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Fiber vs. Fixed Wireless vs. Cable vs. DSL vs. Satellite

Finding the service that right for you

Once upon a time, when you wanted to use the internet, you’d need to have a modem connected to your telephone line and you’d hear all the buzzes, whirrs, and pongs, as it dialed your carrier’s number and connected you to their server, where you’d be able to download data at the rate of 56kbps. Back then, we didn’t even consider downloading music or movies, we simply went to the kitchen and made ourselves a cup of coffee while we waited for our single web page to appear.

The world has changed a lot since then and we now have many different ways to connect to the internet—all of them a whole lot faster than once upon a time.

Fiber optic broadband

Usually just shortened to fiber internet or simply fiber,  fiber optic broadband internet consists of fiber optic lines that are made up of small strands of glass or plastic cables, each about 1/10th the size of a single human hair. These lines transmit data using pulses of light that travel at nearly the speed of light. Today, it’s state of the art technology and is considered by many to be future proof.

Pros of fiber broadband: Fiber broadband offers speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second. The internet signal doesn’t degrade over distance. And fiber doesn’t rely on electricity, so power outages and proximity to powerful electric equipment won’t jeopardize your connection.

Cons of fiber broadband: On a superficial level, fiber internet can be a more expensive option than some other types of internet service, and fiber isn’t yet available in all areas.

Fixed Wireless

Fixed wireless internet relies on radio waves transmitted by a cell tower to deliver internet signals to an exterior antenna in order to deliver service to your home.

Pros of fixed wireless: Fixed wireless internet is sent through airwaves and doesn’t require phone or cable lines, which can degrade or become damaged; speeds are typically comparable to high-speed cable; fixed wireless providers are typically locally owned and operated, and most often there are no data limits.

Cons of fixed wireless: You must have line of sight connection with (and usually need to be withing 10 miles of) the access point, and internet is sent through the airwaves, which means the signal be affected by weather and other environmental factors.

Cable

Cable internet is transmitted to your home by a local cable service provider via copper coaxial cable using the same infrastructure as that which provides cable TV.

Pros of cable internet: Cable internet is widely available, and is also generally reliable and fast—although not as fast as fiber internet.

Cons of cable internet: Cable internet can be limited by surrounding usage. In other words, during peak times, your ability to stream movies or download content can be affected by whether your neighbors are using the internet at the same time. While cable internet is widely available in general, many areas are service by a single provider—often a large non-local company. And many cable providers have been known to throttle service if you exceed certain bandwidth guidelines, which can slow down your service significantly.

DSL

Similar to the way the internet was delivered in “the old days,” DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) internet delivers a high-speed connection to your home through a wired phone wall jack on an existing telephone network. DSL works within frequencies that aren’t used by wired or landline phones, so you can still use the internet even while making phone calls.

Pros of DSL: The cost of DSL is often less expensive than other internet services. Newer versions of DSL are getting faster (but still fall behind cable and fiber). Dedicated line and bandwidth mean your neighbors’ use won’t affect you and it’s more secure than many types of internet service. Also, there are generally no new wires needed for service, as DSL runs over traditional phone lines.

Cons of DSL: DSL is still much slower than man other internet options, and speeds can be dependent on your proximity to the main DSL hub (the closer you are, the faster your service will be). Some DSL providers implement data caps.

Satellite

Satellite broadband involves satellite dishes in three locations: at the internet service provider’s hub, on a satellite in space, and a final dish in your home. The internet signal is then transmitted from the provider’s hub to the satellite and then to your home—and every request you make for a new web page or to send an email reverses that route.

Pros of satellite internet: Currently, the primary advantage of satellite internet is that it may be available in hard to reach rural areas where conventional broadband infrastructure hasn’t yet reached. Also, recent innovations mean that speed and service are gradually improving.

Cons of satellite internet: Cost tends to be higher for satellite than comparable conventional broadband services. It can’t reach certain areas, such as deep canyons or heavily wooded areas, and it generally has very high latency (or lag time) as the signal needs to make a round trip between earth and space. It can also be affected by weather and environmental issues, and many carriers have data limits.

As you can see, there’s a lot more to the choices you can make when it comes to connecting to the internet today. Which one is right for you?

At Horizon, we’d be happy to discuss your service options with you. Contact the friendly, hometown staff at contact us with your questions. We’d love to hear from you.

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