Cableco Ethernet vs Telco Fiber

Large telco companies have aggressively been updating their metro and on-net building fiber footprints. Simultaneously, cable companies are rapidly expanding their product portfolio, coverage areas and laying new fiber. Customers want to understand the difference between traditional IXCs and cable companies for on-net connectivity and look to TBI for answers.

A brief overgeneralization of the landscape below, highlights a few providers, what they're up to and what to consider when deciding who and what to go with.

Within Tier 1, AT&T has an ever-growing, well known, strong fiber-to-the-building program. CenturyLink has been expanding traditional Ethernet and their GPON-based fiber footprint in specific cities to allow customers access to their growing set of cloud and managed services. Verizon furthered their Metro Ethernet with recent announcements of preferred vendors and even more recently, announced that they are purchasing XO Communications' fiber-optic network business. But competition is fierce amongst other larger telco companies and tier 3 providers like Level 3, Birch, Zayo, Earthlink and others.Telco vs. Cableco

Traditionally, IT and business consulting firms used cable companies for DIA and point-to-point as they own their access. And although commonly used for redundancy purposes, cable companies like Time Warner Cable and Comcast now offer strong product portfolios and new fiber, possibly surpassing traditional telco carriers for Internet access for a few reasons they tout:

  • Lower cost solution for the primary fiber circuit.
  • A diverse network that generally provides a value add through backup.
  • Dissimilarities from telco companies via the last mile routes, offering route diversity. (If you order fiber from two telco providers, the last mile is going to ride on whichever carrier [RBOC, ILEC, etc.] actually owns the network.).
  • Newly built state-of-the-art fiber, and cablecos are considered "construction companies” based on how much new fiber they lay in the ground.
  • In rolling out DOCSIS 3.1, cablecos are hoping to support gigabit per second upload and download speeds.

Fiber to buildings in the US is still not at 100%. And in order to capture enterprise and wholesale business, gain market share and upsell services, carriers need to increase their fiber footprint. Sean Buckley of Fierce Telecom writes, “The equation is simple: those service providers that have more building sites connected to their own network can deliver a larger set of Ethernet and cloud services and control the customer experience.”

That is the underlying theme of the competitive set: who gets in on the customer first and influences decisions as they sell services to move up the stack? So, here are some considerations when choosing which route to go for Ethernet.

  • Pending location and needs, smaller state specific providers could have a big impact on speed and latency with their thousands of route miles and connections to wireless towers and data centers.
  • Some larger CLECs have built out within vertical markets and provide a strong solution, dependent on industry needs particularly retail and healthcare.
  • Recent acquisitions amongst providers can ultimately lead to a broader reach and cost efficient options for added services.
  • Cableco fiber solutions combined with a telco fiber solution can guarantee uptime with limited to no service interruptions.
  • Provisioning on a cableco circuit could be considered more dynamic, but you will still run into the same bottleneck headaches experienced on a telco circuit because there are simply too many people on it.
  • Cablecos always run a physical site survey for fiber upfront during the pre-sales process, ensuring the customer receives a firm price that will not change over time. There are fewer, if any, surprises to price once an order is placed on their behalf (ex. special construction charges).
  • If cablecos could deliver on DOCSIS 3.1 and get up to a gigabit level it would make some DIA pipes obsolete. It could increase access through fiber and at some point provide greater access options for CLECs.



About the Author
As Director of Marketing at TBI, Cohen is responsible for managing TBI’s marketing communications and implementing multi-channel branding and press strategies. In addition to driving TBI’s overall marketing strategy, Cohen directs both internal and external communications to ensure the delivery of valued products and programs to providers and partners alike. You can contact Corey at or connect with her on LinkedIn.