Why 5G Won’t Replace Fiber or Cable Broadband?

The transition from a world without the internet to a world with the internet was a revolutionary turning point in human history. Now as the 5G technology is being rolled out gradually, people are once again expecting another major revolution in the technology industry. But whether or not 5G will replace the high-performance Fiber and Cable Broadband internet technologies is still debated.  To find out if 5G is going to replace fiber cable broadband, we need to compare the specifications that both technologies offer and the specifications that are required to remain in application in the near future.

What is 5G broadband?

5G broadband cellular internet was launched in 2019 and it is the fifth generation of mobile internet technology. It has revolutionized the cellular internet by providing internet speeds that are exponentially higher than its previous generations. 5G is an upgrade on the 4G broadband which has an average download speed of 28.9 Mbps in the US, which is almost half of 5G’s average download speed of 52 Mbps. The average speed of 5G may not seem significant enough compared to the hype that was created around it but in ideal conditions, 5G theoretically sends data at speeds of up to 10Gbps and receives up to 20 Gbps.  5G broadband technology uses radio waves to wirelessly transmit data. It is the same technology that was used by its previous generations but the difference in speed is the result of using higher frequencies. While these higher frequencies of 27GHz to 47GHz are crucial for achieving such high internet speeds on 5G, they are also more prone to obstructions such as trees and buildings which disrupt signal transmission. And this lesser immunity to physical obstructions makes 5G an unreliable connection compared to fiber and other Cable broadband connections.

What is Fibre Broadband?

The first fibre broadband connections were rolled out in 2008 which supported data transmission speeds of up to 50 Mbps. That was a great leap forward considering the other options that were available at the time. But now, the fibre broadband technology has been improved greatly and it is the undisputed fastest internet network available.   How does fibre broadband work? So, fibre uses light to transmit data in optic fibres, unlike other wired connections which use copper or cooper-clad aluminium conductors. The benefit that fibre connections get from using light as a data-transfer medium is that the data transfer speed in such internet connections will be that of the medium, and in this case, it is light. Although data on optic fibre cables is transferred at about 70% of the speed of light, it nevertheless can be called “lightning speed”. In fact, there is no situation more suitable than this one to be described by the term “lightning speed”. The internet speed on fibre connections varies depending on the broadband package and the type of cable but it can go as far as up to 100Gbps. 

5G vs Fiber Broadband

Both technologies are cutting-edge and there are many parameters to compare both 5G and fibre broadband networks.  Cost is an important factor in determining the future of either technology. 5G broadband is simply expensive because it is the latest in the market and the options are limited. Fibre on the other hand has been here for quite longer than its competitor. It comes with plenty of options and it can be customized to a user’s specific needs. A customized connection means cutting the unrequired costs and hence a more affordable internet connection with the right value for money.  But if 5G broadband comes with more affordable options, it will become more popular because of the mobility that it supports. Fibre broadband also supports mobile access but it is limited, mostly you can access fibre broadband within a short parameter such as within an office, home or any other building. But the parameters of mobility are much wider for 5G networks. You can access a 5G broadband connection from anywhere as long as you are in the range of a network tower - which are pretty much everywhere. Performance of the connection, particularly speed and reliability are also important factors that are responsible to determine if either one of these technologies could survive. Fibre network connections are perfectly reliable and they are fast. This has been proven by decades of experience with using them. How reliable the 5G broadband network is, is still not completely known. However, given the tendency of 5G frequencies to be disrupted by physical obstructions which disrupt data transmission, 5G network reliability is going to be far lesser than its competitors. 


Both 5G and fiber broadbands have their pros and cons. But for now, wireless networks are nowhere near fiber broadbands when it comes to speed and bandwidth capacities.