What are the different types of internet services, and which is the right choice for you? The answer is, it depends. The internet service you ultimately choose depends on your location, budget and speed needs. Learn more about the four major types of internet services to decide which one will work best for you.
Cable internet is one of the high-speed internet options available across the U.S. The speed depends on your cable internet provider and the service plan you pay for. Your cable internet hardware also influences how fast or slow the speed is. Cable internet comes through a coaxial cable to a modem, much like the coaxial cable brings a cable TV connection to your cable box. You can get a wireless cable internet connection using a modem/router combination or by attaching the modem to a router.
Cable internet can often be purchased separately from a cable provider, or it can be bundled with other services such as cable TV and phone. Some cable providers such as Xfinity and Verizon have rolled out fiber-optic internet services that are an even faster version of cable internet.
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) internet is another common type of internet service. It is different from cable internet as the internet connectivity comes through a copper telephone line. This is similar to dial-up internet service that has mostly been phased out as the 2000s have progressed. DSL is different from dial-up internet service in that DSL won't tie up your phone line while you are online. That's because DSL receives and sends the internet signal in a digital format as opposed to dial-up's analog format.
DSL is available in most homes that have a telephone connection, compared to cable internet which is only available in select areas. DSL is a common choice for those who live in rural areas as a result. Your DSL speed depends on your equipment like cable internet does, but it typically won't be as fast as cable internet speed.
As the name implies, satellite internet gets its connectivity capability from satellites in space, just like satellite TV does. Satellite internet is typically available in more locations than either cable or DSL internet because a connection can be accessed anywhere that is not obstructed by trees or large buildings.
Satellite internet works by using a satellite dish that receives a signal and then carries this internet signal into the home via cable to a modem or router. The modem or router then relays this connection to your internet devices such as computers, gaming consoles, smart phones and more. Satellite internet is high speed but typically not as fast as cable internet. Additionally, you may experience a data transmission limit with satellite internet, so you won't be able to stream as much video as you like.
Mobile internet is provided by cellular network providers like Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. The internet connection is transmitted from cellular towers to your internet device, so mobile internet is available anywhere there is a signal from that specific cellular provider. Mobile internet usually comes in two forms: smart phone hot spots and mobile hotspots. Smart phone hot spots can be set up through your smart phone, which accepts the connection from the cellular towers and then relays it to your computer or tablet. Smart phones like the iPhone and Android are capable of doing this by default.
Mobile hotspots are separate devices created solely to transmit data from the towers to your internet device. Smart phone hotspots are a good option for light mobile internet usage, while mobile hotspots are a better option for continuous access to mobile internet. Both options deliver speeds that are comparable to DSL or satellite internet. You can typically add hotspot connectivity of either kind to your existing cellular phone plan by contacting your cellular network provider.