Cable vs. DSL Internet – How To Choose The Right Internet Type For You

Many of the products/services listed on this page are from our affiliate partners. We receive commissions if you purchase any of those items, but it does not influence how we review them or what ratings starS (or lack thereof) appear next to each product category in reviews like these ones! Learn more by reading Advertiser Disclosure prior to making your decision.

When choosing a broadband internet connection for your home, you have two choices – cable or DSL connections. Which is a better connection? Which connection is right for you? Read ahead to find out.

Understanding Cable Internet Connection

Cable internet connection transmits signals over cable TV lines. These networks use the TV channel space for transmitting data through a cable modem. Specific TV channels work to downstream data transmissions, while others upstream data transmissions. Cable TV uses coaxial cables to transmit data. For this reason, they have a larger bandwidth compared to telephone lines. By using a cable connection with an internet modem, you can connect to the internet using high-speed access. Given that you probably already have a cable connection for getting TV at home, you only need to sign up for an internet connection and you’re sorted. You’ll be using a cable internet connection.

Combining Internet with Cable TV Services

Most Cable TV providers can offer you package deals called bundles that combines cable and internet services. You can get both services at discounted prices since the company uses the same cables to transmit TV and internet data to your home. In fact, some providers may also offer to provide you Cable TV, internet, and cellular service in a single bundle.

For instance, you could get a bundle of internet and cable TV for $99 each month. Or, the provider might offer you a bundle for $128 a month that includes cable TV, internet, and phone services. So you see, by opting for services by a single provider, you could get all the connections at more economical prices than if you were to get individual providers for all three services. The more connections you get from a single provider, the larger the savings will be. You can also check with the telephone service providers in your area. They may be offering discounted deals on bundles that include satellite TV, internet, phone and cellular connections.

Understanding DSL Internet Connections

Digital Subscriber Line, or DSL, uses the current 2-wire copper telephone lines to deliver internet to your home. DSL uses an advanced modulation system to deliver data and is used only for connections between the telephone switching base to your office or home. However, you cannot use it between switching bases. The DSL connection is more reliable than the dial-up ISP connection because you won’t need to connect to it. The DSL internet service will also not interfere with your usage of the phone line. At the moment, there are two kinds of DSL services that you can choose from for your home, which include ADSL and SDSL. It might interest you to know that all types of DSL connections belong under a single category called xDSL.

What is ADSL?

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, or ADSL internet service, is most commonly used in North America. It uses a special ADSL modem to provide a connection. During downstream or data receiving, you can expect speeds ranging from 1.5 to 9 Mbps. Furthermore, when upstreaming or transmitting data, you can get speeds from 16 to 640 Kbps.

What is SDSL?

Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line, or SDSL, continues to be a popular choice in Europe. This service transmits internet data of speeds up to 3Mbps over current copper telephone lines called POTS or Plain Old Telephone Service. Should you opt for this service, you’ll have to choose between making a regular phone call or using the internet. SDSL works by sending digital pulses through the high-frequency area of telephone wires through a special SDSL modem. You can expect to get similar speeds for receiving and transmitting data.

What are HDSL and VDSL?

These internet connections are variations of DSL according to the distance over which they transmit data efficiently. They are the high-data-rate DSL (HDSL) and the very high DSL (VDSL). As the name suggests, VDSL provides fast data transmission over short distances.

Comparing the Price Factor of Cable and DSL Internet Services

When comparing internet service providers, the main factor most people compare is the price. The expected cost of internet services typically varies from location to location. This variation is mainly dependent on the number of service providers in a particular area. For instance, if your area has both cable and DSL and more companies offering internet, you might be able to get the service at competitive rates. Here are some other factors you might want to keep in mind:

  • For both cable and internet, you’ll need to pay the installation charges and a monthly fee later on. For instance, in case of cable internet, setup charges can be around $50 to $100, but for DSL installation, you might have to pay up to $150. As for the monthly fee, cable internet is more economical with rates ranging around $40 to $50, while with DSL you may have to pay about $5 to $10 more.
  • If you have cable and DSL service providers operating in your area, you could get better deals and introductory offers like no-cost installation or maybe, no-cost internet for the initial month or two. Even if you’re looking to switch to a new operator, make sure to ask about the complimentary add-ons you can get including free services for a fixed time.
  • You could check with service providers for any discounted bundles they offer. For instance, a cable company may offer you discounts if you opt for their “surf and watch” plan where you can get a TV and internet connection. Or, you may also get additional VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol services. In case of DSL companies, they may offer you a bundle plan of “surf and talk.”

Comparing Home Networking and Security Factors

Having signed up for an internet connection with a cable or DSL company, you can use multiple devices to access the network using a LAN software like Microsoft Internet Connection Sharing. Alternatively, you can install a router like for example, the SOHO router. However, take care that it has the necessary firewall protection software to keep your LAN network secure. In addition, check with the service provider if the company permits the use of multiple devices and if your extra usage is included in the Terms of Service agreement.

Typically, internet service providers (ISP) charge a small fee for the use of additional devices with the broadband internet connection. In addition, they’ll provide you with the cable modems that have preloaded security software and firewalls. This security feature is essential to protect your data since you’re sharing the cable internet with other subscribers in your area. Both cable and DSL offer you these security measures, though DSL providers have a more efficient protection system.

In any case, it is advisable that you secure your internet connection with the necessary hardware and software. That’s because your service provider is likely to provide you with only the basic installation and other setting up essentials. Make sure to always keep your internet connection secured and fix your internet if there are any issues with it.

Comparing the Speeds of Cable and DSL Internet Services

When choosing between Cable and DSL internet services, one of the first questions you’ll likely have is which of them is faster. As a rule, cable internet has always been faster but with new technology, DSL seems to be catching up quickly. For instance, DSL users can expect speeds of 128 Kbps to 3 Mbps, but cable modem download speeds are typically twice as fast as DSL. Various factors influence the speed you’re likely to get. Here are some of them:

  • When you opt for cable internet, you’ll share the bandwidth with other users. For this reason, if the company has a larger number of subscribers on a particular cable in the area, you could experience slower speeds. But if you live in a rural area where there are fewer subscribers, speeds are likely to be faster. On the other hand, when you opt for DSL, you’ll have an exclusive connection and better, more consistent speeds.
  • Cable internet gives you variable speeds and for this reason, you cannot evaluate the exact speeds you get for downloads. However, both cable and DSL services are likely to give you similar speeds for uploading or upstreaming.
  • The expected speeds of both services also depend on individual service companies and the distance of your home or office from their switching centers.

Technical and Practical Nuances of the Speed Factor

If you take into account the technical factors, cable internet is capable of giving you faster speeds. That’s because the technology and higher levels of bandwidth are capable of supporting around 300 Mbps in many areas, as opposed to DSL speeds of up to 100 Mbps. However, because of various operational and business factors, you may not get the complete speed capability of the cable internet service.

Despite what the statistics may reveal, cable internet typically has lower speeds when compared to DSL connections. You should always do an internet speed test of your own and take note of your connection speed. Here are the practical factors that come into play:

  • If the cable internet provider offers services to many subscribers in your area and they access the service around the same time, you may notice slower speeds.
  • Both DSL and cable providers may levy speed caps to restrict the bandwidth of the internet connection per user.
  • If your home network cannot sustain the speed of the broadband connection, you may notice less efficient services.
  • Both DSL and cable internet speeds are variable according to the number of users and traffic congestion at any given time.

Understanding Speed Caps

If you’re a residential customer looking for cable or DSL internet services, know that you’re likely to get only a specific amount of data, speed and bandwidth. That’s because companies restrict the amount of data you can use in a month along with the bandwidth by using speed caps. However, there are some unlimited internet providers in Canada that you can check out. They carefully keep watch on the traffic on your connection and if needed, may also limit the transmission of network packets.

Internet service providers have several reasons for using these strategies:

  • Some companies may allow you only a specific amount of data transfer for each month. Once you exceed that limit, they’ll slow down the data connection or require you to pay an additional charge. This way, companies restrict the use of high bandwidth.
  • The speed of your internet connection depends on the kind of contract you have with your provider. If you’re paying higher charges, you can expect better speeds and vice versa. Companies control this speed with the help of modem settings. So when you upgrade your contract, they’ll simply make the necessary changes in the settings.
  • Internet providers may place a cap on the bandwidth and amount of data usage per subscriber so they can offer services to a larger number of customers. This way, they can extract the maximum benefit from the fixed bandwidth they have. However, there are some unlimited internet providers in Canada that you can check out.
  • Many providers work on the basis of a broad estimate on the bandwidth customers may need. For instance, if you live in a residential area and you’re working most of the hours of the week, you may not need a large amount of data.
  • By limiting the bandwidth and data usage per customer, providers can ensure an equal distribution of services among all their customers in a particular area.

Smart Ideas to Help You Get Maximum Internet Speed

When you go shopping for an internet connection, you’ll find various cable and DSL operators offering competitive deals, prices, speeds and other services. But with some smart thinking, you can figure out the best deal that matches your needs and get the best out of the services. Read ahead to understand how:

  • You may have a bunch of devices connected to a single internet connection at any given time, such as a Slingbox, Apple TV, Roku, tablets, computers, phones and video game consoles like the PS4. Consider turning off the ones you don’t immediately need.
  • Check the bandwidths that your home security devices are using, such as cameras. Think about turning them off during the hours when you’re home and don’t need security.
  • Older modems and routers may not be as efficient in relaying speeds as compared to the newer, advanced gadgets available today. Consider upgrading your devices.
  • Check for the placement of your router if you’re using wireless internet. The distance from the router can affect the speeds in the particular device you’re using.
  • Think about opting for wired internet connections in place of wireless. If you can connect your device to the router using an Ethernet cable, you can get faster speeds.
  • Ask each internet provider about the maximum speeds and bandwidth they can offer you so you can make an informed choice. However, certain areas have only one provider so you’ll have to make do.
  • Choose a provider that matches your internet needs, such as considering the number of members in your family, or your estimated usage for streaming movies, checking emails, surfing the web, or if you’re working from home. Accordingly, you can work out the most economical package with the right amount of speed.
Vik Palan

Vik Palan

Chief Editor -