How Fast is Fiber Internet Speed?

If you’re reading this, you probably either have or are interested in fiber internet. And that’s a great thing, given that fiber internet is by all accounts the best option if it is available in your area. Yet how much do people know about it? How widespread is it, and what speeds is it capable of?

You will want to make sure that there is fiber in your area if you are interested in it. Yet there is more to it than that. Most fiber plans are similar, but not all are alike. And while fiber internet appears to be a lot, there is also the matter of knowing what it looks like in the greater context of the industry and how it compares to other plans available in the United States.

Here is what you need to know about fiber internet, how fast it is for the average user, and what we know about its potential speed: 

What Is Fiber Internet?

Before getting into the thick of it, let’s talk about what fiber internet is in the first place. It is a bit more than a wire going to your house and delivering an internet connection.

It is the use of fiber optic cables to transmit information. A fiber optic cable is a cable that is filled with thin glass or plastic fibers. These fibers carry data very well and allow for the rapid transmission of information. The information is actually transmitted as beams of light pulsed in patterns via laser or LED. This is essential in a binary pattern. After the information reaches its destination, it is converted into an electrical output that your devices can use.

Where this last exchange occurs can vary. It might happen in a box or terminal in a neighborhood, and then the signal is conveyed via copper wires for that last step. This is less expensive, but a little speed is lost in the process. Alternatively, fiber optic wires can lead to the end user’s home, and the signal is converted at the last possible moment. This is more expensive but keeps things as fast as possible.

In either case, it is much more efficient than standard cable wires and everything else we have today. The problem is that often areas do not have fiber wires to work with just laying around. In some rare cases, towns might have installed fiber optic wires for other purposes that can then be converted to use for internet, but this is definitely the exception. Phone lines (DSL) and cable (cable internet) lines are much more commonplace around the country, which is why those types of internet services are more common.

Fiber internet doesn’t exactly have a speed per se. It is merely the amount of bandwidth an internet service provider allows, which is decided by the infrastructure available and other factors. This is the same for both uploading and downloading information.

Fiber internet is also in development in terms of general speed and the available infrastructure, yet this has always been the case. We might not see huge breakthroughs that instantly double the speed of fiber internet, but we might see improvements that allow ISPs to provide more consistent service to a wider area at a rate more affordable to themselves and everyone else. Whether potential savings from such improvements would be passed on to the customer remains to be seen. 

General Fiber Internet Speeds

You will often hear fiber internet speed being advertised as gigabit internet (1 Gbps, or 1000 Mbps). Yet that does make one wonder whether that 1Gbps is arbitrary or not. Whether it is just ISPs picking out an amount of bandwidth to supply customers with. And it pretty much is. If fiber infrastructure can handle thousands or tens of thousands of gigabit connections, surely a more focused effort could be faster? It doesn’t work exactly this way, but essentially consider your actual or potential fiber connection as part of a larger network than something in itself.

At the absolute top end of the scale, we see some fiber internet plans that are 6 Gbps. So, with the right infrastructure and plan, someone can have at least six times the speed that is provided to most fiber customers currently.

Yet that isn’t even close to the true top end, just the top end of what is available to the average consumer. If you look at what tests and scientists have done, some tests have successfully transferred data at a rate of one petabit (1,000 terabits) per second using fiber cables. That speed is hard to fathom and evidence that fiber can go so much further than what we already have.

In short, we’re not sure if there is an actual limit to fiber internet speed. There is a realistic limit in terms of when it stops being practical to increase the speed of a connection (no single home needs 10Gbps, after all), but you will also want to make sure that you get what you need. If you run a business from home or regularly make large downloads, then some of the more expensive plans might make sense.

Fiber Has Amazing Download Speeds, But There’s More

Fiber internet is capable of the fastest download speeds that we regularly have available on a consumer level. Yet you should know that internet speed and overall service quality are about much more than simply how fast you can download a file.

One of the things most fiber internet providers can offer is synchronous upload and download speeds. That means that if customers have 980 Mbps for their download speed, they get 980 Mbps for their upload speed. This is more than most people will need, but it is still fantastic and a must-have for some customers. Simply put, having a great upload speed is as important as having a great download speed to some people. 

Fiber internet also, on average, has the lowest latency (ping rate) of any service type. While latency has multiple factors that determine it, in general, users can expect a latency of below 50ms unless they are using a far-off server or there is another potential trouble to run into. And that is not the fault of the internet service provider, or anyone’s fault, really. It is simply a reality of the situation, and fiber internet still keeps it manageable most of the time.

And finally, fiber internet is generally much more consistent than other options, both in the general speed of the connection and stability. While problems can still occur, fiber internet users can expect fewer disconnections and less severe slowdowns if they exist.

Essentially, fiber internet is not superior in speed just because of download speed measurements, though they play a large role. It is faster because it is able to provide a more comprehensively reliable experience and perform well in other metrics of internet speed as well.

What Companies Are Offering Fiber Internet?

Here are some of the major companies offering fiber internet and the speeds on offer to give you an idea of what is available and what companies are offering. Some offer several plans, while others offer one or two in a limited area.

The major or notable options around the country include:

  • AT&T Fiber, which is part of but distinct from AT&T Internet. It also perhaps has the most options available among the major fiber providers. Fiber plan options include 300 Mbps, 500 Mbps, 1 Gb, 2 Gb, or even 5 Gb. Not all plans will be available in all areas, but they will continue to expand.
  • Verizon Fios has options that provide 300 Mbps, 500 Mbps, or 940 Mbps of download speed, with nearly matching upload speeds. It perhaps has the best reputation among the fiber internet providers. Fios has launched a 2 Gbps plan in New York City, but it is not widely available as of this writing.
  • EarthLink Fiber is another provider with a wide host of options, ranging from 100 Mbps to 5 Gb per second. The 1 Gbps It is on the slightly more expensive side for fiber internet, but people are generally pleased with their service, and upload speeds match download speeds.
  • CenturyLink Fiber (Quantum Fiber) offers 200 Mbps and 1 Gbps plans. Note that it might come under different names depending on where you look, so keep on the lookout.
  • Windstream is a slower option by default, providing speeds of either 200 Mbps or 500 Mbps, depending on the plan. However, there is a “gig upgrade" that heavily increases the speed of the connection for an added cost. 
  • Xfinity is one of the biggest names in internet service and one of the most widespread fiber internet providers. In some rare cases, fiber speeds can reach 6 Gbps, but most people will get a 1 Gbps plan. Other plans can include 300 Mbps, 600 Mbps, or 1,200 Mbps. It should be noted that upload speeds will be notably slower than download speeds, though more than enough for the average home.
  • Google Fiber is one of the more exciting picks, though it is limited to only select cities as of this writing. Disregarding the free but very slow internet options, it keeps open to everyone in the service range, plans are either 1 gigabit or 2 gigabits of download speed with matching upload speed.
  • Spectrum is interesting because it technically uses a fiber-coax hybrid for its infrastructures, but many publications will consider it fiber internet, so it warrants mentioning regardless. It generally offers plans between 300 Mbps and 1 Gbps.

Note that you probably recognize many of the names above, but not for fiber internet service. You might know them for cable, DSL, or some form of TV or phone service. If you are interested in getting fiber internet, know that most providers do not universally provide fiber internet, so be careful about what is on offer. You do not want to wind up with a DSL connection because you didn’t read the fine (or medium-sized either, to be honest) print. 

We also aren’t including business plans here, which are not regularly available to the average person, though potentially can get much faster than the plans listed above, assuming the infrastructure can handle it.

Note that while we listed what we could, other fiber providers are regional or municipal, which wouldn’t make sense to include here. Similarly, we did not list the details of every plan from every provider. This site has pages on the topic, and we strongly encourage you to take a look at them if you are interested in getting a plan for your household or simply finding out more information. 

How Fast Are Internet Fiber’s Competitors?

While fiber might be the subject of this piece, fiber internet doesn’t exist in a void. Not everyone has access to it or is currently using it. And a direct comparison is in order to really showcase the difference between fiber internet plans and the competition. Therefore, here one some baselines to work from:

  • As a quick reference, fiber internet speed is usually 1 Gbps but can reach up to even 6 Gbps. There are plans slower than 1Gbps, but they are not necessary and are not usually the only option. Upload speeds are parallel to download speeds or limited to 40 Mbps or so. Latency is regularly 20-50ms.
  • Cable internet is tricky in that it can vary wildly. The slowest plans are around 25 Mbps, and the fastest (though exceedingly rare) go up to 4Gbps. The plans might not be the most reliable, but the infrastructure can support high speeds. However, upload speeds are nearly always a fraction of the download speeds. Latency is not an issue but is not as low as fiber internet.
  • DSL internet is another step-down, and often a major one. The fastest plans are about 100 Mbps download, and plans go down all the way to 3-5 Mbps. DSL internet speeds taper off the further away they are from the transmitter. Therefore, only a small percentage of the serviced area gets access to the fastest speeds, which are still 10 percent of the speeds of a fiber plan. Upload speeds are abysmal, with most plans being 3 Mbps or less, and latency is acceptable, if not great.
  • Dial-up internet has an average download speed of 56 kbps and is usually much slower. That tells you all you need to know.
  • Satellite internet speeds vary, but most plans range from 25-80 Mbps. Upload speeds are generally 5Mbps or less. Latency, however, is a huge problem, as satellite internet ping rates are usually over 500ms, which is unacceptable for tasks that require reasonable latency. The exception to this is Starlink which can theoretically reach speeds up to 500Mbps with a business plan and has competitive ping rates, but Starlink is not widely available yet.

What Is My Internet Speed?

Yet, using the above guidelines for your connection is not exact enough. Your connection speeds are likely not even exactly what they were advertised to be. If you’re hoping to compare fiber internet speeds and your own connection (whether it is fiber internet or not), you can certainly do so. All you need to do is use a speed test. You can find plenty of them online, though some might be better than others, depending on what you need.

Regardless, any of the major options (just do a quick search) will be able to tell you your download speed, upload speed, and ping rate. This will allow you to make a baseline comparison. You can get more into the details later if you desire. 

Some things you will want to do when testing your internet:

  • Make sure to use it under normal conditions. We do not recommend using a speed test while you are downloading a large file or streaming content unless you want to test how your internet connection does specifically under those conditions.
  • If you are concerned about your WiFi network, test your internet from multiple areas of the house to ensure you have good coverage.
  • You may wish to test your internet on multiple devices to rule out a specific problem with one device.
  • Make sure there is no interference with your internet equipment before testing. In general, keeping your router in a central area in the home is helpful.
  • Test at multiple times of the day. Some service types have faster and slower periods of the day (often related to congestion).

You may wish to take other steps if you’re in special circumstances or want even more detailed information, but we recommend you consult more detailed guides for that information.

Do you want to know how fast your computer and mobile connections are right now? You can use this speed test tool to check your download and upload speeds in a matter of seconds.

Should I Get Fiber Internet?

We know that many people reading this article are here to help themselves answer this simple question. We answer this with a few questions of our own:

  1. Is fiber internet available in your area? If not, then everything else is a moot point. If so, then the answer is likely yes.
  2. Do you need fast download and upload speeds? If yes, you aren’t going to do better than fiber internet. If not, then other considerations might come into play.
  3. What can you afford to pay each month? While fiber internet provides the best value in terms of price per Mbps of download speed, it often isn’t the cheapest per month. Check the prices of plans in your area (this includes after the introductory rates) to see what you can afford.

While picking an ISP and plan are complicated questions, the answer can be simple when picking between fiber and non-fiber internet.


Fiber internet isn’t available everywhere yet and might never be, depending on developing other service types and how profitable getting fiber lines to rural areas is. Yet we hope you better understand why it is so popular and what it consists of. There is much in store for fiber in the future, and you might just be a part of it.

We invite you to return to this page as you feel the need and that you look more into the topic if you are interested. We couldn’t go over all of the nuances of fiber internet, but there is so much more information available if you’re willing to read through some academic writing and search for a while.

InternetAdvisor Team

We are passionate about aggregating large, accurate data sets and providing it all to our users in an easy-to-use format. Simply put, shopping is easier for the consumer when he/she knows all available options. We are not beholden to any single provider and therefore are dedicated to transparency and giving you unbiased information on all providers.

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