General Fiber FAQs

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Question: What is fiber-to-the-home?

Answer: Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) is the delivery of a communications signal over optical fiber from the operator’s switching equipment all the way to a home or business, thereby replacing existing copper infrastructure such as telephone wires and coaxial cable. Fiber-to-the-home is a relatively new and fast-growing growing method of providing vastly higher bandwidth to consumers. It enables more robust video, internet and voice services. FTTH is also called Fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) or Fiber-to-the-X (FTTX).

Question: What is optical fiber?

Answer: Optical fiber uses light instead of electricity to carry a signal. It is unique because it can carry high bandwidth signals over long distances without degradation. Copper can also carry high bandwidth, but only for a few hundred yards. Optical fiber has been used in communications networks for more than 30 years, and is now used to connect countries, cities, buildings and even within buildings.

Question: Why is fiber optic cable now being connected directly to homes?

Answer: Fiber is a “future proof” technology. Fiber deployments today will typically offer 1 gigabit per second, but can transmit at much higher rates. City-to-city fiber connections may run at 10 or 40 gigabits per second. Lab tests have pushed 255 terabits per second on a single strand of glass fiber. The ability for fiber to serve the needs of today and well into the future makes building FTTH networks important.

Question: What is a gigabit?

Answer: One gigabit per second (Gbps) is a 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps) connection. With Gigabit (or Gig) fiber, you’ll get Internet speeds up to 1 Gbps. That means enough Internet for everyone in your home—and their devices. Everyone at home can have a super-fast connection on their computers, smartphones, tablets, and more—at the same time.

Question: Why do faster Internet speeds matter?

Answer: Faster Internet speeds will help revolutionize the web in new ways. Imagine chatting with your doctors or teachers via HD video conference, or collaborating on a work or school project with contributors across the globe in real time. Imagine new online billing applications that don’t freeze. Or automatically saving all of your work to the cloud in a blink of an eye—and not having to worry about losing files in a computer crash. Faster speeds mean more possibilities.

Question: Why do we need all that bandwidth? Aren’t cable and DSL systems good enough for what most people want to do?

Answer: If all you want to do is surf web pages, download a few songs, send and receive some photographs, or watch streaming video at current picture quality levels, then the bandwidth provided by today’s cable modems and DSL lines is probably good enough. But the world is moving toward vastly higher bandwidth applications. Feature length movies are now available for download. Individuals are uploading their own home movies into emails and social media platforms. High-definition video is the new normal and one high-definition movie takes up as much bandwidth as 35,000 web pages. All of these applications – and many others we haven’t even dreamed of yet – are going to require much greater bandwidth than what is generally available today, even from so-called “broadband” providers.

Question: Why can’t I get these high-bandwidth applications with DSL or cable Internet service?

Answer: DSL and cable Internet rely on copper wire to deliver signals to your home – and copper can deliver high bandwidth only over very short distances. That’s fine if you happen to live a few hundred yards from your provider’s switching station, but most people don’t. Optical fiber does not have this limitation and thus is able to carry high bandwidth signals over great distances to homes and businesses. Only fiber-to-the-home can deliver the immense bandwidth that the applications of the future will require.

Question: I’ve heard that wireless technologies like WiFi and 4G/LTE can deliver the same kind of service as fiber-to-the-home without having to go through the trouble of installing new wires into homes. Is this true?

Answer: No. Wireless broadband is subject to spectrum availability – the cost of which limits the bandwidth, and hence the applications it can provide. The wireless technologies cannot deliver high definition television – and, in fact, they can have trouble delivering standard television. And HDTV is only one of the many high-broadband applications now being developed for our broadband future.

Question: How does the U.S. compare internationally in terms high speed Internet?

Answer: South Korea is the world leader, with average internet speed of 27 Mbps compared with USA at 16.3. Hong Kong and many European nations also lead the U.S. in the number of homes connected directly to fiber networks. However, the U.S. now leads all these countries in annual growth in the number of connections.

Question: Is fiber-to-the-home service affordable?

Answer: Fiber-to-the-home services are being rolled out at prices that are competitive. In places where consumers have previously had little or no choice in their Internet services, the addition of a fiber-to-the-home competitor has helped keep prices down and lift service quality.