Fiber-optic internet is where the future of the internet lies. With speeds surpassing one gig (1000 Mbps), it offers faster speeds than satellite, DSL, and cable connections.
You might be sold just knowing that, but you might still have questions. Like, for one, how is fiber-optic internet installed?
We’ve got your answers.
Below, you can find more information on the fiber installation process. But we’ll also take some time to explain what fiber internet is, how it works, and some of the best fiber internet providers near you.
By the end of this article, you’ll have everything you need to successfully get and install fiber internet in your home.
What is fiber-optic internet?
Fiber-optic internet is when you connect using special cables. These fiber-optic cables use the latest technology to excel in speed and stability. The extra stability helps these unique cables remain stable over long distances (Standard Ethernet cables or DSL connections tend to distort with longer lines).
These cables also have the advantage of being immune to crosstalk. This means if you have multiple wires in a cluster, their signals won’t interfere with each other.
Why is fiber-optic not available everywhere?
You likely don't have fiber if you live in a rural area.
This doesn’t have to do with how fiber-optic internet is installed, but rather its costs. Fiber internet installation tends to be much more expensive than satellite, DSL, or cable internet for companies to set up. The higher cost is easier to justify when more people can take advantage of the service, meaning fiber internet providers often reserve these for larger cities.
However, many internet providers recognize the growing demand for fiber, which is estimated to be more than 12% in the coming years.
You might be surprised about the availability of fiber internet in your area and should always use our search feature to see if fiber-optic internet can be installed in your zip code.
How does fiber-optic internet work?
Fiber-optic internet works by carrying light through the cable.
The cables behind fiber-optics have glass filaments. Those filaments are equipped to transmit and carry light signals. The light is a binary communication device. So light on equals a “one,” while light off could be a “zero.” Binary is the simplest form of communication through computers. And, when fiber-optics send large chunks of binary communication, it contains your connection data and requests.
On the opposite side, DSL and cable internet use copper wires. These wires carry an electronic signal, not a light. And because the speed of light is much faster than electricity, companies offering fiber internet installation and services can offer much faster home internet to their customers - at a higher average rate.
How is fiber-optic internet installed? The three-step fiber installation process
Before even thinking about how fiber internet is installed, we need to make sure you have a great provider. You’ll want to compare all of the major fiber internet providers by zip code.
If you want fiber internet in your home, follow these 3 steps:
Step 1: Find the right fiber-optic internet provider
This usually takes a few calls, a bit of research, and the occasional headache while you wait on hold. But we let you skip most of that effort by using our search pages to help you find local internet providers near you - with transparent pricing to find one that also fits your budget.
Here’s how to find and request fiber internet installation for your home:
- Go to the page to find internet providers near you
- Type in your zip code
- Click the “search” button in the upper right corner
- Look for the word “fiber” among services offered
- Click the “order online” or “see availability” button
- Follow the on-screen instructions
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who offer fiber are easy to find using this process. You can also narrow your search using the filters on the left side.
Use the information to compare prices and features between different providers. For example, you can save money by bundling services. But if you don’t want those services, don’t include that on your priority list.
Once you do find a fiber internet provider, you can give them a call. They should be friendly and helpful, answering all your questions like, “how is fiber-optic internet installed” and, “can I get fiber internet in my home?”
Step 2: Get a fiber-optic router (and other equipment)
Fiber internet installation does require a compatible router. Normally, you have two options for this step:
- Renting your gear from your ISP
- Buying a fiber router yourself
If you choose to rent, you can skip right to step three of learning how fiber-optic internet is installed.
If you decide to buy, you need to pay attention to speed capabilities in order to make sure your fiber router is the right one for your service. You don’t necessarily need a particular router. Instead, a “fiber-optic router” means a router that can support speeds that fiber-optic cables put out.
That being said, while a fiber router will be compatible with your service, you can save some money by matching it to your internet needs. It doesn’t help you to purchase something that goes faster than what you have. In this case, you’ll want to know how much internet speed you’re buying before buying the router. If you have one gig of internet, you don’t need a router for 1750 Mbps, as you will not use the extra 750 megabits.
However, you shouldn’t use the same logic when purchasing cables. You DO need a specific cable, as the unique cable is what makes fiber internet so fast. A standard Ethernet cable or connection for cable internet won’t work for you.
Some high-quality ethernet cables (Cat6 and Cat7) can handle gigabit internet. However, fiber still wins when it comes to long-distance communications.
Step 3: Install and activate your fiber-optic internet
Once you’ve contacted the best ISP for your needs, you can discuss installation options. There is a higher likelihood of needing to lay fiber-optic cable than cable or DSL providers (both cable and DSL services usually have wires installed already).
This preinstallation advantage reduces the installation time needed for older services. But as fiber companies expand their infrastructure, installation times between the different types of internet will be more comparable.
Again, make sure your customer service representative offers a clear answer to “how is fiber-optic internet installed in my neighborhood?” They should include whether or not professional fiber internet installation is required, what dates the technician will come to your home, what’s required for internet activation, and how long the process should take.
If you already live in a large metropolitan area, you might already have fiber wire. If so, the technician should take about an hour to complete your fiber internet installation. Many providers will offer you the option of installing fiber internet yourself (if the fiber cable is already there), saving you any installation fees.
At this point, the activation process typically involves plugging in your router and calling customer service. Some providers will allow you to activate your internet through an app. The exact activation process will depend on how your particular provider installs fiber-optic internet for their customers.
When there are no existing cables, fiber internet installation can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple hours. The technician will know the best way to install fiber-optic internet in your home, but it will require installing a new cable, which is usually fed through the wall. It may be hard for your provider to know exactly how long the process will take until the technician can evaluate your home.
For example, what do you think is easier? Is it installing a wire through one wall on the first floor or installing wire on the fourth floor of a brick apartment building?
The good news is that you personally don’t need to know how fiber-optic internet is installed in your home. But to know for sure that it’s possible, remember to tell your customer service representative where you live and the type of home you live in when you set up your fiber internet installation and activation appointment.
The 5 best fiber internet providers in the US
Now that you know how fiber-optic internet is installed, it’s time to choose your provider. The available internet companies vary depending on your zip code. But we do have a quick review of 5 of the most popular fiber internet providers here:
1. AT&T Fiber - The best fiber company
AT&T offers a combination of cable and fiber-based internet plans. It is one of the few providers with a solid upload speed, making for excellent communication.
Professional fiber internet installation is also available for those willing to pay extra. You’ll want to pay attention to that second-year pricing, as initial plans offer some deep discounts.
Integration with local service providers also enables AT&T to offer bundled packages. That means you can get your internet, phone, and TV services all in one place.
AT&T fiber-optic internet isn’t as widespread as it could be. But those who can get it can benefit from the company’s strong customer service track record.
2. Verizon Fios - Has great features
Verizon is best known for its phone service. However, people can bundle this service with their home internet plan. Given the access to unlimited data, having both is necessary if you love your technology. Verizon’s secondary services also include TV plans, so you could feasibly bundle various benefits. Just note that not all services are available everywhere (such as the fiber internet installation), so you need to call Verizon’s customer service to make sure you can get everything you want from the provider.
Verizon does require professional fiber internet installation, meaning all new customers pay a one-time installation fee of $99, making upfront costs higher than average.
The provider doesn’t seem to do a lot of introductory pricing, giving you a “you pay what you pay” mindset from the start. Transparent and clear, (similar to EarthLink’s pricing), it can simplify your monthly budget.
But fewer discounts result in more cost, so it will be up to you to set your priorities.
3. Xfinity - The fastest fiber company
Xfinity is an internet-first company made available in most medium to large-size cities. This gives them more spread than both Verizon and AT&T in some regions. However, the wider spread does have an impact on customer service. Customers have complained about long wait times of over 10 minutes in order to talk to a real person.
Thankfully, Xfinity has an app and great self-service options that help you avoid the phone call - and wait times - in a lot of situations. Tech-savvy people will appreciate this, while others will want to veer toward a fiber-optic provider with a more hands-on customer service approach.
Xfinity is best known for its speed, leading up to 2 gigs in most areas. This dwarfs many of the speed options in other areas.
In conclusion, Xfinity is a reputable, far-reaching fiber internet service provider with lightning fast speeds - one that is incredibly cheap when it comes to most services. When it comes to their fiber-optic internet, the prices do rise, but they are comparable to others on this list.
4. CenturyLink - Great fiber-optic availability
You are more likely to find fiber in less populated areas through CenturyLink. So, knowing how fiber-optic internet is installed - and the effort involved - this is a great option for more rural customers or those in smaller cities and towns. It’s still important to check their availability in your zip code (which you can do here), just to be sure.
Unfortunately, many people find that CenturyLink has slower-than-average speeds across these locations. So if reliable speeds are a top priority, you may need to look at other fiber internet providers near you.
CenturyLink offers less on the bundling front, typically only including home phone features. But if you prefer your Netflix or Hulu subscription to cable TV plans, this might be an irrelevant point.
If you want flexibility and widespread availability, CenturyLink has a lot of options. It’s consistently a reliable choice, though not always the largest provider in the area.
5. EarthLink - The easiest to manage
EarthLink is an incredibly straightforward fiber-optic option for those who aren’t tech-savvy and the company has a great reputation for going the extra mile. The high ratings mean you can expect to find representatives eager to help answer your questions like, “how is fiber-optic internet installed?” However, the extra customer service support does come with a higher cost.
Their customer-first mentality expands out to professional fiber internet installation. In fact, EarthLink doesn’t allow its customers to do self-installation. All new customers and existing customers who are moving must schedule a technician visit.
EarthLink fiber internet service also comes with some great security software. While other providers might make security recommendations, there are no others actually offering customers the solution.
Finally, all EarthLink fiber-optic internet plans do require a 12-month contract. This isn’t uncommon for providers, but having no month-to-month options can be a bummer for some.
Fiber-optic internet FAQs
Who is fiber internet best for?
It’s best for uses that take up a lot of bandwidth and need fast internet. Gamers, streamers, and downloaders of large files will appreciate the extra power. Those who work from home can also benefit from the speed.
Are there any disadvantages to fiber-optic internet?
If your new cable installation requires a lot of bends (around corners, etc), fiber isn’t ideal. Fiber-optic cables lack literal flexibility, whereas Cat6 or Cat7 cables are Ethernet cables that support faster internet speeds. Your technician should explain what’s needed and your options, if this is the case.
Is there anything faster than fiber-optic internet?
No, at this time, fiber-optic cables offer the fastest internet speeds. Cat6 and Cat7 are close, but the science of light speed vs electricity speed can’t be ignored. Fiber-optic cables are the future of home internet.
Even 5G WiFi, the next generation of wireless communication, isn’t fast enough. Wireless communications are naturally degraded through their greater exposure.
Can you get fiber-optic internet in rural locations?
Most likely, no (though this is increasingly changing). Getting fiber-optic internet installed can be costly and difficult, so service areas are mostly limited to larger towns and cities. More rural zip codes can often rely on finding a great cable, DSL, or satellite internet provider in their area for internet service.
Find a provider and get fiber-optic internet installed today
Using InternetAdvisor makes finding the best fiber-optic internet provider in your area easy. Just enter your zip code to get a list of the available, highest ranked providers in your area. You can then click on the individual names to get an overview of each fiber provider, their prices, and their service plans to make sure they meet your needs.
Once you find the one you like most, you can put your understanding of how fiber-optic internet is installed into practice - either with self-installation or with a professional technician.