Fibre vs wireless: How to tell which broadband is best for you and get the most from your internet connection

  • 15/09/2022
  • Sponsored by - Chorus
Fibre vs wireless: How to tell which broadband is best for you and get the most from your internet connection
Photo credit: Getty Images

In 2022, a stable internet connection is more utility than luxury but while flicking a light switch or turning on a tap is fairly straightforward, there are multiple methods for getting online and a bit of jargon to unpack with each. 

From fibre, to ADSL/VDSL and fixed wireless, there are multiple broadband technologies offered in NZ and not all are created equal, so Newshub and Chorus have teamed up to demystify your broadband and see what works best for you.

Let's focus on the two most common types of broadband now available - fibre and wireless.  


Fibre is, simply put, the fastest and most reliable broadband technology available in the country. Fibre transmits data using flashes of light along tiny glass strands whereas older forms of broadband technology use electricity along a copper wire. Since light is the fastest thing there is, data transmits almost instantly when using fibre.

The Commerce Commission reports regularly on broadband performance and fibre technologies consistently perform the best across every metric measured. The fastest plan measured, Fibre Max, has an average download speed of 856mbps and minimal slow down even during peak hours. Fibre also ranks highest in upload speeds, meaning large files like 4K video can be uploaded in minutes instead of hours. 

"Fibre has been proven to be incredibly reliable," says Chorus spokesperson Kurt Rodgers.

"It just has so much capacity and is so consistent. Whether you're watching Netflix or having a Zoom meeting, it doesn't matter what time of day or what other people are doing. On the most common fibre plans, everyone in the household can all watch or play whatever they want, whenever they want, on their devices and the experience is pretty consistent." 

Fibre even excels in areas where the lower numbers are better, such as latency, which is a measure of how much lag there is between an action taken on a device and a response from the network. The fastest fibre measured only 5.5ms of latency even at peak traffic on the network, as opposed to slower technologies which could see up to 47ms. 

If you enjoy your Netflix in smooth 4K or have some gamers in the house, you may want to consider upgrading to fibre if you haven't already. The network currently reaches 87 percent of Kiwi households so the chances are good it's available in your area. 


This one can get a little confusing. Wi-fi and wireless broadband can be mistaken for being the same thing but they are actually referring to different aspects of your internet connection. Wi-fi is part of your in-home network and is the process by which devices connect to your modem without the need for an ethernet cable. Wireless, or 'fixed wireless' is a type of broadband service which depends on the mobile data network in the same way your phone does.

The key benefit of fixed wireless is convenience, if your home has 4G coverage and capacity then the only thing a wireless modem needs to get you online is a power point. Once you plug in, it's ready when you are. 

However, that comparative convenience comes with some downsides. In overall performance 4G wireless consistently ranks lower than fibre in Commerce Commission reporting. The average speed for a 4G fixed wireless connection is 32mbps compared to over 800 mbps for Fibre Max. The latest MBNZ report states that 4G fixed wireless has: 

  • "On average slower speeds than VDSL." 

  • "Users also experience higher latencies due to the cellular technology underlying these plans. Fixed Wireless has the highest latency of all technologies apart from Satellite"

  • "Fixed Wireless also delivers lower download/upload speeds and more frequent dropouts than Fibre."

The report goes on to say: "This range of performance factors means that Fixed Wireless should not be preferred to Fibre on performance grounds." 

A point supported by Kurt: "Fundamentally its performance is just not as good." 

"Wireless is not as consistent but that might be fine for some people, particularly if you aren't big data users and if you're not using the internet for lots of things at the same time."

The fact 4G fixed wireless also lags behind fibre in latency, with an average of 47ms during peak time can be particularly problematic for gaming, which often depends on split second response time after an input. Since wireless depends on the same network as your phone, connection is affected by how many users are online accessing the same cell tower in your area, so there can be a drop off in performance during peak times.

General tips to get the most out of your broadband

Regardless of the underlying technology you use to get online in your household, there are a few steps you can take to ensure you're getting the most out of your connection.

  • Remember not every modem is created equal and the standard one you receive from your internet provider may not be top of the line. Consider upgrading, a more modern model can make a significant difference to the stability and speed of your connection.
  • Placement is important, if you bury your modem under a pile of books or desk in your basement, devices further away in the house may experience less stable connections. Somewhere elevated, uncluttered and central to the house tends to be best. Imagine your modem is like a speaker playing music and all your devices are ears straining to hear it. 
  • Other devices which produce a signal, baby monitors or Bluetooth devices can interfere with your modem if placed directly alongside it. Try to keep it clear so your devices can connect without issue.
  • For peak performance, consider plugging directly into your modem via an ethernet cable. Just like plugging headphones directly delivers the best possible sound, plugging into your modem provides the fastest, most stable internet connection. 

If you want to see the latest full Commerce Commission report on broadband performance it's available here. If you're ready to upgrade or just want to learn more about your options, get in touch with your ISP and ask about your options or head on over to Chorus to learn more.

This article was created for Chorus.