Cable TV versus satellite television is an old rivalry that can be seen discussed on TV at all hours of the day. The comparison seems to end however when it comes to satellite internet and cable internet access. This seems strange as cable and satellite companies are pushing packaged services over anything else. So, which is the superior Internet service provider, cable or satellite? Here we will examine both and see if we can answer the question.
Cable modems allow Internet access through the same lines that over 60 million Americans now receive cable TV. The infrastructure is proven and sound and more importantly already paid for. The coaxial cable allows dual band transmission, one for uploads the other for downloads. Cable Internet offers about as much bandwidth as any consumer customer would ever need boasting downloads of up to 30Mbps and uploads passing 512Kbps in some areas.
Cable also offers a high degree of reliability as it has been in service in many markets for over a decade, and of course the cable companies date back to the early 1970’s. Generally 99% uptime can be expected.
Bundled together, cable TV and cable Internet will cost around $90.00 per month, or around $55.00 for Internet-only. This is comparable cheap for a broadband Internet service, with DSL being a slightly less expensive option in most areas.
Internet over satellite, or IoS Service, is the technology that provides Internet access via a low, geosynchronous orbiting satellite. This means that the static position of the satellite relative to Earth allows customers to maintain connections any time of day.
One serious drawback to satellite Internet access is signal latency. Every data packet sent and received must travel from the consumer’s computer, through the Internet, through a transmitter, into orbital space, then return. The round trip is around 45,000 miles, and can create a great deal of lag. Although satellite ISPs offer up to 1.5 Mbps downloads speeds, the average signal speeds are closer to 512Kbps. Add latency to this and you can see how the connection can be very slow compared to cable or DSL.
Satellite internet access is also far from affordable. The service typically costs around $50.00 to $120 per month. This doesn’t include the equipment investment which can cost around $300.00 to $600.00 or more, and this is most often an upfront cost. This additional cost does not bring any additional reliability. Many customers complain about slow or even no Internet access during inclement weather, and though these interruptions are generally brief they certainly don’t help justify the cost.
It appears as if there is no competition between cable and satellite Internet access. Cable is superior in performance and pricing, as well as reliability. If this is truly the case, then how can satellite companies intend on competing with cable Internet? The answer is they don’t. Satellite has one thing cable does not, and that is the ability to send access to any dish anywhere in the country. Rural America may for the first time have a broadband solution in satellite Internet.
If you can get cable, get it. If you can’t, then at least satellite provides you with a viable (but expensive) alternative to your old 56Kbps dial up Internet service.