Is Verizon FiOS Faster Than Cable?

By Melanie Jo Triebel

FiOS service is available only where Verizon's fiber-optic network is in place.
i Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

The huge number and variety of Internet services on the market today can be overwhelming even to savvy customers. Although you have many different questions about the various types of Internet service available in your area, the ultimate question is how fast the service is. FiOS, with its fiber-optic technology, has a clear edge in speed over cable in general.

What Is FiOS?

Verizon's FiOS Internet service is a form of high-speed digital Internet, otherwise known as broadband Internet. FiOS is different from other Internet services, however, in that it's delivered on a network of fiber-optic cables. Although some major service providers use a combination of fiber-optics and coaxial cables, FiOS is an entirely fiber-optic network.

What Is Cable?

Cable Internet service, like fiber-optic Internet, is a type of broadband Internet service. Just as it sounds, however, cable Internet is delivered using the network of cables used to provide cable television service. The digital Internet service is simply conveyed through the network of coaxial cables already in place.

FiOS Speeds

FiOS currently offers four speed tiers, priced accordingly. The tiers are 15/5 megabytes per second, which means 15Mbps downloads and 5Mbps uploads; 25/25Mbps, 50/20Mbps and 150/35Mbps. Verizon claims the speeds are consistent even at peak hours, but your results may differ. And Verizon FiOS customers have the potential to have connections free of throttling -- or slowing down Internet speeds for heavier users -- or boosting -- giving users a high speed at the beginning of a large download, then a slower speed for the remainder. In 2010, and the four years prior, dubbed FiOS the fastest Internet in the U.S.

Cable Speeds

Cable Internet speeds vary by provider, plan and even by time of usage, as peak hours can be slower. Cable Internet speeds can range from 1.5Mbps upwards. Many cable Internet providers offer speeds of up to 12Mbps, 15Mbps or even higher speeds. The average cable Internet speed, however, is around 3Mbps. reported that two cable companies took the No. 2 and No. 3 spots for speed under FiOS in its 2010 test.

Real-World Application

In reality, users performing basic online functions -- sending and receiving emails, loading Web pages, and the like -- will be unlikely to notice a difference between cable Internet and Verizon's FiOS service. Higher-volume Internet users, however, such as gamers and those who download large files, will see a significant difference. For example, a typical movie will be completely downloaded at FiOS' 50Mbps speed in the time it takes to download about one-third of the movie at cable Internet speeds.