What is the Typical Fiber-Optic Speed?

Ken Black

Fiber-optic speed depends on a number of different factors, and typically ranges from 15 megabits per second (Mbps) on up, including whether fiber goes directly into the home, and the level of service purchased. For most individuals, no matter what level of service is provided, fiber-optic service is the fastest available for Internet connections, outperforming both cable and DSL services. Remember that actual speed may depend on a number of different factors, including network traffic and distance from the source.

Low-tier fiber-optic service can typically download 10 songs in less than 30 seconds.
Low-tier fiber-optic service can typically download 10 songs in less than 30 seconds.

Typically, for home users, fiber-optic speed begins at approximately 15 Mbps. This is approximately 3 Mbps faster than cable Internet service and approximately twice as fast as the fastest DSL service. It is a popular option for the home user because most providers have priced it competitively to those other types of services. Still, the price of fiber-optic service is usually slightly more than most of those services, because of that increase in speed.

Fiber-optic networks usually provide the fastest speed of all services.
Fiber-optic networks usually provide the fastest speed of all services.

The entry level fiber-optic speed of 15 Mbps can handle a number of typical home uses very quickly. For example, it will upload a 5 megabyte file in 8 seconds, or a 10 megabyte file in 16 seconds. Downloading 10 songs from a download service would take less than half a minute with the lowest-tier service. This can represent a significant upgrade, and is adequate for many home users.

Businesses and users who may work from home might opt for a higher fiber-optic speed. As of 2011, in the United States, the fastest fiber-optic speed available from most Internet service providers offering fiber-optic connections is approximately 50 Mbps. This will likely change as infrastructure and competition force providers to eventually upgrade their service and offerings. Downloading 10 songs of normal file size (approximately 50 megabytes) would take less than 10 seconds with this level of service.

In other countries, fiber-optic speed is approaching 100 Mbps, including locations in Asia. Some countries in that region of the world, such as Japan and South Korea, have invested heavily in their technology infrastructure to produce those speeds, seeing faster connections as an economic development tool. While the home user may have little use for the fastest speeds, companies involved in engineering and financial services often deal with large files where transmission speed makes a big difference to the bottom line.

Those considering a fiber-optic connection for a home or business should understand exactly what they are getting. Terms such as "fiber to the curb" do not mean that your home is connected directly to a fiber-optic network. Rather, another form of hardware, most likely cable, carries that connection into the home. This could affect speeds a great deal. Also, always ask about download speeds as well as upload speeds.

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Discussion Comments


I have seen fiber speeds from 30 Mbps (3.8 MBps) up to 292 Mbps (36 MBps) depending on the service level the customer paid for; and some companies, like Bell, are using very old converted dsl modems to accommodate the fiber lines; typically, the fiber is terminated somewhere in the home/office, (sometimes only to curb, and then copper line to building).

It is extremely important that better cable, and preferably shielded, be used from that point forward, as the wire from the termination point to the modem will act like an antenna and be susceptible to high frequency noise which will degrade the speed.


I just started with a new ISP service and am supposed to be getting fiber optics. The underground fiber optics cable is less than one block from my house. I was told that the speed offered is 40 megabytes., which is different from 40 megabits. 40 megabytes = 322 megabits.

I have not set up the equipment yet and am skeptical about this because the modem that was shipped says "DSL" on it. Is this possible? The modem did come with four Ethernet ports and two phone connections and also says it's wireless.

Even if this service is wrong, you have the speed of the other services wrong. My cable provider was at 40 megabit. There is no date on this page so maybe it needs to be updated.

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