Fiber is synonymous with speed, but how fast is it really? Fiber internet can go up to 10 Gbps, but 1–2 Gbps plans are much more common. We'll share what speeds you can get with fiber home internet, what you can do with the speed, and which providers offer the fastest fiber plans.
What makes fiber internet so fast?
The fastest type of internet connection you can get is fiber internet because it uses fiber-optic cables to transmit data using pulses of light. This technology is newer and more advanced than other wired connection types like cable and DSL, which use coaxial cables and phone lines, respectively.
Fiber also has higher bandwidth capacity, which translates to faster and more consistent performance. Unlike cable or DSL, fiber offers symmetrical speeds, meaning that your upload speed is as fast as your download speed. This faster upload speed makes uploading files, gaming, and video calls a breeze. In short, a fiber connection is the best choice for home internet if it’s available at your location. Fiber internet isn’t the most widely available, and you’re more likely to have access to fiber if you live in a city or urban area.
How fast is fiber home internet?
The most common fiber home internet plans offer symmetrical speeds up to 1 Gbps, which is equal to 1,000 Mbps and is often referred to as gigabit speed. For comparison, that’s around the maximum download speed you can get with cable internet and ten times faster than DSL’s maximum download speed of 100 Mbps. For a detailed explanation of what Gbps and Mbps mean, see our guide to internet speed and file size terms.
Some fiber providers offer multi-gig plans, with 2 Gbps, 5 Gbps, or even 6 Gbps speeds. Though extremely rare, some very small home internet providers offer up to 10 Gbps speeds. You won’t find home internet plans faster than that, even though fiber internet technology could theoretically provide faster speeds.
What can you do with fiber internet speeds?
Most households don’t need the gigabit or multi-gig speeds that fiber internet can offer. For example, here's what an internet connection with 1 Gbps speed could support:
- Over 60 people streaming Netflix in 4K Ultra HD at once, which requires 15 Mbps of download speed.
- Over 250 people participating in Zoom group calls in 1080p HD simultaneously using the recommended speeds (3.8 Mbps upload, 3 Mbps download).
- Around 300 to 1,000 people browsing the web at the same time, which requires just 1–3 Mbps depending on the sites being visited.
The fastest fiber internet plans with 5 Gbps or more would be overkill in all but the most exceptional circumstances. That being said, fiber plans often cost about the same as cable plans with comparable download speed, offer more value, and better serve the needs of some of the heaviest internet users and largest families.
Gigabit speeds allow for a nearly unlimited number of users and devices to be online at the same time without slowdowns. Fiber is ideal for homes with multiple people simultaneously working or studying remotely, attending video calls, gaming, streaming, and downloading files.
One of the main advantages of fiber is that your upload speed matches your download speed. With cable, upload speeds are much slower. Fiber provides a much smoother experience for tasks that require uploading data, such as video calling, gaming, or uploading large files.
Estimating how much internet speed you need based on your online activities can help you avoid paying more than you need to for an internet plan. Our guide to finding out how much speed your family needs can walk you through how to do it.
Factors that can impact fiber internet speed
The speed you can get from fiber internet isn’t determined by only the speed of the plan you choose from your provider. It also depends on the type of fiber connection you have, your router, and whether you connect your devices over Wi-Fi or Ethernet.
Fiber to the home (FTTH) is the fastest kind of fiber connection because your home is connected exclusively via fiber. With a fiber to the node (FTTN) connection, providers bring fiber nearby then connect your home to the network via coaxial cable or a DSL line, which limits the speed you’re able to get.
It’s also important to check that your modem, router, or gateway is capable of handling the speed of your internet plan. Otherwise, the speed of your home network will be limited by the maximum speed of that device.
Additionally, using a wired connection instead of Wi-Fi can provide faster speeds to computers and other devices around your home that have Ethernet ports.
Which fiber providers are the fastest?
Most fiber internet providers have plans with 1 Gbps speeds, but a handful of providers offer multi-gig speeds. Here are the fiber providers with the fastest possible speeds and where they offer service.
- Xfinity has the fastest fiber plan (6 Gbps) of all the major providers. While most of Xfinity's service is cable, it has some limited fiber service across the country. Xfinity also announced that it's testing a 10-gig business option for potential rollout in 2023.(1)
- AT&T has a 5 Gbps plan, and its fiber service is widely available, with coverage in 21 states, including many cities in the southeast and midwest.
- Ziply Fiber offers a 5 Gbps plan and provides fiber service to four states in the northwest: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
- Optimum offers a 5 Gbps plan and offers fiber mainly in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.
- Google Fiber has a 2 Gbps plan and offers fiber internet in over a dozen cities.
- Verizon Fios has plans up to 1 Gbps and serves several states in the northeast. Though it doesn’t offer plans as fast as some others, it’s one of our top-rated providers.
Multi-gig plans are generally offered only in select locations within each provider's service area, so you’ll have to check with providers individually to find out what plan speeds they offer for your address. We rarely recommend those plans, though, because almost no household would see a real-world benefit.
If you’re ready to make the switch to fiber internet service, we have plenty of resources to help. Our ranking of the best fiber providers and our individual brand reviews provide information on performance, value, customer satisfaction, and more.
Brittany is a Contributing Writer for Switchful with over five years of experience writing about technology in the US and Europe. Her primary focus is on mobile and internet topics. She is passionate about helping people choose the right tech for their needs at the right price.
Bri Field has a background in academia, research writing, and brand marketing. She has edited scientific publications, conference papers, digital content, and technical communications. As Assigning Editor, she enjoys ensuring all content is accurate, clear, and helpful. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, out on a hike, or working through her massive TBR list.