Dark vs lit fiber: Key considerations for business networking options

Choosing a networking option for your business requires copious amounts of research and consideration. Making a decision while lacking a thorough understanding of the facts could potentially lead to unforeseen hardships — security issues, network downtimes, a lack of scalability. But with the right information, a business can implement a network with the speed, security and infrastructure needed to succeed in our fast-paced, connected world.

Here, we’ll provide a rundown of key considerations for three different types of networking options that most businesses use in their operations. Examining the benefits and drawbacks of dark fiber, lit fiber and copper telecommunications and how they pertain to your business’s current and future needs will lead to an ideal solution. There may be more work getting dark fiber set up since the business will be tasked with continual configuration of the network, but this level of control enables business owners more networking capabilities than ever before.

For a visual representation of dark fiber versus lit fiber and copper telecommunications, scroll down to our infographic displaying the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Six areas where dark fiber outpaces lit fiber and cable networks

There are many considerations when balancing the advantages and challenges of dark fiber, lit fiber and copper telecommunications (commonly known as cable). Whether you’re planning an IT infrastructure or merely looking to connect your business to the internet, these are the key characteristics to keep in mind before making your decision:


Cable’s speed tops out at 100 mbps. Both dark and lit fiber provide ten times that amount with 1000 mbps speeds for data transfer across the internet. For comparison, a 2-hour HD movie – 3.0-4.5 gigabytes – downloads in a little under 60 minutes on a traditional broadband connection. On a gigabit connection using a fiber network, that same movie would download in roughly 25 seconds.


Cable and lit fiber, as they are both public access networks, pose security liabilities for enterprises. Their multiple access points increase risk of malicious interference, a major threat in any sector. On the other hand, dark fiber’s closed loops are accessible only from a small number of points, making dark fiber’s security capabilities immensely beneficial.


As a business grows, it’s important the network can grow as well. With cable, bandwidth controlled by a third-party service means there is limited availability to grow and thus low scalability. The same goes for lit fiber, and there is moderate scalability available but at a higher cost. When leasing a dark fiber infrastructure, scaling up a business’s network is quick and easy. A business can configure its own lasers or wavelengths and increase the network’s bandwidth at no extra cost.


With a dark fiber network, the business either purchases or leases the dark fiber infrastructure, giving them control over their network. Customers rent the service for cable and lit fiber, meaning the business has no control over the network.


With the internet becoming essential in more and more enterprise processes, an unreliable connection could mean loss of revenue — a situation every enterprise wants to avoid. But downtime is possible on lit fiber networks and probable on cable networks, as the service provider controls the maintenance schedule and the network is exposed to high amounts of traffic. Dark fiber networks offer reduced downtimes, as the customer controls maintenance and the network is exposed to minimal traffic.


Copper networks incur monthly service costs, as do lit fiber networks at a usually higher rate. Dark fiber networks have a potential for initial costs if construction is required to reach locations, but incur no monthly third party service costs.

Take the first steps towards a dark fiber network for your business

While each networking option will connect your business, dark fiber has immense benefits, from speed and security to reduced downtime and greater infrastructure control. To learn more about dark fiber and how it compares to lit fiber, download our Dark vs Lit Fiber Guide.