Satellite Vs. Cable Internet

by Aaron Charles

Satellite Internet has often been considered the last resort for those seeking high-speed Internet access, mostly for those who live in rural areas where there's no cable or DSL infrastructure. But as satellite technology has progressed, high-speed Internet from satellites may now be a credible option for homes and businesses -- as well as competition for cable Internet service.

Reliability

Conventional wisdom has long held that cable Internet provides a more stable connection than satellite. However, CNET tech reviewer David Carnoy reviewed the Exede satellite Internet service, offered by the ViaSat company, in Las Vegas, and found that the service worked well. But he did wonder how the service would fare under harsher conditions, such as in a building-laden city rather than in a free and clear desert. Outside of ViaSat, a PC Magazine reader survey gave satellite Internet providers WildBlue and HughesNet poor reviews. In the words of the PC Magazine editors, satellite Internet service was something that "no one would recommend even to his worst enemy." Most reliability trouble seems to occur when gaming or making VoIP or video calls.

Speed

Speed is another concern. Cable Internet companies typically offer download speeds that range from 3 megabytes-per-second (Mbps) to 55 Mbps and upload speeds between 1 and 8 Mbps, depending on the level of service. Satellite dish Internet providers, such as ViaSat and Dish Network, offer slower download speeds that range from 5 to 15 Mbps, as well as slower upload speeds that hover around 1 Mbps.

Price

Pricing schemes for satellite Internet service are somewhat similar to cable Internet schemes. Both satellite and cable companies offer bundled services, such as grouping Internet service with TV programming, which reduces the monthly price. As of the October, 2012, basic monthly costs for both satellite and cable Internet service start at about $40 per month.

Availability

Since competitive satellite Internet is still developing, while high-speed cable Internet is more established, the availability of satellite Internet doesn't match the ubiquity of cable Internet service. Still, satellite Internet service fills a gap for those in rural areas who don't have access to cable Internet service. Additionally, satellite Internet providers -- in addition to some cellular providers -- make it possible for airlines to offer wireless Internet during flights, something cable Internet providers cannot do.

About the Author

Aaron Charles began writing about "pragmatic art" in 2006 for an online arts journal based in Minneapolis, Minn. After working for telecom giant Comcast and traveling to Oregon, he's written business and technology articles for both online and print publications, including Salon.com and "The Portland Upside."

More Articles

Photo Credits