5G vs. Fiber: Which One is Better for Home Internet?

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5G Internet is great for your phone. What about your home?

Originally published in The Gazette on Sunday, December 17. 

When you hear 5G, you most likely think of your phone. That’s because 5G is a type of wireless network technology that connects your smartphone to the Internet. 

5G isn’t just for smartphones anymore, though. Almost all major cell phone carriers have recently begun offering 5G Internet service for homes, too. 

As customers consider this new home Internet option, it’s important to understand what 5G really means. Not all Internet is created equal, and similar-sounding acronyms – like 5G, 5Gb, and 5Ghz, all of which mean different things in the Internet world – can contribute to confusion about what speeds people are really receiving.  

This article explores 5G home Internet and how it compares to fiber Internet, helping you determine the best way to keep your home connected. 

What is 5G Internet? 

The acronym 5G stands for “fifth generation,” referring to the fifth generation of wireless data networks (the network your phone uses to access the Internet and receive cell service).  

The fifth generation is a step up from the fourth generation of wireless data, which is referred to as 4G or 4G LTE. The main difference between 5G and 4G is the type of frequency used to transmit data. 5G uses a higher-frequency millimeter-wave, which allows for faster speeds – but at shorter ranges. 

Which One is Faster? 

5G: Average 300Mb Download, 50Mb Upload 

One of the most common misconceptions about 5G home Internet is that “5G” stands for “5 Gigabit” - which is a massive amount of Internet speed. In reality, “5G” does not pertain to speed in any way. If you sign up for 5G home Internet, you shouldn’t expect to receive 5 Gigabits of speed. In fact, the average 5G home Internet speed ranges from 100 – 300Mb.  

The strength of 5G Internet depends on the 5G network coverage in your area. Because coverage varies, most 5G home Internet speeds are advertised as a range. Verizon states most 5G home Internet customers can expect 50 – 300Mb average download speeds; T-Mobile says 72 – 245Mb. 

5G upload speeds also tend to fluctuate. For example, T-Mobile states upload speeds for their 5G Wireless Home Internet are typically between 15 – 31Mb. Upload speed is important when transmitting data from your device to the Internet – like posting a photo to social media or sharing your screen in a remote meeting. 

Fiber: Up to 1 Gig (I,000Mb) Download, 1 Gig Upload 

Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) Internet has almost no fluctuation in speed. That's because the factors that affect 5G signals do not affect fiber. If you sign up for 300Mb FTTH, you can expect 300Mb of speed at all times. 

Unlike 5G Internet, fiber Internet is capable of providing symmetrical speeds, meaning your upload and download speeds are the same. For example, if you have 1 Gb of download speed, you’ll also receive 1 Gb of upload speed.  

Symmetrical speeds are useful for things like smooth FaceTime calls, multiplayer gaming in real time, immersive virtual reality (VR) games, and more. Fiber is the only type of Internet technology that can provide these equally fast speeds. 

Which One is More Reliable? 

For 5G and fiber, reliability ultimately comes down to the type of network: wireless versus wired. 

5G: Wireless, Moderate Reliability  

5G home Internet operates on the same wireless network as the 5G signal on your phone. Because the connection between the Internet provider and your home is not wired, the signal travels along airwaves. 

As these airborne signals make their way from the nearest cell tower to the receiver in your home, they encounter obstacles – trees, homes, and other buildings. Each obstacle has the potential to weaken or disrupt the Internet signal to your home.  

5G’s millimeter-waves are especially susceptible to interference. That's why 5G home Internet providers typically mix millimeter-waves with lower-frequency waves, which are slower but more resistant to interference. In other words, to make the signal more reliable, speed is often diluted.  

Fiber: Wired, High Reliability 

Instead of relying on airwaves, fiber Internet relies on tiny glass strands of fiber, which are bundled together to create fiber-optic cables. These cables are used to connect your home directly to a fiber network – hence the name “fiber-to-the-home.” Miles of fiber cables lie underground or overhead on telephone poles to bring the Internet directly to each home. 

These wired connections have inherent advantages. Factors that affect 5G wireless signals are a non-issue with fiber. Elements like cold weather, storms, and electromagnetic waves that affect other forms of Internet – like traditional coaxial Internet – have much less effect on fiber. 

Because fiber uses pulses of light to transmit Internet data, it's also capable of sending stronger signals over longer distances, meaning you do not have to sacrifice speed for range or reliability. 

Which One is Right for You? 

There is a common misconception that 5G home Internet is the best option for people who mostly use their home Internet on their phones. While 5G home Internet is inherently a mobile network, fiber Internet works just as well to access the Internet from a mobile phone while at home.  

Ultimately, the type of home Internet that works best for you depends on many things – the number of devices in your house, your Internet usage, how much speed and reliability you need, and so on. 

For both 5G and fiber, availability is a big consideration. Neither one is universally available yet, though companies like ImOn Communications have been working to close the fiber gap. ImOn's fiber network now covers nearly 90,000 homes in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Dubuque, with thousands more addresses being added every year. 

To see if fiber Internet is available at your home, reach out to ImOn at (319) 298-6484 or visit We are happy to talk through your home Internet options to find the right solution for you.