Difference Between Digital Cable & Satellite

By Richard Morgan

Even though both digital cable and satellite offer some of the same packages, there are differences between the two.
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There are basically two kinds of services that are available for homeowners who want to enjoy a wide variety of digital programming: digital cable and satellite. While both have many of the same features, there are also some distinct differences.


The primary difference between digital cable and satellite systems is that you can be located in a rural area and receive satellite service. On the other hand, digital cable is more or less restricted to urban and metropolitan areas.


There's also the matter of equipment differences. With cable, you'll only need a set-top cable box and a cable connection. With satellite, you need a set-top box and you'll also need a satellite receiver, which will need an unobstructed view of the southern sky.

Picture Clarity

While both cable and satellite use the same digital technology for the most part, there is a difference in compression of data. According to Leo Laporte, CEO of This Week In Tech (TWIT), cable tends to have a higher "loss" rate when the data is uncompressed, which means that satellite will often present the better picture. However, the difference is basically negligible, unless you have a very refined eye or a very advanced monitor/television.

Loss of Signal

Satellite receivers tend to have problems with reception during heavy storms, whereas cable tends to remain more stable. When there is heavy cloud cover, the satellite signal tends to get weakened to the point that the reception can fail.

Other Services

Digital cable usually offers a complete package, including high-speed Internet, television and even telephone plans, while satellite is basically restricted to only television reception.