Since electricity became such an essential source of energy for the modern world, we get used to cables as part of our lives. We had to accept the presence of this endless snakes going around cities and houses, to have the miracle of light in street and homes, and to be able to use all the new home appliances that started to make our life easier.
After two decades of the 21st century and since some time, we realize that cables were not that sexy, and how better if we don’t need to see them around. The street cables went to the undergrounds of the cities in some countries, which was one significant first step in that direction. The other one was the wireless revolution in the 90s: old and new stuff showed up working without cables, and one decade after WiFi become the symbol of an entire generation on wireless technology revolution.
Nowadays, we are still facing new improvements on what’s related to wireless connectivity. And regarding TV or the Internet, satellites are with no doubt one of the most exciting alternatives we have now. But we don’t know too much about the real differences between these technologies. We just ask prices to the company and pick something that we think is good and cheap at the same time.
What about to finally answer these queries?
History of connectivity: from war to HBO
We are always going to remember may of 1945. Its ninth day brought the news to the world that Nazi Germany capitulated and the war was finally coming to an end.
The veterans of the war went back home and had one big funny surprise: the television. This amazing new invention was spreading faster and faster across the world, and everyone wanted to have access to it. But the countryside and geographical accidents like hills or mountains created some significant problems to offer this source of entertainment to the entire countries.
The solution for this little tragedy came with a unique system of what was called “community antennas.” Those antennas caught the original signal and kept its intensity, and used cable lines to go home and give the service to thousands of happy subscribers.
In the USA, it was by the 60s when cable system reached almost 1 million users, driven by the success of the project of Charles Dolan. New York City Council selected him for franchise permits to give to the district of Manhattan, New York, full-scale cable service to those people that had problems with TV signals because of the high buildings of the city. The name of that company was Home Box Office, but maybe it’s more familiar for you by its acronym: HBO.
The appearance of Cable Internet
The history of cable Internet followed a similar path. However, Cable was a necessity from the beginning, because there was not such a thing like analogue Internet connections. From the mid-90s, the first cable providers offered a reasonable way to connect to the Internet using modems and the telephone line, which slowly made this technology available to the people around the world.
But this slow and expensive first version of the Internet evolved quickly. First optical fibre ADSL connections replaced the phone, increasing the speed and finishing the problem of having to choose between the Internet and have the telephone line free. But the breakthrough came in 2012 when fibre technology started a revolution of speed and accessibility around the world. With speeds of 10 GBPS for download and 1 GPBS to upload files, the Internet was ready to offer a new world of possibilities to its users.
How Satellite Internet works?
Just as TV old analogue signals, satellites provide these days with new alternatives: what we know as Satellite TV or Satellite Internet. So first let’s take a look at how it works, to be able to compare it with the regular cable service we know.
Basically, a satellite internet connection powered by three satellite dishes interacting. One is orbiting the Earth, the other is at the Internet Service Providers (ISP) hub, and the last one is at your home. You have to angle that dish to the sky and have a basic set of gear like some cables and a modem to complete a home installation of it.
When a satellite Internet connection is working, the information transmission works with the following path: you make a request downloading files or sending an email, it goes directly to space from your home dish, and then bounce back to the ISP hub. The Internet signal comes to you in the same way: ISP to space and from the satellite to your dish.
It was not clear if the speed or the quality of the Satellite Internet was superior or even equated to Cable service, so in the beginning, this technology came especially handy to people living in remote locations and with no other option to get decent Internet service.
But for some reason, satellite services got a slice of the market, and all those cool small satellite dishes were just too hot to didn’t want one of them. But concerning performance: is this technology a reasonable alternative to DSL Internet?
Satellite vs Cable: the real deal
Let’s discover the truth behind some myths related to these technologies, making an objective comparison of their potential.
Satellite vs Cable: Speed
We don’t realize, but with the communications technology we have in these last years, we became impatient creatures. Every extra second of a delay from what we are used to is like torture, so for sure that speed is a relevant feature when we choose how we are going to provide Internet to ourselves.
Fibre Optic Networks make possible that cable Internet connections speed skyrocketed. Nowadays, you can access to Internet speeds up to 1GBPS. What does this mean? Well, to put an easy example. Do you remember the DVD technology? That beautiful moment when films started to really look good? Well, with this speed, now you can download an entire DVD content in 40 seconds. When DVDs were the most used platform, to download the full content of a disc could take several hours, maybe the half of an entire day.
How does the Satellite Internet compete with this power? Well, they just can’t. Satellite Internet offers speeds from 12 to 100 Mbps, which is not bad at all, but definitively far from the heights that cable connection reaches.
Satellite vs Cable: Usage
Download and upload of files, streaming of films and music, regular navigating and gaming are some of the things we love to do online that benefits from speed. But have you ever heard about latency? Because if you love videogames, we are sure you did, and maybe got some unpleasant gaming session from it.
Latency is the amount of time that it takes to the information to go back and forth from your place to the game server. Measured usually as “ping” with milliseconds, is a crucial factor to have a complete experience when you are playing online games with other users.
We have to say that when you use the air for Internet connection, you will usually suffer from lag due to latency. This situation happens if you use WiFi from your cable connection and not a direct cable, and of course, occurs with satellite Internet. But cable connection modems feature direct cable connections to your devices, and this is the way to have the best gaming experience.
Satellite vs Cable: Pricing
It is hard to say something accurate regarding pricing. The realities around the world, in a single country and even in the same city, are very different. Usually, in locations when several companies compete for a single market, the prices are better and the options wider.
But one thing we know is that usually both cable and satellite providers have reasonable pricing, with attractive packs that bundle TV, Internet and phone services in just one single bill.
Satellite vs Cable: Installation and maintenance
Cable service requires low maintenance. Cables are usually already installed in each flat, and there is not much to do that involves you to keep them working correctly.
Satellite internet has some more requirements, especially to install it. You will need a satellite receiver outside your home, several connections, a home router and a satellite modem. A lot of gear as you can see.
Satellite vs Cable: Reliability
There is no doubt that cable internet offers a way more reliable connection than satellite. The reasons are in the physical properties of cable components.
Signals that travel through the air like WiFi, satellite or the old analogue TV, are exposed to interference from exterior conditions. Weather events like clouds, snow, rain or thunderstorms are the main factors to create this problem. The interference can come as well from geographical accidents like high buildings, trees or mountains.
Conclusion: a relative victory
As you can see, there are no real arguments to decide for satellite internet connections if you can access to cable service. The potential of the latter is just better than the former in every aspect that you can analyze and compare.
To choose for a satellite connection instead of a cable can only be forced for a particular context. It happens in some big cities and even capitals in the western world that DSL cable providers don’t give a proper service to every neighbourhood. It will be the availability of a decent cable internet provider and the quality of it, that at some point can make you think on satellite as a reasonable alternative.
However, as we make clear in this article, the cable connection should always be your pick in normal conditions.