transmission medium, it contains one or more optical fibers that are used to carry light. Fiber optic cable is a relatively new method for internet access at home and business. When it comes to fiber optic cables, fast speed is what people often evaluate. Indeed, fiber cables used for the Internet are synonymous with high speed, especially when using over long distances.

How Does Fiber Optic Cable Work?

The fiber cable contains strands of glass or plastic fibers inside an insulated casing. With this method, the strands of fibers can carry data through light inside the line. There are two main types of fiber optic cables: Single Mode Fiber (SMF) and Multi-Mode Fiber (MMF). For more information about SMF vs MMF, you can refer to Single Mode vs Multimode Fiber: What’s the Difference?

What Is Ethernet Cable?

Ethernet cables are the most common network cable type in our daily life. It connects network devices such as PCs, routers, and switches within a local area network.

The commonly used Ethernet cord types are Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat7 and the new category Cat8. Each new promotion of category supports increasingly faster bandwidth speeds and improves upon the signal-to-noise ratio.

Among these network cables, Cat6 cables remain popular in home use, and Cat7 and Cat8 cables are aimed at business users who need higher speeds and higher bandwidth.

What Is DSL Cable?

DSL is short for Digital Subscriber Line. It is one of the oldest Internet technologies which is used by homes or businesses to send and receive data via copper telephone lines.

It seems much like dial-up because they both use your phone line to transfer data and connect you to the internet. However, DSL cable is a step above dial-up internet: It enables you to make a phone call and go on the internet at the same time while you can only do one at a time when using dial-up connections. There are two types of DSL cable: Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL) and Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL). SDSL offers equal upload and download speeds while ADSL offers download speeds higher than upload speeds.

Is Fiber Internet Better?

Compared to DSL cable or Ethernet cable, you will find that the fiber Internet won’t slow down no matter how far you are from your ISP. They are reliable in quality and there will future-proof technology for better improvement. In addition, the fiber Internet also support a lot of people access it at the same time without affecting the overall performance.

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