Satellite Internet vs DSL

If you live in a more rural area, you may not have access to newer broadband internet technologies such as cable or fiber-optic. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to dialup. Satellite internet is broadly available in even the most remote parts of the United States, while DSL may be an option if you have a home phone and aren’t too far from the provider’s access point. But which is right for you? Here is a closer look at satellite internet vs. DSL.

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First, let’s take a top-level overview at the two types of service.

DSL

  • Speed: 6 Mbps to 200 Mbps
  • Price Range: $19.99 – $49.99/mo.
  • Best For: Value and pricing

Satellite:

  • Speed: 25 Mbps- 20 Mbps
  • Price Range: $39.99 – $150/mo
  • Best For: Very rural areas and those without a home phone

 

What is DSL internet?

DSL, or digital subscriber line, internet uses the extra bandwidth on your home phone line. Unlike dialup internet, DSL doesn’t take over the entire line, so you are free to use the phone at the same time you’re online. The quality of your service, though, is limited by your distance from the nearest access point. The theoretical maximum distance is 18,000 feet, but for the highest speeds and most reliable connections, most providers set a limit of 6,000 feet or less.

To connect, you’ll need a modem from your provider—most DSL modems are not compatible with multiple providers. Your provider will also include a filter that separates landline calls from your DSL connection. You’ll also need a router if you want to set up a home wireless network.

Top DSL providers

Windstream

  • Up to 200 Mbps
  • Starting at $19.99/mo.

Frontier

  • Up to 115 Mbps
  • Starting at $24.99/mo.

AT&T

  • Up to 100 Mbps
  • Starting at $49.99/mo.

DSL internet speeds

DSL internet speeds range from 6 Mbps to 200 Mbps. The lowest speeds work for very light use, such as occasionally checking your email, but are not fast enough for streaming, online gaming or working from home. The highest speeds are comparable with lower-end cable and fiber-optic connections, and can comfortably accommodate moderate use. Remember that your connection is shared by all devices on your home wireless network, so you could experience slowdowns if you have a large family using the internet.

DSL pricing

DSL pricing varies from $19.99 per month to $49.99 per month depending on your provider and geographic area, as well as the speeds you choose. Frontier offers bundles that include DISH satellite television, while AT&T bundles with DIRECTV. Both offer monthly savings over buying services separately, though your savings will vary depending on your internet speed and television package choices. Windstream offers home phone service for $20 per month when bundled, but does not offer TV bundles.

Who is DSL good for?

DSL offers a variety of options for light to moderate internet users. It’s not ideal for power users or those with smart homes, but there are enough choices to make it a reasonable option for many households. High-level gamers may be frustrated with speed and lag times, but higher-end DSL speeds are sufficient for mid-range gamers.

What is satellite internet?

Each satellite internet company has its own satellite orbiting the earth at 22,300 miles above the equator. These satellites use spot beams to transmit signals back and forth. This means that in addition to a modem and router, you will need a carefully aligned satellite dish. In most cases, this means that the installation will require a professional.

Top satellite internet providers

HughesNet

  • Up to 25 Mbps
  • Starting at $39.99/mo.

Viasat

  • Up to 30 Mbps
  • Starting at $70/mo.

Satellite internet speeds

Satellite internet speeds are consistently 25 Mbps to 30 Mbps due to the nature of the connection. These speeds are enough for basic internet usage, though you may run into trouble with streaming video. Latency, or lag time, is also an issue with satellite internet connections, especially for gamers. Also, be aware that satellite internet comes with low data caps. A data cap is a restriction on the amount of data you can download or stream in a month.

Satellite internet pricing

Satellite internet costs $39.99 per month to $150 per month. All HughesNet plans provide connections speeds of 25 Mbps, but pricing varies by data cap. Viasat pricing varies by download speed, though higher speed plans also offer higher data caps.

ProviderType of internetSpeedsStarting package price
Windstream logoDSL and Fiber10 - 1,000 MBPS$26/mo for 12 months
Frontier logoFiber & DSL50 - 940 MBPS$29.99/mo for monthsView deals
AT&T logoHigh-Speed Internet1 - 1,000 MBPS$49.99/mo for 12 monthsView deals
HughesNet logoSatellite25 - 25 MBPS$49.99/mo for 6 monthsView deals
Viasat logoSatellite12 - 100 MBPS$70/mo for months

The bottom line

Although they lag far behind modern broadband options such as cable and fiber-optic internet, both DSL and satellite internet are far better choices than dialup for most households. Which you should choose depends on exactly where you live and how you use the internet.

Pros and cons of DSL internet

PROS

  • Widely available
  • Requires minimal equipment
  • Inexpensive
  • Moderately fast speeds available
  • Numerous speed options

CONS

  • Much slower than most broadband options
  • Not available in very rural areas
  • Connection quality and speed depends on distance from access point
  • Not fast enough for power users or high-level gamers
  • Requires home phone service

PROS

  • Highly reliable, as satellites are not affected by the same issues as land-based systems
  • Available coast to coast, even in very rural areas with no other internet options
  • Speeds may be higher than DSL speeds, depending on your distance from a DSL access point
  • Reasonable pricing for lower-level plans
  • No landline phone service is required

CONS

  • Expensive for those who need higher-end plans
  • High latency makes it a poor choice for gaming and streaming
  • Must have a clear view of the southern sky for proper dish reception
  • Dish issues could cause service interruptions
  • Low data caps

In your area

Call now to learn about satellite and DSL providers near you. If you're ready to secure high-speed internet services, then visit ISP.com. Simply enter your zip code to find high-speed internet near you. If you have questions, then we're available to take your calls.

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Frequently Asked Questions

It depends on your location. Top DSL speeds are higher than satellite internet speeds, but not every address can access those speeds.

Satellite internet beams signals to and from satellites orbiting the earth. DSL internet uses the extra bandwidth on home phone lines.

If you live somewhere very remote, satellite internet may be the best or even the only choice.

Although neither is ideal for gaming, DSL has higher top speeds and far less latency than satellite internet, making DSL the better choice.