Many have pondered the differences between cable internet vs satellite internet.
Why is cable-based internet so popular when it seems that satellites could potentially do the same thing?
A surprising number of people in America do not have access to broadband internet.
The best way to get around this is by using the same infrastructure that cable and satellite companies use to deliver television programming.
However, people tend to shy away from satellite internet because there is a pervasive belief that it has high latency and low download speeds.
Nevertheless, the introduction of Starlink has presented an opportunity to change this narrative.
Today’s satellite internet isn’t like the satellite internet of old.
But can it go head to head against cable internet?
Table of Contents
- Cable vs. Satellite Internet Comparison Table
- Cable Internet vs. Satellite: The Main Differences
- Cable Internet vs. Satellite: Which One is Right For You?
Cable vs. Satellite Internet Comparison Table
|Download Speeds||10 to 1000 Mbps+||Equipment cost: $599 (Standard Starlink) and $2500 (Business and RV Plans)|
|Upload Speeds||5 to 50 Mbps+||2 – 20 Mbps|
|Hardware Costs||$186 to $668||Equipment cost: $599 (Standard Starlink)$2500 (Business and RV Plans)|
|Monthly subscription||$19.99 to $99.99, depending on the speed||$120 per month (Standard Starlink Plan)$500 (Business Plan)$150 (Starlink For RVs)|
|Portability||Completely fixed||Completely portable|
|Waitlist||No wait list||Some options have a waitlist|
|Data cap||Depends on the subscription||Depends on the plan |
1TB priority access data for the standard Starlink plan
Up to 6TB priority access data limits during peak hours for Starlink Fixed Business Plan
|Installation||Requires a professional to install unless there is already cable access||Both business and RV Starlink require a professional to install|
Standard Starlink can be self-installed
Cable Internet vs. Satellite: The Main Differences
Satellite-based internet has only recently become popular.
Previously, people didn’t see it as a viable option because of its low speeds and high latency.
Hence, wireless cellular uses nearby masts instead of satellites that are far away.
However, thanks to options like Starlink, fast, low-latency satellite internet is possible.
As the introduction mentions, not everyone has access to cable internet.
Traditional cable internet uses the same system or networks as Cable Television (CATV).
Shielded cables carry signals in the form of radio frequencies (in coaxial cables) or pulses (in fiber optic cables).
Where the system uses coaxial cabling, amplifiers are also distributed to boost signal strength.
Regardless of the type, these cables are typically placed in underground channels.
Consequently, not every region is conducive to this type of network.
Hence, many regions worldwide cannot access cable-based internet (or TV).
Fortunately, satellites are not at the mercy of such impedances as they orbit the Earth and can send signals to the most remote areas in the world.
Satellites work similarly to cellular networks.
They transmit beams to satellite dishes which divert these signals to a user’s decoder or modem.
The modem/decoder then translates the signals into data packets that your device can use.
The traffic goes both ways, as your device uploads data too.
Image of Orbiting Satellite
Because cable and satellite fundamentally function differently, they require different hardware and devices.
In all cases, you’ll require a cable modem compatible with the internet speeds your internet service provider supplies.
The rest depends on the size of your property, the number of endpoints/devices, and how you want to use the internet.
You may be required to add routers, splitters, and other network devices.
Thus, the price of hardware can vary.
You will need a satellite dish, a transceiver, and a modem for most Satellite broadband installations.
Once again, one of the key advantages of satellite internet over cable internet is that it doesn’t have to be fixed.
As such, you may require additional hardware to install your satellite hardware in a mobile context.
You can learn the differences by comparing Starlink RV and Residential.
Satellite Internet Devices
Even with Starlink, cable internet is still more stable, reliable, and, on average, faster than satellite internet.
However, satellite internet can still accommodate everyday use.
You can use it for applications that require low latency and high speeds, like gaming.
While satellite broadband has the potential to be more available in more areas, your speed may be region specific.
The weather may also impact the quality of your signal and, in turn, your speeds.
Internet traffic is another factor you must consider.
When many people are connected (peak hours), the quality of your data transfers will suffer.
Despite our strides in satellite broadband, we have not overcome all its limitations.
As such, cable internet currently (and will forever) outperforms satellite internet.
Especially when we compare it to glass-based (fiber optic) cables.
In areas where cable is supported, there are usually a variety of internet service providers.
These are typically in urban and suburban environments.
Unfortunately, most rural areas are not blessed with the same options.
The satellite internet space isn’t rife with competition.
There are only a few ISPs. HughesNet and Viasat are the best-known alternatives to Starlink.
Satellite internet is a developing field.
More providers will likely be available as we discover new ways to broadcast and handle signals.
For now, many of the big players are region specific.
Consequently, you must ensure that your potential satellite ISP covers your area.
Internet Connected World
You can perform both cable and satellite installations. Of course, there are some caveats.
For instance, hiring trained professionals to install satellite internet for your business or mobile home would be better.
Hiring trained professionals, regardless of how easy the installation seems, will ensure that as smoothly.
Furthermore, trained technicians can ensure that your satellite is calibrated correctly and all your equipment is configured.
Affordability is another advantage Cable has over Satellite internet.
Because there are so many different cable internet providers, prices are competitive.
Consumers also have access to a variety of different packages and options.
Inversely, Satellite internet has limited packages and options. It tends to be far more expensive per megabyte.
Additionally, where Cable internet has fully uncapped packages, Satellite internet providers place fair use restrictions.
Ultimately, satellite internet’s broadband spectrum is far more limited than cables.
Even if satellite internet has the potential to support more regions than cable, it can only sustain a limited number of connected clients at a time.
Antenna for receiving internet signals from Satellites
Is Satellite Internet the Same as Cable?
Cable and Satellite internet use completely different methods and technology to provide internet access to users.
Thus, satellite internet and cable aren’t the same.
What is the Difference Between Cable Satellite and Fiber Internet?
Cable internet uses underground shielded cables to transmit radio frequencies or pulses.
Satellite internet uses radio frequencies beamed from interconnected satellites orbiting around the Earth’s atmosphere.
Does Cable internet have Wi-Fi?
Internet connection initiated using cable internet can be connected to a physical modem and re-routed using ethernet cables or a Wi-Fi router.
Thus, while cable internet doesn’t primarily transfer signals wirelessly, you can convert the endpoints.
Cable Internet vs. Satellite: Which One is Right For You?
The cable will always be the ideal option. It’s faster, more affordable, and far more reliable.
However, not everyone has access to it.
Cable does not cover all regions.
As such, some consumers are forced to use fallbacks such as satellite internet or cellular broadband.
Ultimately, your best option will depend on your requirements and region.