A Comparison of DSL and Cable Internet

by Aeyne Schriber on August 22, 2011 in Cable Internet,DSL

When you try to determine whether you should use a DSL or cable Internet connection you will find a lot of debate that surrounds these two types of Internet access.  Which one is better?  Which one is faster?  What is the difference between DSL and cable?  If you research the topic you will find a wide variety of answers to these questions as well as different points of view.

In this post we can provide you with an unbiased comparison of DSL and cable Internet which will help you to understand each type of connection.  It is also important to note that if you are trying to decide which connection to use the availability may vary according to the location where you live.

DSL Internet

DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line and provides a connection to the Internet through your existing telephone line.  The connection is established using copper wire in your telephone line connection.  Distinctive technology is then applied at the switch end of the line as well as the end of the line that enters your home or business. The connection is sent across unused copper wires in your telephone line to avoid interference with telephone service.  DSL is an “always on” connection.

  • Average Download and Upload Speeds:  DSL is typically asymmetrical (ADSL) to serve the needs of the average consumer that downloads data more than they upload.  Hence the reason the download speed is faster than the upload speed on an ADSL.  Based on statistics from the primary DSL providers such as Verizon and AT&T the average download speed ranges from 5Mbps (megabits per second) to 15Mbps with upload speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 8Mbps.
  • Cost:  Since the lines for establishing a DSL Internet connection are already in place DSL Internet will continue to exist as long as telephone lines do. It is a fact that cable Internet is faster than DSL so many DSL providers are lowering their prices on this type of connection to remain competitive with cable companies that provide faster connections.
  • Distance:  DSL Internet is sensitive to distance which can result in a slower connection unless the DSL provider has upgraded their infrastructure to ADSL2+.  Otherwise the speed of data transfer will depend upon how far away you are located from the main hub.
  • Bandwidth Sharing:  DSL does not share bandwidth with other subscribers. This means you stand a better chance of consistency in terms of data transfer rates.  When there are a high percentage of subscribers that share the bandwidth with you this results in a slower connection.

If you use the Internet for general use then a DSL connection is appropriate for surfing the Web, checking email, and other routine computing tasks.  You will also save money on your connection which makes more sense if you are a casual user.

Cable Internet

Cable Internet service is delivered via the same infrastructure as your cable television service and often comes from the same provider.  Cable Internet is a high speed broadband Internet connection that utilizes a coaxial cable to establish Internet access.  This is the same type of cable used to establish television service.  This type of Internet connection does not use telephone lines and you are not required to be a subscriber to the television service to install Internet access.  Cable Internet is an “always on” connection that does not interfere with your telephone or television service.

  • Average Download and Upload Speeds:  Cable Internet is offered by primary providers such as Time Warner and Comcast and is typically faster than DSL.  The average download speed can range anywhere from 12Mbps to 17Mbps with upload speeds ranging from 3Mbps to 5Mbps.
  • Cost:  Cable Internet costs more than DSL however if you need the fastest possible connection then cost may not be an issue for you.  This is because cable Internet is considered to be an upgraded type of Internet connection from DSL and is faster and more efficient.
  • Distance: A cable Internet connection will not decrease in speed if you are a longer distance from the main hub.  The average connection is comparable from a long distance as it is from a shorter distance.
  • Bandwidth Sharing:  If you have a cable Internet connection you will be sharing the bandwidth with other subscribers which can potentially slow down the connection at specific times of the day when there is a high percentage of users online.  This is one area where DSL has an advantage over a cable Internet connection.

It is also important to mention that some cable Internet connections utilize DOCSIS 3.0. DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification and is a set of standards that regulate data transfer over cable lines.  DOCSIS 3.0 offers faster download speeds than DOCSIS 2.0.  The maximum download speed for a cable Internet connection under DOCSIS 2.0 is as much as 30Mbps with a DOCSIS 3.0 download speed of more than 100Mbps.

If you are using the Internet for business or you work with a lot of media or large amounts of data, then cable Internet will provide you with the most efficient Internet connection.  As long as cost is not an issue you are better off with a cable Internet connection if you are using these types of applications.

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