Upgrading from cable to fiber internet? Great move. Your new fiber connection will result in faster speeds and more reliable connectivity. With fiber, data can travel as much as 10 times faster than cable by using light signals along durable fiber-optic cables.

This switch might be intimidating, but don’t worry. Setting up fiber isn’t all that different from cable, and your technician will be able to help troubleshoot and answer questions. For now though, we’ll walk you through the equipment requirements and some of the key differences between cable and fiber materials.

Fiber vs. cable internet equipment

The three key components of your fiber internet connection include:

  1. Optical Network Terminal (ONT):This is the device that connects your home to the internet. It’s similar to the modem you probably use today.
  2. Fiber internet router: Your new router will look similar to your existing one. The main difference is that it will be able to handle fiber internet’s fast speeds.
  3. WiFi extenders: Many homes need these to ensure all areas of the home receive a strong WiFi signal.

Before we look more closely at these three devices, let’s consider the foundation of your fiber internet connection: fiber-optic cables. While you might not see these cables in your day-to-day life, they are the lifeblood of your new, lightning-fast internet speeds.

Fiber-optic cables

Fiber internet uses fiber-optic cables to transfer data from one place to another in the form of tiny pulses of light. The cables themselves are composed of tiny glass fibers. They’re fragile on their own, but they reside in rugged outdoor conduits that can stand up to all kinds of conditions. These conduits run underground or hang from existing utility poles.

Compared to cable internet, fiber-optic cables can transfer more data faster. Since they can handle such large volumes of data, fiber-optic cables aren’t subject to the network congestion problems of cable internet. Even during peak hours, like evening time when more people want to be online, fiber-optic cables can easily meet your community’s data transfer demands. The overall result is a faster, more reliable, more consistent internet connection.

But you don’t have to worry or even think about the cables or how they work. All you need to be aware of are the handful of components that are going to hook this lightning-fast internet connection to your home.

Fiber-optic modem

So, do you need a fiber modem for your fiber internet connection? The answer is… sort of.

The “modem” you use for a fiber internet connection isn’t actually a modem. It’s called an optical network terminal, or ONT. Like a modem, the ONT communicates with your internet service provider (ISP). It’s shaped like a box and you need it to connect to the internet.

Optical Network Terminal (ONT)

An ONT isn’t technically a modem because it doesn’t connect you to the internet in the same way. A modem converts digital signals to analog signals. With cable internet, you’re sending and receiving digital information to your connected devices, but that information is traveling through older analog infrastructure. That’s why you need a modem. It converts the digital information to analog and vice versa.

For fiber internet, you don’t need to convert digital information to analog. However, you do need a way to transmit data through the fiber optic cable. An ONT transmits this data in the form of light pulses that travel back and forth through the cables. There’s no digital-to-analog conversion happening; it’s just light moving from one source to another.

While it works differently from a modem, the ONT performs a similar function. Practically speaking, it’s the box you use to connect to your ISP and enjoy internet service! In this sense, it’s your “fiber modem” because it replaces the modem you were using for cable internet. It even kind of looks like one.

Wired connections

You can connect your computer directly to your ONT via a wired connection. This is another way it’s similar to your modem for cable internet.

Connecting directly to an ONT is the way to get the fastest possible internet service to that device. However, in most homes, this isn’t a practical scenario. While your ONT on its own will offer at least one wired connection, you probably have multiple devices that use the internet at the same time. For this reason, you’ll need to connect a router to the ONT, much like you connect a router to your modem today.

Thankfully, fiber internet is so fast that putting a router between your devices and the ONT won’t slow down the connection to a point where you notice a difference. Most fiber customers are opting for 1-gig download and upload speeds through fiber. Even with a router between your devices and the ONT, this is so fast that you’ll have super fast speeds for all your online activities.

Fiber-optic router

To enjoy the full benefits of fiber, you’ll need to connect your ONT to a fiber internet router. The router allows you to broadcast your lightning-fast fiber internet connection to all of the devices in your home.

A fiber router looks much like the router you probably use today for cable internet. Unlike your current router, however, a fiber router is made to handle fiber internet’s fast speeds. Ziply Fiber’s router is a WiFi 6 router designed to deliver the fastest speeds currently available. At the time of writing, new Ziply Fiber customers automatically get this router when they sign up for gig-speed fiber internet service.

Setting up your fiber-optic router is simple. Just connect the included ethernet cable from the ONT to the router. Now you can broadcast your internet signal to any devices in your home, not to mention any wired devices you connect to the router itself.

WiFi extenders

Speaking of broadcasting your internet signal, what if your home suffers from “dead zones” where the WiFi connection is usually slow or nonexistent?

Even with fiber internet’s fast speeds, it’s possible that certain obstructions in your home could make it difficult for the signal to travel where you need it. WiFi range is also an issue in many large homes where certain rooms are too far away from a router to enjoy adequate signal strength. Thankfully, there’s a way to solve this problem.

When a Ziply Fiber technician visits your home to connect your fiber internet service, he or she can set up Whole Home WiFi with WiFi extenders . WiFi extenders are devices that “catch” the WiFi signal coming from your router, boost it and broadcast it to areas that the router can’t easily reach.

When we set up WiFi extenders for Ziply Fiber customers, we choose the locations carefully. We want to ensure the WiFi extenders are close enough to your fiber router to pick up a strong signal and also close enough to your problem areas to effectively bring the signal to the rooms where it’s needed.

With WiFi extenders, you can enjoy the full benefit of fiber internet’s fast speeds from every part of your home.

Questions? Contact Us

The best part about fiber internet equipment is that you can sit back and let your ISP set it up for you. When we configure fiber internet connections for new Ziply Fiber customers, we always ensure the proper installation of the ONT, router and WiFi extenders. That’s also why we recommend using Ziply Fiber equipment: if you experience any issues with your setup or internet, we’ll be able to better assist you. In the unusual event that you have a problem or a question, Ziply Fiber support is always there to help.