What are the differences between fiber optics and other types of internet connections offering similar speeds?

Fibre optique

In the past few months, we have witnessed the appearance on the market of new types of internet connections offering similar speeds to those provided by fiber optics – all the while at cheaper prices. As with many other business managers, you may be asking yourself what differences are there between fiber optics and other internet connections providing the same relative speeds.


A brief on internet connections types and the differences with fiber optics

There exist two main alternatives to fiber optics: coax cable and the likes of FTTN and FTTB connections. Here is a brief explanation of each.

Coax cable, mostly provided by vendors such as Rogers, Videotron and Cogeco, uses DOCSIS technologies to split and compress the bandwidth offered over cable across multiple channels in order to provide speeds of up to 1 GB.

This class of speed will satisfy most business requirements for traditional internet usage. However, it contains a major flaw for VoIP as each packet transported over DOCSIS must be disassembled at the outgoing end and reassembled at the incoming end. This creates an important latency issue, and latency is IP telephony’s worst enemy. It is also important to note that coax connections are not symmetrical, meaning that upload speeds are much slower than download speeds.

If it is acceptable to view internet pages with some delay, as imperceptible as they may seem, for VoIP packets it quickly becomes a quality of service issues greatly impacting the MOS score.

FTTN (fiber to the node) and FTTB (fiber to the business) are used by traditional telephone companies like Bell and Telus.

FTTN is not an end-to-end fiber network. Fiber stops at the neighborhood node, hence its name, and from there, copper cables are used to connect to the enterprise. Note that copper connection speeds quickly degrade over distance and that they are very sensitive to weather conditions (cold, snow, rain). As with coax connections, they are not symmetrical, where uploads are much slower than downloads.

Whether it is FTTN or FTTB, the main problem with these internet connections is the use of modems in the vast majority of cases. This main role of this equipment piece is to modulate and demodulate IP packets, hence its name, in order to transmit them over the network. A modem therefore does not transport IP packets natively, it must perform a translation before sending and after receiving thus causing latency, which, we explained, is atrocious for VoIP.

Speed is good, but quality is better

Speed is good, always. But internet connections must also be measured by their quality.

An article on the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) web site mentions that “speed (also known as bandwidth and measured in MB or GB) is just one of many components of internet quality. It’s an important one, to be sure, but it only tells part of the story. In reality, there are a wide variety of other metrics – such as latency, jitter, packet loss – that play a role in providing us with a more comprehensive measure of internet quality along with a better online experience.”

Only private IP networks offered by IP4B ensure an exceptional quality of service independently of the underlying transport network.


Organizations want more speed and they want it at the best possible price point. However, this clearly must not be at the detriment of the quality required to offer exceptional VoIP quality of service.

Are you interested in learning more about the differences between internet connections? We invite you to contact one of our senior advisors in order to have an honest discussion on this very topic.