If you’re moving, switching providers or upgrading your current internet connection, you might find yourself asking, DSL or cable internet; which is better?
It can be a difficult choice for sure, because in many ways DSL and cable internet are similar:
- Both are “high speed” internet and faster than dialup.
- Can watch/listen/stream music, videos and movies, as well as chat using VoIP services.
- DSL and cable are (both) provided by most internet service providers.
- Both connections can tap into services/connections you may already have (phone, TV, etc).
But that’s about where the similarities end, though.
DSL vs. Cable Comparison: What is Different?
DSL is different from cable in a few ways.
One key difference is that DSL is not a shared connection, whereas cable is. A shared connection is a connection that can be used by more than one subscriber. DSL uses your phone line, which is exclusive to your home or office. Cable can run through entire neighborhoods, buildings or apartment complexes.
The downside to shared connections is that the more users online at the same time, the more bandwidth that is being used, thus the slower your internet is. So during peak usage times, such as after people get off work or on the weekends, you may find that your cable connection has slowed down.
When it comes to speed it used to be difficult to compare DSL to cable internet.
The reason being is that DSL was capped to about 6-7 Mbps. On the other hand, cable internet knows no (realistic) boundaries, with connections as fast as 105 Mbps, or 150 Mbps with fiber optics.
That said, nowadays there are providers that can provide faster DSL. AT&T offers their U-Verse connection, which is an “advanced” digital connection, with speeds as high as 24 Mbps. So for the casual to semi-serious internet user, DSL has competitive speeds compared to cable.
The biggest downside to DSL, though, is that speeds are reduced significantly the further away you live from the main (ISP) hub/office. DSL providers (generally) don’t provide service to customers outside of a 3 mile radius of their office for this reason. However, if you’re 2.5 miles away you’ll notice much slower internet compared to someone who lives half a mile or a mile away.
DSL and cable prices are going to depend on a lot of variables, including where you live, what’s available in your area (supply and demand) and the provider, just to name a few. If you consider that DSL doesn’t have the same ceiling for speeds that cable does, overall it sometimes feels as if you’re comparing apples to oranges when talking about prices.
What’s more is that when you compare similar upload speeds between DSL and cable, the prices aren’t that far apart — maybe $10, with the highest being cable. That said, I’ve found that AT&T’s U-Verse is more expensive compared to a similar plan from Comcast. It really just depends.
DSL vs. Cable: Which Should You Buy?
For the casual user that doesn’t need that fast of an internet connection, DSL is going to be a good option. In most cases, it’s cheaper than cable internet, has just as fast of download speeds and almost as fast of upload speeds.
On the other hand, if you want faster internet and don’t want to deal with being the right distance away from your ISP, than cable is a good option. You can get speeds of as fast as 105 Mbps, or even 150 Mbps if fiber optics is available in your area. And you don’t need a phone line of any kind either.