Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
Comcast vs Verizon
September 8, 2020
We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of spec differences between Fios and Xfinity below.
Here are some quick picks for those of you who want a recommendation ASAP:
Verizon Fios has two key strengths: gigabit speeds and unlimited data use. They’re a perfect fit for heavy Internet users like techies, gamers, 4K video streamers, and remote workers who need the absolute best quality of service.
Their unlimited data policy makes them very friendly for streaming video content from services like Netflix and Hulu. The Fios fiber network is much better suited than cable to intensive upload-heavy applications like Skype and Twitch. If streaming 4K/HD TV is a primary use for your connection, Fios is recommended.
Xfinity competes strongly on bundled and budget services, making them a great choice for families that need a diverse mix of services (cable TV, Internet, phone, home security, etc) for an affordable price.
If you spend more than 20 hours weekly watching TV, you’ll benefit from their X1 smart TV platform, which is an industry leader in terms of channel count and on-demand content. As an added bonus, Xfinity is usually fast and simple to have installed or activated.
If pricing and TV packages are your main concerns, go with Xfinity.
If your core need is high-speed Internet, Fios is generally the best choice.
Cable is fast enough for most people, but even the more expensive residential plans fall short on upload speeds and ping compared to Fios.
Packet loss on video calls and difficulties streaming on Twitch are common issues with cable connections, if only during peak use times (usually 5–7 pm, varies by area). Fiber makes these issues much less common.
I’ve personally used both services in the past couple of years, and while I’ve had a good experience with Comcast (aside from the confusing call center), Fios was ultimately most worth the money for the high standard of service and unbeatable upload speeds. Previously, I had been consistently getting throughput around 3/4 of the advertised “speeds up to” download rate. I had also been having issues using Skype and other conference call platforms. After switching to Fios, those problems virtually disappeared — presumably mostly thanks to the high upload speed and reduced latency.
To demonstrate the speed differences between Comcast Xfinity and Verizon Fios, I asked a friend who was switching between providers to record a speed test from both companies using the same server, same computer, and same time of day. Below is the video of the results:
As you can see from the video, Verizon Fios’s 150/150mbps plan, one of their middle plans, is still faster than Comcast’s fastest plan. Not to mention the upload speed with Verizon Fios is 32 times faster than with Comcast.
Note: Comcast has increased their plans since the above video was recorded. (Sept 2015)
While Fios is theoretically much faster than Comcast, the popular plans from both providers fall into a similar download range — around 100 Mbps for Xfinity and 200 Mbps for Verizon, depending on current promotions and service area.
The difference that matters for the average Internet user is that Fios delivers upload speeds equal to download speeds, while Comcast delivers lower upload speeds (usually in the 5–25 Mbps range).
Speeds above are based on 51,288,190 speed tests over the trailing 12 months.
Comcast Xfinity is cable. Verizon Fios is fiber. What’s the difference?
The short answer is that fiber is a newer technology that’s much faster than cable. The long answer is a bit more complicated.
Cable companies like Comcast deliver Internet via coaxial cable networks originally built for traditional subscription TV. Transmitting digital data over these “analog” networks is difficult, but thanks to advances in technology it’s possible to do so surprisingly well.
The caveat with cable is that coaxial cables weren’t built with uploading in mind. They’re great at carrying data (namely, TV channels) to the customer, but not good at carrying data back. As a result, upload speeds are generally between 5–25 Mbps, even on top-shelf “300 Mbps” plans.
Because data has to be modulated into an analog signal on cable, ping also tends to be higher, which can create a lag effect on video calls and games.
Fiber cables, meanwhile, are designed specifically for digital data. Rather than modulating frequencies, fiber cables transmit data as light — which as Einstein established last century, is about as fast as you can get. Fios runs fiber all the way to the home, resulting in a maximum speed that is several times that of Xfinity.
Since the cables are designed for two-way transmission, the upload speeds match the download speeds, which makes a huge difference for gaming, streaming, and video communication.
Fios may win the speed game, but Xfinity crushes them when it comes to availability.
Because fiber is so expensive to install ($50,000/mile according to some analysts), Verizon has been extremely slow to roll out extensive coverage. In fact, they even got sued by New York City in March of 2017 for failing to do so quickly enough over a multi-year contract with the local government.
The point is: Xfinity is practically ubiquitous, which can make it a good choice for those of us who move frequently and like to carry our service and home networking equipment with us.
Comcast is well known at this point for mixed customer service experience and confusing fees. Since they rebranded as “Xfinity” things have improved somewhat, and the company seems determined to improve their public image as competition from Verizon and other Internet providers increases.
While the call centers might be confusing, they also offer an opportunity for customers who are willing to put up with it. Monthly fees creeping north? Try calling and negotiating a better deal.
Cable providers like Charter Communications generally refuse to work with customers on pricing, but Comcast has a history of giving good deals for long-time customers who bother to ask. Just be polite when you call, and be sure to remind them that you can switch if they can’t help you. (Assuming you actually can, that is.)
Fios has a somewhat better reputation for customer service, but they also have a reputation for taking longer than average to take care of issues. Be aware of this for installation in particular, since depending on demand you might have to schedule your installation as much as a week in advance.
Overall, the installation process for Xfinity and Fios is much like the final product: Xfinity is cheaper and Fios is more expensive. (Unless you sign on for a multi-year contract, in which case either provider will usually throw in installation for free.)
You’ll need to budget more time for Fios installation, and it’s less friendly bringing your own modem/router and home networking equipment into the mix.
Comcast installation usually means just hooking up a modem to the cable jack in your living room. Our suggestion: save the installation fee and do it yourself.
Fios is a bit more complicated and requires a specialized terminal box called an ONT (Optical Network Terminal). If Fios hasn’t served your residence before, you’ll have to schedule an appointment with a technician when you sign up.
The Fios installation itself can take as long as eight hours depending on the layout of your home and the amount of in-home coaxial wiring needed. Long story short: plan to spend an entire day getting your home network situated.
Both Fios and Xfinity charge installation fees, but some customers have reported success arguing their way out of them with Xfinity if they’re able to do at least part of the installation themselves (or are willing to sign a long contract).
Fios also waives the installation fee for customers who order Fios service online.
Xfinity and Fios both charge an extra monthly fee for leasing your “gateway” modem/router equipment. The difference here is that Xfinity makes it much easier to buy your own equipment elsewhere and save the monthly fee (which adds up to hundreds pretty quickly).
You can get ideas about which modem/router to buy at Xfinity’s approved cable modems page. If you decide to go with the Xfinity-provided router, the fee is around $10/month.
Using your own equipment with Fios is a bit more difficult since they actively discourage it. Needless to say, they’re still happy to charge $15 for their branded router. However, if you sign up for the Fios Gigabit Connection, the router rental fee is waived, so it’s worth using the Verizon router for that plan.
In spite of their protests, many customers will find they can do more with their home network if they use their own equipment. We’ve covered how to work around their system and use your own equipment in-depth on our Verizon Fios deals page.
Xfinity generally offers the best value bundled TV/Internet deals, which makes sense considering they started as a cable TV company. Their X1 platform brings a lot of on-demand functionality and advanced features into the mix. If you’re a TV buff, check out the details on our Comcast Xfinity page.
As you can see in the table below, Xfinity has a clear edge over Fios when it comes to pricing on TV equipment. Comcast/Xfinity has a long history in the TV market, and surprisingly has been one of the faster innovators in smart TV and streaming service integrations. Rather than fighting the trend towards “cord cutting” and Netflix, Xfinity’s X1 platform rolls up streaming services alongside their traditional cable offerings, which makes it a great choice for households with multiple people watching completely different types of programming.
The drawback, of course, is the storage on X1 DVRs. The latest models top out around 60MB, which is less than half what Fios offers.
That said, 60 hours is a normal amount for cable DVRs and should meet the needs of most family homes — especially since most longform drama TV is coming from streaming platforms anyway, which means that physical DVR storage is usually for catching national and local sports.
While Verizon’s DVR equipment is more expensive, it offers more advanced features than Xfinity. With the Multi-Room DVR – Premium, you can store up to 200 hours in HD and record 12 shows simultaneously. This is a great option for big households with lots of people wanting to record different shows at the same time.
If you’re looking for a budget option from Fios, the Basic DVR is comparable to Xfinity’s DVR in terms of price, but you can only record up to 2 shows at once and store 50 hours of HD content. Customers who sign up for The Most Fios TV or the Fios TV Mundo Total package will get the Basic DVR at no monthly charge.
Here’s a quick rundown on how the Xfinity X1 DVR compares to Verizon Fios DVR options:
Fios and Xfinity are innovating fast to win the war for your screens.
At the end of the day, the “problem” of choosing between Fios and Xfinity is a good problem to have. If you’re a techie or a cord cutter, definitely opt for Fios. Xfinity makes more sense for TV fans and budget-minded family homes.
There are millions of Americans who only have access to one high-speed provider, so the fact that you have competition in your area means that Fios and Xfinity have to work harder to keep you as a customer.
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