Fiber, 5G, & Starlink: New Internet Technologies Explained

It’s probably no surprise that the internet will be a big part of how the world works in the future, but the way we get our internet is likely to change. Today, many people rely on cable internet, a largely outdated technology. Fiber optic internet, on the other hand, is much more advanced and is sometimes referred to as the internet of the future. You may have also heard of other emerging internet technologies like 5G and Starlink. They all sound promising, but what do they really mean for you and your internet connection?

Fiber Internet

Fiber optic internet is becoming well-known for its many benefits. First off, it’s non-conductive, making it much more reliable than cable internet. It’s also nearly impossible to penetrate, providing enhanced data security. 

Perhaps most importantly, fiber internet is much, much faster than traditional methods. Internet speeds are measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Most Canadians have internet speeds of 20 to 100 Mbps, with speeds on the lower end in rural areas. With fiber internet, speeds can reach 1,000 Mbps, regardless of your location and how many people are using it. 

Even if you live in a rural area or it’s a peak use time, there will be no speed or bandwidth issues with fiber. Fiber internet is extremely scalable and is easy to enhance with simple equipment additions. It’s the best internet available today, and for the near future. As more internet technologies like 5G and Starlink become reality, however, that may not always be the case.

5G Wireless Internet

5G is the aptly named fifth-generation wireless technology for cellular networks. In other words, it’s the next generation of wireless internet available for cell phones and other wireless devices. You might be familiar with 3G or 4G depending on your area. Well, 5G is 600 times faster than 4G. 

5G won’t be available on a large scale for the next 5 years or so, but when it is, 5G will allow us to connect a lot more than just our phones. The dependable, high-speed internet connection that 5G provides will be essential to the advancement of self-driving cars and other artificial intelligence technologies.

autonomous cars using 5g internet to drive

In the meantime, fiber internet will pave the way for 5G. Fiber internet infrastructure is crucial to 5G internet becoming a reality and will be necessary for many areas, even after the introduction of 5G. To get wireless 5G, the data needs to be transmitted non-wirelessly to cell towers. The best way to transmit the data is with fiber optic cables. 

Additionally, wireless internet, including 5G, doesn’t work well in dense, urban areas. The signal can’t penetrate many building materials like brick, so fiber will still be necessary. Fiber is also the best option for carrying internet over long distances, while 5G excels at carrying internet over short distances.

Starlink Internet

Starlink is another wireless internet technology. It’s a satellite internet project by Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX. This internet is much different than the satellite internet you’re familiar with, however. Unlike the painfully slow satellite internet that is available to many people today, Starlink is aiming to provide the world with universal, wireless, high-speed internet.

So far, Starlink has launched 182 satellites. Eventually, they hope to launch as many as 30,000 internet satellites. With all these satellites, some concerns have been raised about light pollution and space junk. The exact consequences of having so many satellites constantly orbiting earth are unknown, but Starlink could be the most attainable path to universal wireless.

Universal wireless is a tantalizing idea, but current estimates say that technologies like Starlink are at least 10 years away, and even then Starlink is focusing on North America. As of right now, fiber is the most accessible and best option for much of the world.

Where Fiber Fits In

While technology like 5G and Starlink shows promising possibilities for the future of the internet, they’re still 5 to 10 years away. In the meantime, fiber provides a scalable internet solution for today and tomorrow. If you’re interested in fiber internet for your community, fill out our interest survey

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