ADSL vs Fiber Optics: What connection do I use at Home?

Although fiber is the future, there are still situations in which ADSL has not said its last word. What are the differences between ADSL and fiber optics?

Little by little, now, in a hurry and without pause, fiber optic is reaching every home. At least in the large populations. Both operators and content servers are interested in users having fast connections to offer them 4K resolution, music and movies, online gaming, virtual reality and other content that requires a high connection speed.

Companies are launching aggressive fiber deployment campaigns (where available), with prices at the same level as ADSL. Even so, there are still cheaper ADSL rates, or maybe you do not know the advantages of fiber and you want to discover them when you arrive in your area.

Let’s try to clarify the ADSL vs. Fiber optics dilemma: What connection do I use at home?

ADSL : the true promoter of the Internet

Although Internet came to our homes in the 90s through the classic copper telephone line, sharing channel with calls (if you spoke by phone you could not connect to the Internet), ADSL has been in charge of turning the Network into a tool universal, thanks to its greater speed and the ability to talk and be connected at the same time.

The advantage of ADSL is its easy installation and deployment since it uses the same infrastructure as the telephone line. The same copper cable that has been used for decades. It is also easy to repair if there is a fault. For that reason, it can be deployed in isolated towns and villages without too many problems if the telephone line arrives.

In return, ADSL has two important limitations. The first is its dependence on a switchboard or nearby repeater. As further from the switchboard is the router, less connection speed you will get. The maximum distance is about 5 kilometers. For that reason, as it is unlikely that your house is next to a switchboard, the actual speed you get is always lower than the speed contracted.

In addition, the ADSL speed is asymmetric, that is, the data download/download rate is ten times higher than the upload/upload rate. For example, a 30 Mbps ADSL line refers to the download speed. The upload speed is around 3 Mbps. This is a problem if you have to upload a lot of content to the Internet, for example, if you are a Youtuber or you work on video projects or 3D graphics that require sharing them through the cloud. The low upload speed also affects the latency, which can cause problems in specific tasks such as online gaming.

Another problem derived from its technology is that the ADSL connections of the same exchange share the same flow (although not the same line of the copper pair), so when all are connected at the same time, in the peak hours of the day, the speed is reduced. A traffic jam also occurs when two or more people share the same connection. With ADSL it is almost impossible to watch a movie or play online at the same time, for example.

The current domestic ADSL has a speed that varies between 10 and 100 Mbps.

There are other minor factors to consider. The ADSL does not require installation because it works through the standard telephone line. At the most there will be a splitter or discriminator, which does not even require installation. On the contrary, the fiber requires carrying the fiber cable to the interior of the home. Although it is not complicated, it requires asking the landlord for permission, if you live in a rental house.

In summary, the advantages of ADSL are easy installation and repair, its wide coverage in remote populations, and an acceptable speed for everyday Internet use. Among their handicaps are the asymmetric connection, you never reach the speed you hire, and the impossibility of reaching high speeds, along with aspects such as high latency and shared use.

Fiber, a new world of content

The main asset of fiber is in its infrastructure. It is much more modern than the ADSL, and that affects performance and reliability. It retransmits by light through an optical cable, so it can reach higher speeds at greater distances. It does not need a switchboard nearby. Currently, the most common speeds vary between 30 and 300 Mbps.

Unlike the ADSL, which never reaches the speed you hire (if you have ADSL of 20 Mbps you can only get 13 or 14 Mbps), the fiber always works at the contracted speed.

The fiber is also symmetrical: the speed of rise and fall is the same. It is more appropriate, therefore, if you upload many videos or files to the Internet, or perform tasks that require uploading and downloading data in a similar way, such as video conferences or online games. It also has lower latency than ADSL, an important aspect in multiplayer action games. But keep in mind that there are cheap fiber rates that are asymmetric (for example, 50 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up). If you want symmetry, you will have to pay around € 5 more per month.

Although fiber breakdowns are easier to locate, because there are mechanisms to discover which sections are produced, they are also more difficult to repair. If you break the router or the fiber wiring in your house and it’s your fault, it’s more expensive to repair than the ADSL.

Since fiber relays data through light, it is more secure than ADSL. It is an aspect to take into account if you are autonomous or you are going to contract the connection for a company and you are worried about security, although the possibility of a programmer trying to access your connection in a specific way is low.

ADSL or fiber?

Many operators offer the most basic fiber at the same price as the ADSL. In that case, there is no color. Choose the fiber. But if you have access to a cheaper ADSL rate, or are tempted by a higher fiber speed, you have to assess whether it pays to spend more.

I prefer the ADSL

Choose ADSL if it’s cheaper and yes:

  • You use the Internet at a basic level (mail, websites, social networks)
  • You will not hire pay TV
  • Do not play online
  • You do not want to perform an installation
  • You live in a rental house and do not want to introduce wiring
  • Live alone or only one person uses the Internet intensively

I’ll take the fiber

Even if you have to pay a little more, the fiber interests you:

  • The ADSL switchboard is far from your location
  • You want to have the speed you contract
  • Upload content (videos, photos, files) constantly to the Internet
  • Play online
  • You make videoconferences
  • You will hire Internet TV
  • You have a TV or a 4K monitor
  • Many people in your house connect at the same time

You must also value the commitment to stay. Fewer and fewer fees include it, but you should check it to avoid being tied too long to a company.

Choosing between ADSL and fiber, when the budget or location requires it, requires thinking about it and having very clear concepts. We hope this article will help you choose. Which one do you prefer?

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