Cable and DSL – What’s the Difference?

With two widely-used and popular solutions to Internet access, it’s easy to find yourself wondering which to choose from – cable or DSL?

While there might be more and more people relying on 3G and satellite Internet, cable and DSL are the most common options – after all, the infrastructure for these systems is all around us.

Making a choice as to which is most suitable for your purposes requires that you understand the basics about each of these Internet connection types before you begin researching the available prices. Fortunately there are quite a few differences between the two systems, although don’t expect to be able to choose between both every time as often your choice will be swayed by environmental issues.

Cable and DSL – Speed

Naturally speed is a major aspect of choosing between cable and DSL Internet, although you might be surprised to find which is fastest.

There are no hard and fast rules, however; speed and bandwidth on cable and DSL lines depend entirely on the number of users and availability. For instance, DSL uses a dedicated circuit which prevents other users of the service from impacting on the speed and bandwidth that your connection can achieve. Conversely, cable offers high bandwidth, but typically provides a connection to several households at once. This results in the bandwidth being split between each property, thereby reducing it and increasing latency as more users connect to the ‘net.

Furthermore, cable is more susceptible to a low upstream or return path. This is the channel used to send data across the web, perhaps to request a web page from a web server, and it is often given a low priority. This can negatively impact peer to peer services such as file sharing, watching TV online or even Skype.

Cable and DSL – Interference

Additionally, any choice between cable and DSL needs to make some considerations about interference.

Most notably, cable is an RF network and as such is susceptible from interference from outside of the network and within. Performance issues are only occasionally addressed by cable companies, so if you are living in an area that is susceptible to these problems, cable might not be the choice for you.

However don’t choose DSL just yet – this system is also prone to interference. DSL uses micro filters to split data and voice, allowing you to use the same line for telephone calls and the Internet at the same time. Poor micro filters can lead to problems though, just as extension cables and poorly insulated telephone connection points.

Choosing an ISP and Researching Their Performance

Once you have settled upon a suitable provider of cable or DSL, you should then spend some time researching the prices that they offer, as well as taking advantage of Google to hopefully turn up some reviews of their service. If you’re planning to enter into a contract with one of these companies, you need to know what sort of service to expect, and while adverts display various promises it is the existing users who can give the best impression as to how good the service is.

Only with answers to how good the end user experience, the network reliability and the quality of the customer service are should you consider entering into a contract with the ISP


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