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.
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.
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.