Starlink vs. Fiber

Starlink
Starlink
  • pro
    Price: $120.00–$500.00/mo.
  • pro
    Speed: Up to 220Mbps
  • pro
    Equipment costs: $599.00–$2,500.00
Check Availability
filled red circle with the letter i cut out of the middle
Fiber
  • pro
    Price: $35.00–$250.00/mo.
  • pro
    Speed: Up to 8,000Mbps
  • pro
    Equipment costs: Varies—often no additional charge

Dave Schafer
Nov 09, 2023
Icon Time To Read7 min read

Starlink is one of the most interesting (and controversial) satellite internet providers. With fast speeds, unlimited data, and lower latency, Elon Musk’s internet service aims to connect rural customers in new ways.

Fiber internet, on the other hand, offers exceptionally fast speeds at reasonable prices. Providers continue to expand their markets and offer some of the fastest connections available—up to 8Gbps in some cases!

Determining which internet type is best for you can be challenging. To help you make the best decision possible, we’ll dive deep into both Starlink and fiber services to look at the pros and cons of each. Let’s dig in!

What is Starlink?

Starlink is the much-hyped satellite internet service operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The provider uses a fleet (“constellation” in Starlink terminology) of over 4,000 LEO (low-Earth orbit) satellites to provide high-speed satellite internet access to much of the U.S., Canada, Europe, and other countries around the world.

The main appeals of Starlink are speed and unlimited data. The basic Starlink Residential plan offers speeds up to 100Mbps, while the Business plan kicks things up to 220Mbps. Both are quite fast for satellite, and the Business plan, while expensive, can compete with many cable providers. Meanwhile, unlimited data enables you to use your connection as you like, without worrying about saving data for the rest of the month.

Starlink’s main downside is cost. The Residential plan starts at $120 per month, plus a one-time equipment charge of $599. That’s a pretty steep price to pay for internet service, especially when you consider the speed tops out at 100Mbps—while that may be fast for satellite, it pales in comparison to what you could get with fiber. Naturally, faster speeds cost you even more, and the equipment costs can get as high as $2,500.

What is fiber internet?

Fiber internet uses fiber optic cables to transmit data. These cables are made up of superthin strands of glass bundled together. At either end of the cable is a laser that sends pulses of light through the glass cables—this light is what carries the data. These pulses of light move extremely quickly and can carry an enormous amount of data, which is why fiber is generally the fastest and most efficient type of internet connection.

The main advantages of fiber internet are speed and value. Thanks to its efficiency and bandwidth, fiber has the potential to be faster than basically any other type of internet connection. It also frequently comes with what are known as symmetrical speeds, meaning upload and download speeds are the same. (Upload speeds are usually slower with other types of internet.) This is a big advantage for users who upload a lot of media or do a lot of video chatting.

Fiber also tends to be a really good value for money. You can frequently find 1,000Mbps fiber plans for less than $80 per month, which is a fantastic deal—better than you’ll find with any other type of internet.

The downside of fiber is availability. If you’re in a decent-sized city or suburb, there’s a good chance you’ll have at least one fiber provider available. If you’re in a rural area—not so much. This may continue to improve as time goes on and companies expand infrastructure, but for now, rural areas are often out of luck when it comes to fiber.

Which fiber providers are the best?

Price
Speed
Data cap
AT&T Fiber$35.00–$250.00/mo.*300–5,000MbpsUnlimited
Google Fiber $70.00–$150.00/mo.**1,000–8,000MbpsUnlimited

*Price after $5/mo Autopay & Paperless bill discount (w/in 2 bills). Plus taxes & fees. Monthly State Cost Recovery Charge in TX, OH, NV applies. One time install chrg may apply. Ltd. avail/areas. Call or go to www.fiber.att.com to see if you qualify.

**Plus taxes and fees. Upload/download speed and device streaming claims are based on maximum wired speeds. Actual Internet speeds are not guaranteed and may vary based on factors such as hardware and software limitations, latency, packet loss, etc. 5,000 and above is available in select markets only.

There are a number of excellent fiber providers on the market. Which one is best often comes down to where you live—these services tend to be fairly regional, and which one is best in your area might be very different from which one is best even a town or two over.

That said, we are big fans of AT&T and Google Fiber. Each offers excellent value, superfast speeds, and good customer support. The latter is a big deal, because Starlink’s customer support is not our favorite. The availability is a bit lacking, but if you can get them in your area, either of these providers would be a great choice.

AT&T is one of the fastest fiber internet providers in the country right now, with speeds up to 5,000Mbps. The more standard 1,000Mbps plan is less than $80 per month, which is a steal. AT&T is also a very reliable service—we’ve personally had a great experience with it. 

Google Fiber was one of the first widely known gigabit fiber providers, and it remains a great value. Customers can get 1Gig (roughly 1,000Mbps) internet for $70 per month, or 2Gigs for $100 per month. Google Fiber also now offers 5Gig and 8Gig plans in select markets—the latter is such overkill it’s ridiculous. Best of all, even that plan is relatively affordable at only $150 per month.

Starlink vs. fiber availability

Starlink has much wider availability than any one fiber provider. In fact, Starlink is available in places where there aren’t any fiber providers, thanks to its use of satellites. That said, the situation isn’t perfect.

Starlink is theoretically available nationwide, as well as in many other countries around the world. However, according to the Starlink availability map, large portions of the Eastern and Central U.S. are currently waitlisted, meaning Starlink availability may be a challenge. The only information available is an “Expanding in 2023.” If you’re in one of the waitlisted areas, you’ll either have to wait for your service or go with a different provider.

Fiber providers tend to be much more localized than satellite. Google Fiber, for example, is available in only about 30 cities. (You can check the list on the Google Fiber website.) AT&T has a larger footprint, but it’s still confined largely to more populated areas and far from nationwide.

Starlink vs. fiber speed

Maximum speed
StarlinkUp to 220Mbps
Fiber internetUp to 8,000Mbps

If Starlink blows fiber out of the water on availability, fiber easily takes the cake on speed and performance. Starlink’s speeds top out at around 220Mbps, and you’ll pay a hefty price for that. The more reasonable Residential plan reaches up to 100Mbps—fast for satellite, but not much compared to fiber.

Fiber is all about speed. Some providers, like Google Fiber, don’t even offer plans slower than 1Gbps, and those that do are often faster on the slowest option than Starlink is on its fastest option. With options available up to 8Gbps, there’s no shortage of speed in the fiber world.

Starlink vs. fiber latency

Satellite internet—and by extension, Starlink—is known for having high latency. Latency is how long it takes a signal to travel from one point on the network to another. Lower latency is better. Since satellites orbit so high above Earth and data has to travel thousands of miles and back, there’s a natural and unavoidable delay in the signal.

Starlink is a bit better than other satellite providers in this regard because its satellites orbit lower, but it’s still something to be aware of. High latency, or lag, shows up most noticeably in gaming, where quick reactions are often needed. It can also be an issue in Zoom calls and other video chatting apps.

Fiber doesn’t suffer from this issue. The technology (light pulses sent through ultra-pure glass cables) makes latency about as low as it can get. This translates to excellent performance for streaming, gaming, and other demanding applications.

Starlink vs. fiber cost

Price
Equipment costs
Starlink$120.00–$500.00/mo.$599.00–$2,500.00
Fiber$35.00–$250.00/mo.Varies, often no additional charge

Data as of 4/9/2024.

Starlink is pricey—there’s really no other way to put it. You do get a lot for your money compared to other satellite providers because Starlink offers unlimited data by default. Most other satellite internet companies, like Hughesnet, Viasat, and OneWeb, require you to pay high monthly fees to add additional data, and it’s never unlimited.

Fiber definitely gives you more bang for your buck. Gigabit plans (roughly 1,000Mbps) are generally less than $80 per month, which is a huge jump from Starlink. Additionally, fiber providers frequently include equipment at no additional cost, whereas Starlink requires substantial upfront investment for necessary gear.

Who should choose Starlink

Starlink is an ideal choice for users in rural areas or those who need to take their internet on the go. Since it’s satellite, it’s available in many locations that other internet types aren’t (assuming you’re not waitlisted, that is). This includes most of the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, Australia, and parts of Asia and Africa.

The Starlink Roam and Mobility plans also give you the option to take your connection on the road. Roam lets you take a portable satellite dish out for camping, RV use, or tailgating. Starlink Mobility is a unique option that allows for in-motion use, so you can actually stay connected to the internet while your vehicle is moving. This could be extremely handy in certain situations where communication is critical, although the pricing is likely to exclude many casual users.

Who should choose fiber

We generally recommend fiber to anyone who has access to it—it’s that good. The amount of speed you get for your money is just unmatched, and the service tends to be more reliable than other types of internet (especially satellite).

The only time we wouldn’t recommend a fiber connection these days is if cost is the absolute most important consideration. In these cases, you may get a better deal with 5G home internet through your cell provider. Otherwise, it’s fiber all the way—assuming it’s available in your area, of course.

Starlink vs. fiber FAQ

How does fiber internet work?

Fiber internet works by transmitting signals as pulses of light through cables made of long, thin strands of super-pure glass. The result is an internet connection that’s extremely fast and efficient, and since the cables are so thin they can be bundled together to provide a ton of bandwidth. It’s both a very cool and very effective technology.

Is fiber internet better than Starlink?

That depends on what you need from your internet. Fiber is almost always faster, more reliable, and more cost-effective than Starlink (or any satellite internet). However, fiber isn’t available everywhere, and some of the regional providers can vary in quality.

You can get Starlink in most of the country (albeit with waitlists in some places), so that’s a huge advantage. Starlink also has plans that let you take your connection on-the-go, which fiber doesn’t offer.

Dave Schafer
Written by
Dave Schafer
Dave has written professionally for tech companies and consumer technology sites for nearly five years, with a special focus on TV and internet. He uses his industry expertise to help readers at HighSpeedInternet.com get the most out of their services. No matter the project, he prefers his coffee black (the stronger, the better).