When selecting new internet service for your home or business, there are several major types of internet connections on the market today from major service providers. Depending on your location, cable and satellite internet are two major connection types available. Each has advantages and disadvantages for you to consider when making the choice that works best to meet your needs. Compare cable and satellite internet plans at Wirefly by entering your ZIP code in to our plan comparison tool.
While almost everyone is familiar with cable internet given the ubiquity of cable television service and its availability throughout the country, satellite internet is an option that is somewhat lesser-known. On the other hand, in rural or remote areas, satellite internet is not only a common option, but often a predominant and sometimes only option for a fast internet connection capable of meeting today's needs for connectivity and speed.
How They Work: The Technologies
Cable internet service is generally offered by your local cable television provider. This type of service is available by itself, or bundled together with television and phone service at a discounted rate. It operates with a modem, usually provided by the cable internet provider, that connects to an incoming cable. This will be either a new cable wired into your home, or the splicing of your existing television service cable.
Unlike cable, satellite internet is provided by a satellite provider. An internet connection on land sends a signal to a satellite in orbit outside Earth, which then transmits the signal to a satellite dish which has been installed at your home.
In both cases, professional installation by a technician is generally necessary in order to connect your home to cable or properly connect your home satellite dish to the satellite internet provider's network. In general, the process is similar to that of installing cable television or satellite television in your home or business location.
In general, cable internet is the more reliable of these two options, because it is transmitted directly through a physical cable rather than via a satellite signal, which is more vulnerable to interruption. Of course, this can vary from area to area; if cable television service in your area suffers frequent interruptions, this will apply to internet service as well. The reliability and reputation of your cable company will generally also transfer to its internet service options.
Satellite internet properly requires a clear line to the Southern sky, but signals can be blocked by bad weather, thunderstorms, sunspots or physical obstacles like trees, mountains or buildings. Cable is less vulnerable to interruption due to these types of physical or climate obstacles. However, in some cases, satellite internet will continue to work even when cable internet does not, as your service is dependent on a remote satellite rather than your local provider.
Cable internet service is offered in almost every location that cable TV service is available. While this means that it is available to the vast majority of consumers, if you are located in a remote or rural area with limited cable access, cable internet may not be an option for you. However, in general, cable internet is the best-known and one of the most widely-subscribed internet technologies in the United States.
Satellite internet is often less well-known, but is available almost everywhere, including in rural areas with limited wiring and cable access. In some extremely remote rural areas, satellite internet is the only high-speed option available for internet service. While many people in large cities are unaware of satellite internet, it is a lifeline for rural communities and is the standard high-speed internet option in a number of locations.
Download speeds over cable internet generally range from 20-100 Mbps (megabits per second.) Several cable providers currently offer download speeds exceeding 100 Mbps. In general, upload speeds are far slower, at 1.5 to five Mbps. When you use cable internet, you share bandwidth with fellow subscribers in your area. This means that your download speed can decline at peak traffic time, especially as cable internet is a common service choice for heavy downloaders, video streamers and gamers. Latency, or data processing delays, of 100 milliseconds are frequent with cable internet; however, latency ranges from 25 to 500 milliseconds.
Satellite internet is significantly slower than cable service. It also has a greater latency interval on average. Download speeds are generally from one to 15 Mbps, with upload speeds of one or two Mbps. Latency can range from 1000 to 2000 milliseconds. Satellite internet has sufficient speed for typical usage like email and web surfing, but high-demand usage like gaming or large video uploads can be extremely difficult.
Prices for cable internet subscriptions vary among providers and locations. If you already have television or other services or are choosing multiple services, costs are reduced through bundling discounts. Monthly service fees range from around $25 to $100, depending on your package, speed and provider. There may be an installation fee, depending on your provider and package.
On the other hand, satellite internet is usually more expensive and most plans are approximately $50 to $100 in monthly fees. You will also need to buy a satellite dish, which is usually available from your provider. There may be an installation fee, as well as additional costs for faster service speeds.
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