Satellite internet connectivity has become exponentially accessible in the past decade. While these services were available for decades, commoners have found them affordable only after popular options like Starlink.

    Yet, can satellite internet really compete with cable internet? Which one should you choose from the two? In this guide, I offer an in-detail comparison of cable internet vs. satellite internet so that you can make an informed choice.

    Cable Internet vs. Satellite Internet: the Better Choice

    Cable internet is the better choice in terms of speed, reliability, and costs. You can find competitive pricing options as well. However, if you live in an area where cable internet is unavailable, satellite internet service can help you deal with basic tasks and streaming.

    Cable Internet vs. Satellite Internet: A Quick Table

    Here’s a quick look at the core differences between cable internet and satellite internet.

    Aspect
    Cable Internet
    Satellite Internet
    Availability
    Generally available in urban and suburban areas
    Available virtually everywhere with a clear view of the sky
    Speed
    Typically faster
    Slower compared to cable internet
    Latency
    Lower latency
    Higher latency
    Reliability
    Generally more reliable
    Susceptible to weather conditions, less reliable
    Installation
    Requires physical connection to home or building
    Installation of a satellite dish required
    Equipment
    Modem and router
    Satellite dish and modem
    Cost
    Generally lower cost per month
    Higher upfront costs and monthly fees
    Data Caps
    May have data caps or limits
    Often have data caps or Fair Access Policy limits
    Usage Restrictions
    Fewer usage restrictions
    May have restrictions on streaming and gaming
    Weather Dependency
    Generally not affected by weather conditions
    Performance may degrade during inclement weather

    I understand these points are not explained in detail. However, I shall do it in the following sections. I would start with an introduction to cable internet and satellite internet.

    What is Cable Internet?

    Cable internet is the type of internet service that uses a coaxial or fiber cable to connect your devices to the internet. It is the most common mode of internet service available all over the world, and it is known for its high reliability, vital connection capabilities and speed.

    Cable Internet

    Cable internet uses a modem or ONT (for fiber connections) to convert the incoming signal to digital signals. After that, you may set up a Wi-Fi router for wireless network access. In comparison, cable internet is less expensive than mobile internet options.

    Pros & Cons of Cable Internet

    Of course, cable internet has multiple pros and cons.

    Pros of Cable Internet

    • Cable internet offers speeds up to multiple gigabytes, especially with fiber connectivity.
    • Cable internet is more reliable as they use underground cables for long-term connectivity.
    • Cable internet options are available across urban and semi-urban areas in the US.
    • The upfront costs and monthly payments are also on the lower end of the spectrum.
    • You can use a cable internet connection for low-latency tasks like gaming.

    Cons of Cable Internet

    • Cable internet is not widely available in rural areas due to distance from the main hubs.
    • Your cable internet connection may be affected by terrestrial conditions (storms, wind, etc.)
    • Data caps and speed throttling are standard among coaxial internet services.
    • Installation requires changes in wiring and networking equipment
    • Cable internet is not portable. So, you need to put in more effort while moving across the country.

    Top Cable Internet Service Providers In The US

    Depending on the location, you can find tens of cable internet service providers in the United States. But, in many cases, they are subsidiaries of some big names. A quick list of the top cable internet service providers in the United States include:

    • Spectrum Internet
    • Xfinity
    • Cox

    These ISPs offer cable internet services with speeds starting from 5Mbps going up to 2Gbps. You may also explore fiber-only providers like Google Fiber. Anyway, here is a quick comparison table:

    ISP
    Coverage
    Speed
    Data Usage
    Price
    Package
    Charges
    Spectrum Internet
    Available in select areas
    Up to 200 Mbps
    Unlimited
    Starts around $49.99
    Modem and router included
    Standard installation fee may apply
    Xfinity
    Nationwide
    Up to 2000 Mbps (Gigabit Pro)
    1.2 TB per month
    Starts around $49.99
    Modem and router rental fee
    Standard installation fee may apply
    Cox
    Available in select areas
    Up to 940 Mbps
    1.25 TB per month
    Starts around $29.99
    Modem rental fee included
    Standard installation fee may apply

    What is Satellite Internet?

    Satellite internet means the internet service that is delivered through satellites orbiting the earth. In this case, your device will be connected through the satellite, which will pass on the server to a ground station. This station will be using fiber cables and other hardware to connect to the internet.

    Satellite Internet

    Satellite internet connections typically consist of a satellite dish, which is connected to a separate modem. This modem is responsible for converting the signals from the satellite into digital signals. Satellite internet services are considered suitable for situations where you cannot access the conventional hardware that cable internet requires.

    Pros & Cons of Satellite Internet

    Due to its unique design, satellite internet connections have some different pros and cons.

    Pros of Satellite Internet

    • A satellite internet connection does not need conventional hardware such as long cables or wiring.
    • You can use satellite internet from any place on the earth with access to an open sky.
    • Satellite internet connections are also suitable for those who move around a lot, say in RVs.
    • Satellite internet is unaffected by terrestrial calamities such as storms or flooding.
    • You can find multiple options with competitive pricing

    Cons of Satellite Internet

    • Higher latency compared to other types of internet.
    • Susceptible to signal interference from weather conditions.
    • Limited data allowances or Fair Access Policy (FAP) restrictions.
    • Slower speeds compared to cable or fiber-optic internet.
    • Potential for service disruptions during severe weather events.
    • Requires a clear view of the sky, limiting installation options.
    • Higher upfront costs for equipment and installation.
    • Not suitable for gaming or video calls

    Top Satellite Internet Service Providers In The US

    You can choose between multiple US-based satellite internet service providers. Here is a quick table of those popular companies and their pricing aspects:

    ISP
    Coverage
    Speed
    Plans
    Pricing
    Device Cost
    Installation Cost
    HughesNet
    Nationwide
    Up to 25 Mbps
    Varies (e.g., 10 GB, 20 GB, 30 GB, etc.)
    Starts around $59.99
    Leased equipment; typically free with commitment
    Standard installation typically included
    Viasat
    Nationwide
    Up to 100 Mbps
    Varies (e.g., 12 GB, 25 GB, Unlimited, etc.)
    Starts around $50
    Lease or purchase options available
    Varies depending on location and promotions
    Starlink
    Limited availability, expanding globally
    Up to 150 Mbps
    Unlimited
    $99 per month (Beta), plus equipment cost
    $499 for the satellite dish and modem
    $99 for shipping and handling
    Dish Network
    Limited availability, regional
    Up to 100 Mbps
    Varies (e.g., 10 GB, 20 GB, etc.)
    Starts around $40
    Lease or purchase options available
    Varies depending on location and setup

    As you can see, the reality of satellite internet is far from the theoretical claims. For instance, even though you must get global access, many ISPs do not offer that.

    Cable Internet vs. Satellite Internet: Quick Comparison

    I have analyzed the information above to compare the important aspects of cable internet and satellite internet.

    Speed

    You can expect impressive speeds from cable internet, which go up to 2Gbps. It must also be an easy choice because you don’t have to pay for the extra bandwidth that you get along with the speed.

    On the other hand, the maximum download speed on satellite internet plans is close to 200Mbps. It is not suitable for intensive tasks like 4K streaming or downloading games.

    So, if speed is your topmost concern, go for cable internet.

    Performance

    Performance is also something that you should consider when choosing between cable internet and satellite internet. Cable Internet works without many mediators in between, and you have the option to choose high-performance equipment at your end.

    On the other hand, the performance of Satellite Internet plans is restricted because you have to use the hardware from the Internet Service Provider. So, you might have a lower-tier performance in this case.

    Reliability

    In general, cable internet is said to be more reliable, but there are two aspects to this statement.

    One, cable internet is indeed reliable in terms of speed and performance, and you do not have to worry about rain or cloudy skies. On the other hand, these connections are much more prone to the terrestrial level issues that might happen in your area. Therefore, network delays and outages are common.

    Internet Reliability

    Satellite internet, on the other hand, is not that reliable in terms of access. It is heavily dependent on the sky conditions as well. However, when terrestrial issues happen, satellite internet could be a great way to stay connected.

    Costs

    If you are looking for an affordable option, Cable net is the way to go. But the problem is if it is available in your place. If so, you can get started with a cable internet connection by spending less than $100.

    Satellite internet, on the other hand, is more expensive, as I showed you in the above table. You have to pay an extensive installation/rental in addition to the high monthly subscription.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Does the internet use cable or satellite?

    The core infrastructure of the Internet uses a cable, not a satellite. It is one of the reasons why the internet has become faster these days. Satellite internet providers use the satellite as a relay between ground stations and your device.

    What is faster than cable Internet?

    Fiber internet is definitely faster than cable internet by any way of thinking. Fiber connections also offer equal upload/download speeds.

    Will satellite internet replace cable?

    With the current technologies, satellite internet will not replace cable internet. However, if we invent a new way to transfer information faster, satellite internet may revolutionize the market.

    Conclusion

    I hope this guide helped you find the better option between cable internet and satellite internet. I personally have always found satellite internet appealing, especially while traveling in RVs. Yet, given my need for high-speed access, I always prefer fiber internet.

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    Rajesh Namase is one of the top tech bloggers and one of the first people to turn digital marketing and blogging into a full-time profession. He has unwavering passion for technology, digital marketing, and SEO. With a penchant for exploring the digital world, Rajesh covers a wide range of topics, from Internet to the intricate universe of the technology, including WiFi, Browsers, Windows, and more.

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