November 14, 2020

Cable vs. DSL vs. Satellite Internet – Which One Should I Choose?

Cable broadband, DSL, or Satellite internet, which one is better? Each type of internet service has its pros and cons, and perhaps identifying which one is the best for your personal or business needs is more important than lining them up to find better service.

Some households will need internet for streaming movies and checking social media but not much else, while businesses should consider upload speeds if they need to share large files with clients and suppliers.

How to choose between cable vs. DSL vs. satellite

When shopping for internet for your home or business, the first consideration is whether the service is available in your area. Cable, DSL, and Satellite internet have high availability, but most especially satellite, as this wireless broadband connection is beamed down from space and able to reach all over the world. However, high availability doesn’t ensure high speeds or even a stable connection.

First, let us look at each of these internet connection types in-depth to better choose between cable, DSL, and satellite.

Cable Broadband

“Cable” is specifically the copper coaxial cables used to supply your home with cable TV. These are the same cables that deliver broadband to your home or office. The internet service provider (ISP) will set up a modem to connect your computers and other devices with ethernet wiring or with a WiFi router.


Cable delivers varying download speeds, from 3 Mbps to over 100 Mbps. A downside to cable internet is you’re basically sharing bandwidth with everyone subscribed to the same ISP on your block, which means that when your neighbor’s kids come home from school and start online gaming and streaming videos, your own connection will lag and become spotty.

Cable ISPs offer plans that bundle internet, phone, and TV, beneficial for homes that use their internet primarily to stream videos and binge-watch TV series. Some ISPs offer unlimited data with their bundled plans and allows high definition (HD) streaming on multiple gadgets.


DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line and runs on traditional phone lines, but using 2-wire technology to dedicate the line for internet use. It was developed as an improvement from ancient dial-up technology, and it is still the favored and most prevalent option for the internet, notably since it is the most affordable.


However, it isn’t the most reliable service. In the past, DSL ISPs were called out for falsely advertising their speeds at a higher rate. The location also plays an important role; even if DSL connections are available in more areas than cable and fiber, the signal weakens the farther you are from your provider’s main office.

If you plan to use DSL for your business and you will be uploading a massive volume of files to the cloud or using a Virtual Private Network or VPN, you should find out if SDSL or symmetric DSL is available in your location. SDSL has improved upload speeds compared to ADSL (asymmetric DSL), which is only optimized for downloading. However, SDSL is not as readily available as the latter. Recently, VDSL (very-high-speed DSL) and HDSL (high bit-rate DSL) have been developed to improve the overall DSL experience.


Both cable and DSL roughly charge around $50 per month for 100 Mbps, depending on the ISP. 100 Mbps can handle multiple devices performing different tasks, including HD streaming and multi-player gaming, and retain its high speed. 50 Mbps will deliver decent speeds but at less intensity – meaning fewer devices and fewer activities. Some companies will entice you to get the 100 Mbps plan by significantly lowering the upfront rate, which then rises after 12 months. This is why some companies advertise cheaper rates for a 100 Mbps plan, when it is obviously the better choice.

Both DSL and cable are available throughout the country, but its internet service providers tend not to overlap. For example, in one city, you may only have one company that offers DSL, but none that provides cable. Or you could have two companies, each offering DSL and cable, but you could further wish for another company to set up a better service in your area. Still, mainly in rural areas, there could be no cable or DSL ISPs at all. But there will be satellite internet.

Satellite internet

There are only two satellite wireless broadband providers in the US, ViaSat and HughesNet. However, a third one, Starlink, is coming soon.

Unlike DSL and cable internet, satellite internet is available nationwide because it gets its signal from the satellites that orbit the earth. Your ISP will install a receiving dish on your office to transform radio waves into internet through a connected modem.


This all sounds space age-y exciting, but it is not quite the hyper-speed future you envision. Since the signals have to travel so far, the resulting speeds are quite mediocre. Because the technology is so complex, it costs too much for its worth.


For example, Viasat will charge $150 for 100 Mbps, while Hughesnet charges $149.99 for download speed that only reaches up to 25 Mbps. And you can forget about uploading files because peak speeds are at 4 Mbps.

So why does it exist? Until other ISPs can roll out nationwide, satellites are where rural America gets their internet. Usually, these areas may not need 100 Mbps to communicate with loved ones or run a small business and make do with the lower plans. Viasat’s lowest plan starts at $35, while HughesNet starts at $60.

Cable vs. DSL vs. Satellite – so which to choose?

If you live in a remote area with no cable or DSL provider for miles, the satellite is the only option, and you need only compare the prices and speeds of two ISPs. Your location may also dictate which to choose between cable or DSL when both are available, based on which ISP offers better rates. With this guide, we hope you can find the best rates for your needs.

About the author 

Peter Hatch

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