• Xfinity and Fios are two of the most widely-recognized Internet providers in the US. Both Xfinity and Fios offer TV and phone services in addition to home Internet and Wi-Fi.
  • The big differentiator between Xfinity and Fios is that Fios has a newer 100% fiber network while Xfinity uses an older cable network. Fios wins on speed, while Xfinity adds value with hard-to-beat pricing on bundled TV plans.
  • In areas where they overlap, Xfinity and Fios compete heavily on price and quality of service. This is great for customers, who benefit from record-low promo rates.

Quick Picks

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:

Key Highlights

Fios is Fiber: Verizon Fios’s fiber network allows them to offer blazing fast broadband speeds up to 1,000/1,000mbps. These speeds are only matched by other residential fiber providers like Google Fiber.

Symmetrical Plans: Fios just recently upgrade all of their “Fios Quantum” internet plans to be “symmetrical” which means they offer the same upload speeds as their download speeds. This means if you work from home, do video conferencing, or upload large files often, you’ll see a huge boost in some of the tasks you do.

Solid Deals and Bundles: Verizon Fios is typically a little more expensive than Xfinity, but if you are comparing bundles and triple play plans you can find cost-effective solutions.

Fiber vs Cable for Internet Service

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 5–7pm, varies by area). Fiber makes these issues much less common.

I’ve personally used both services in the past couple 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.

Compare Verizon Fios and XFINITY from Comcast at a Glance

StatisticVerizon FiosXFINITY from Comcast
Price Range$39.99 - $79.99/mo+$39.99 - $149.99/mo+
Connection Type(s) Fiber Cable
Customer Recommendation Rating on BroadbandNow.com62.4%40.9%
ACSI Customer Service Rating73/10059/100
Netflix Ranking10th2nd
Population Served33,530,459111,218,631

Personal Experience and Speed Test Results

To demonstrate the speed differences between Comcast Xfinity and Verizon Fios, I asked a friend who was switching between providers to record a speedtest 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)

Comcast Xfinity vs Verizon Fios Download Speeds

While Fios is theoretically much faster than Comcast, the popular plans from both providers fall into the same general download range — around 100 Mbps, 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).

Verizon Fios average download speeds

XFINITY from Comcast average download speeds

CityVerizon Fios SpeedXFINITY from Comcast Speed
Alexandria178.94 Mbps189.16 Mbps
Arlington148.72 Mbps128.24 Mbps
Boston197.79 Mbps148.91 Mbps
Fredericksburg146.42 Mbps188.98 Mbps
Gaithersburg144.65 Mbps127.02 Mbps
Harrisburg146.42 Mbps105.85 Mbps
Henrico145.09 Mbps189.96 Mbps
Hyattsville105.03 Mbps113.33 Mbps
Jersey City115.92 Mbps102.46 Mbps
Manassas403.91 Mbps169.91 Mbps
Newark82.45 Mbps107.5 Mbps
Philadelphia100.61 Mbps106.05 Mbps
Pittsburgh96.15 Mbps97.44 Mbps
Richmond95.29 Mbps125.71 Mbps
Rockville102.08 Mbps143.08 Mbps
Silver Spring109.37 Mbps143.21 Mbps
Toms River135.21 Mbps83.87 Mbps
Trenton97.92 Mbps102.62 Mbps
Washington145.61 Mbps96.41 Mbps
Woodbridge189.44 Mbps207.05 Mbps

Cable vs Fiber: Fios’ Fiber Network Wins Hands-Down

Road lighting at night.
Fiber is designed for data, while Cable is more of a temporary solution.

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 Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Affordable price tag
  • Faster than DSL networks

Cons

  • Reduced upload speeds
  • Shared bandwidth within neighborhoods

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 analog signal on cable, ping also tends to be higher, which can create a lag effect on video calls and games.

Fiber Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Gigabit speed and high bandwidth
  • Upload speeds equal to download speeds

Cons

  • Higher price tag
  • Can take longer to have installed

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.

More information on the details of cable broadband technology vs fiber broadband technology is available here, as well as a list of every fiber provider currently operating.

Xfinity and Fios Coverage Areas

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)[1], 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.

XFINITY from Comcast Coverage & Availability Map

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COVERAGE CENSUS TRACTS

Verizon Fios Coverage & Availability Map

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Comcast vs Fios Customer Service

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.[2]

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.

Equipment and Installation: Fios Can Be Tricky

Fios internet installation setup box vs. Xfinity.
Xfinity conveniently hooks into your existing cable jack, while Fios requires a specialized ONT installation. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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 to bringing your own modem/router and home networking equipment into the mix.

Installation Considerations and Fees

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 many of their multi-year contract plans.

Modem and router leasing fees

Xfinity and Fios both charge an extra $10 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.

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 $10 for their branded router.

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 vs Fios DVR Options

Bundle plans: Xfinity Has the Best TV Deals

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.

Here’s a quick rundown on how the Xfinity X1 DVR compares to Verizon Fios DVR options:

DVRStorageTunersLease (May Vary)
Fios “Enhanced” DVR100 hrs HD6~$20/mo.
Fios “Premium” DVR200 hrs HD12~$30/mo.
XFINITY X1 DVR60 HD hrs4~$9.95–19.95/mo.

Conclusion: Fios Wins Overall, but Xfinity is Innovating Fast

Flat screen TV installed on the wall.
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,[3] 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.

Statistics and Facts about Xfinity and Fios

  1. In 2012, the FCC showed that not all providers offered the speeds they advertised. While Comcast and Fios both showed above average speeds, other providers didn’t. See the full 2012 report on the FCC’s website.[4]
  2. The ACSI rates and compares companies across different industries. The score is based on an index of 100.[5]
  3. As of 2016, cable was the most common fixed broadband connection type in the US, accounting for 59% of subscriptions.[3]


Experts

Robert Smith

Robert Smith

Robert Smith is a UX designer based in Brooklyn, New York. He enjoys sharing his knowledge about all things “user experience” through articles, op-eds, and how-to posts. When he’s not creating web apps, he enjoys cycling and reading classic sci-fi.

Jessica Sims

Jessica Sims

Jessica Sims is a technology blogger and broadband industry veteran. Her background as an administrator and customer support employee for a major ISP informs her passion for helping consumers understand their service options.

James Webb

James Webb

James Webb is a tech and gadgets expert with a focus on educational content development. He draws on his background in the startup world to make complicated technologies and topics easy to understand for normal folks.

Questions & Answers

3 ANSWERED QUESTIONS

Does Roku work better with FiOS or Comcast?

If you have multiple devices online at the same time and plan to stream a lot, then a fiber connection like FiOS is probably your best bet since it offers higher speeds and you’ll experience less issues during peak use times.

Which is better for *Internet-only* with no TV or phone? Xfinity or Fios?

Fios usually has better speeds for Internet-only plans. However, they are more expensive than Xfinity if you aren’t willing to sign a 2-year contract. In my opinion the speed increase is worth the extra $15 or so most customers pay with Fios. In either case, you can recoup the month-to-month cost by purchasing your own router to get rid of the “equipment fee” charged by both providers.

Should I get FiOS if I'm into gaming? I use Twitch a lot.

Yes, FiOS is probably the better choice for gaming. Particularly on Twitch, since you’re streaming video upstream when you broadcast, the dramatically higher upload speeds of a fiber connection will give you a better experience.

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