Internet Connection Types: Fiber, Cable, DSL, Satellite, & Fixed Wireless Access

Fiber Optic Internet is, generally speaking, the best type of internet. Cable is the second best, while DSL and Fixed Wireless Broadband are about equal. You should only get Satellite internet if no other kind of internet is available.
Internet Types

Different Internet Connection Types Compared

Let’s compare every internet type:

Internet Type



Best For



High latency, slow, & expensive

Backup internet connection

Fixed Wireless

No data cap & high coverage

Buildings & trees could cause network interruptions

Backup connection


Fast, low-latency, & reliable




Fast download speeds

Data caps & throttling

Watching videos (under 4K) & gaming online


Decent download speeds

Slower internet when you live further from ISP

Streaming 1080p videos


Compare every internet connection type’s pros and cons. Determine what the best option is when searching for an internet package.

This guide will define and compare almost all existing internet connection types. Keep reading to find the best internet type for your home.

I want to find the best internet option for my home. Which led me into this rabbit hole of researching every connection type available.

Let’s get to it.

Coverage for Different Internet Types

Here’s coverage throughout the U.S. for different internet types [1]:

  • Cable: 80%
  • Fiber: 38%
  • Fixed wireless access:
    • 10/1.0 Mbps: 69.54%
    • 25/3.0 Mbps: 67.18%
    • 100/20 Mbps: 30%
    • 250/25 Mbps: 11.92%
    • 1,000/100 Mbps: 9.76%
  • Satellite internet
    • 25 Mbps: 99.96%
    • 100–250 Mbps: 29.54%
  • DSL
    • 0.2/0.2 Mbps: 57.71%
    • 10/1.0 Mbps: 39.59%
    • 25/3.0 Mbps: 22.82%
    • 100/20 Mbps: 4.68%

What Is Broadband Internet?

Broadband is the transmission of high-speed (or wide bandwidth) over a connection. For a connection to qualify as “broadband,” it must have speeds faster than:

  • 25 Mbps download speeds
  • 3.0 Mbps upload speeds

ISDN and dial-up internet aren’t broadband.

All fiber optic, fixed wireless access, cable, and satellite plans qualify as broadband internet. I have seen some DSL packages with lower than 3.0 Mbps upload speeds. Suggesting whether some DSL plans qualify as broadband will vary.

Broadband Internet vs. Wi-Fi

Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) is how broadband internet distributes your connections to various devices wirelessly through a router. Wi-Fi is also a radio signal your router translates to signals your devices can understand.

Sometimes a provider will provide a network gateway. It combines modem and router functions into a single device.

How Much Internet Speed Do I need?

Most homes with 2 or fewer people can get away with 100 Mbps. Homes with 3–5 folks will want 300 Mbps. And anything more will want more than 500 Mbps.

Remote workers benefit the most from 500 Mbps download AND upload speeds. So they can download and upload files with few bottlenecks. Those who manage home media servers or frequently download files will want a multi-gig internet connection.

Before continuing, you’re probably wondering what internet speeds you need to watch various streaming platforms.

They are as follows:

TaskDownload SpeedResolution
Netflix3.0 Mbps720p
Netflix5.0 Mbps1080p
Netflix25 Mbps4K
Disney+5.0 Mbps1080p
Disney+25 Mbps4K
Hulu3.0 MbpsHulu’s Streaming Library
Hulu8.0 MbpsLivestreaming television
Hulu16 Mbps4K
Peacock TV3.0 Mbps1080p
YouTube2.5 Mbps720p
YouTube5.0 Mbps1080p
YouTube20 Mbps4K

100 Mbps internet allows 4 people to watch 4K video on Netflix and Disney+ simultaneously. That’s in optimal conditions, though. Meaning, you have the best router, no other devices using bandwidth, and no throttling.

Before selecting an internet tier, figure out how much online speed each person needs for their general activities. Then get at least 50 extra megabits. To account for software running automatic update checks, background syncing, and smart home devices.

Hardware Used for Different Internet Types

DSL, cable, satellite, and fixed wireless access will require modems. These connect your home to an internet service provider. Their purpose is to send and receive signals between you and your internet provider. They also translate signals into ones your devices can understand.

Or you could use network gateways. These act as modems and routers. While convenient and space-saving, they don’t include as many features as standalone modems or routers. But they’re fine for homes that don’t have heavy internet users.

Most providers will charge rental fees for modems or gateways. Most DSL and cable providers will remove the rental fees if customers buy approved third-party modems or gateways.

What about routers?

It doesn’t matter what router you use. So long as it supports your plan’s maximum internet speeds. For example, if you get a plan with 1,200 Mbps download speeds, you’ll need a router that supports a maximum of 1,200 wireless speeds.

Wired speeds—when connecting your device to a router with an Ethernet cable—provide the fastest speeds. Wireless speeds refer to that over Wi-Fi.

Fiber optic internet plans use optical network terminals (ONT). These require professional installations and serve the same purpose as modems. But there’s no way customers can buy third-party ONTs.

And these boxes are usually much larger than cable or DSL modems. Technicians will mount them on walls in utility closets, outside homes, or in basements.

How Do I Know What Internet Type I Have?

Here’s how to identify what type of internet you have:

  • Cable: there’s a coaxial cable in your modem
  • DSL: you have a phone cable in your router & internet speed is faster than 25 Kbps
  • Fiber: you have fast internet without a modem and;
    • there’s a giant box mounted on a wall with Ethernet cables coming out of it in the following locations
      • Basement
      • Outside where utilities meet your home
      • In a closet 
  • Satellite: you have a satellite dish outside your home
  • Fixed wireless access: your home has a box mounted on an antenna on your roof
  • Dial-up: you have a phone cable in your router & internet speeds 25 Kbps or slower

Or call your property manager and ask them what type of internet connection your home has.

What Is Satellite Internet?

Best uses of satellite internet:

  • Backup internet connection
  • RVers

ISPs transmit the internet from Network Operation Centers (NOC) to satellites in space. These satellites will then redirect the internet signal to a customer’s home receiver. Speeds for these plans reach up to 120 Mbps and usually have high latency.

Making satellite internet unviable for online gaming and video chatting.

Before proceeding to the pros and cons, let’s cover the different satellite orbits—it’s important to know the following:

  • Low-earth orbit (LEO):
    • Best for video conferences & gaming online
    • Satellites hover 300 miles (482.8 km) away from Earth
    • Higher download speeds & lower latency
    • Used by Starlink & Project Kuiper
  • Geostationary orbit:
    • Best for checking emails and browsing Google
    • Satellites hover 22,000 miles (35,405.57 km) away from Earth
    • Lower download speeds & higher latency
    • Used by HughesNet & Viasat

Satellite Internet Pros & Cons


  • More availability in rural areas


  • High latency
  • Low speeds
  • Expensive plans
  • Pricey to add more data

Most Popular Satellite Providers

The most popular satellite internet companies include:

PlanStarting Price *Max. Speeds (DL) †Installation FeeMonthly Data ‡
HughesNet$64.99–$174.99/mo.25 MbpsFree15–100 GB
Viasat$69.99–$299.99/mo.30–150 MbpsFree40–300 GB
Starlink$110–$500/mo.50–500 Mbps$5991.0 TB
Broadband satellite internet providers compared.

* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region.

† Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet) among other factors.

‡ Customers must purchase data tokens upon using all the allotted data.

What Is Fixed Wireless Access?

Best uses of fixed wireless access:

  • Backup internet connection
  • 4K video streaming (on 5G FWA)
  • Online gaming (on 5G)

ISPs deliver fixed wireless access (FWA) internet to homes using radio links sent from wireless towers. Receivers at customers’ homes will intercept these frequencies and send them to modems.

Most FWA plans will have a maximum of 400 Mbps on average. When utilizing 5G signals, some homes could receive up to 1.0 Gbps. And the few areas that support microwave internet will get up to 10 Gbps.

Before continuing, let’s see what frequencies FWA providers deal with:

  • Microwave: uses low latency radio links
  • 3G: high-latency 3G signals
  • 4G LTE: mid-band spectrum frequencies
  • 5G: low-latency millimeter waves or mid-band

Now let’s explore whether this internet type’s worth getting.

Fixed Wireless Access Pros & Cons


  • No infrastructure required
  • Speeds from 5G comparable to cable & DSL
  • Accessible in rural areas


  • Must list close to wireless towers
  • MAY experience throttling during peak usage times
  • Trees or other objects between your home & ISP’s wireless tower can wreak havoc on your connection

Most Popular Fixed Wireless Access Providers

The most noteworthy fixed wireless access providers include:

ProviderStarting Price *Max. Speeds †FWA TypeData Cap ‡
AT&T Fixed Wireless$59.99/mo.25/1.0 Mbps4G LTE350 GB
Starry$50/mo.200/100 Mbps5GNo
Rise Broadband$35–$50/mo.25–50 Mbps (DL)
4.0–5.0 Mbps (UL)
4G LTE250–350 GB
Verizon 4G LTE Home$50/mo.25–50 Mbps (DL)
4.0 Mbps (UL)
Verizon 5G Home$50/mo.85–100 Mbps (DL)
10–50 Mbps (UL)
T-Mobile 5G Home$50/mo.33–182 Mbps (DL)
6.0–23 Mbps (UL)
Broadband fixed wireless access providers compared.

* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region. Pricing already accounts for discounts when enabling automatic payments.

† Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet) among other factors.

‡ Account holders will incur data overage surcharges upon using all the data cap.

What Is Fiber Internet?

Best uses of fiber internet:

  • Home server management
  • Competitive online gaming
  • 8K video streaming
  • 4K cloud gaming
  • Business internet
  • Remote workers

Providers deliver internet to homes at the speed of light through fiber optic cables. Manufacturers build these cables with glass and other insulating materials. Making them immune to electromagnetic and wireless interference.

Because of this, fiber internet is the most reliable internet connection type.

Fiber internet plans deliver maximum download and upload speeds of 10 Gbps. Fiber’s an ideal internet type for anyone because of its high speeds, reliability, and affordability. But there’s nothing’s perfect—

Fiber Internet Pros & Cons


  • Lowest latency among connection types
  • Equal download/upload speeds (symmetric)
  • Offers speeds up to 10 Gbps
  • Most reliable connection method


  • Not much availability
  • Expensive installation fees
  • Requires additional infrastructure

Most Popular Fiber Providers Compared

Here are most of the fiber providers available:

ProviderStarting Price *Max. Speed # of States ServicedBest For
Verizon Fios$49.99–$89.99/mo.300–940 Mbps9 (Availability map)Remote work & discounts
AT&T Fiber$55–$180/mo.300–5,000 Mbps21 (Availability map)Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Frontier Fiber$39.99–$149.99/mo.500–2,000 Mbps25 (Availability map)Online gaming & home server management
Ziply Fiber$20–$300/mo.50–5,000 Mbps4Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Optimum Fiber$40–$180/mo.300–5,000 Mbps17Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
CenturyLink$30–$70/mo.200–940 Mbps16 (Availability map)Remote work
Xfinity Gigabit Pro$300/mo.6.0 Gbps40 (Availability map)Managing Home servers
Google Fiber$70–$100/mo.1.0–2.0 Gbps9Livestreaming
Windstream$39.99–$69.99/mo.500–1,000 Mbps18Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Broadband fiber internet providers compared.

* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region. Pricing already accounts for discounts when enabling automatic payments.

† Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet) among other factors.

What Is Cable Internet?

Best uses of cable internet:

  • Low-latency gaming
  • 1080p video streaming
  • To bundle it with cable TV

TLDR: providers deliver cable internet to homes using coaxial cables. These provide maximum download speeds of 1,200 Mbps. These use the same wires as cable TV.

In detail, ISPs transmit the internet from cable modem termination systems (CMTS) through fiber trunks to fiber nodes. The nodes will convert the optical signals sent from the CMTS to digital signals.

They’ll then distribute to all homes connected to the fiber node. Because of this, customers will likely experience throttled internet and increased latency during peak usage hours. By this, I mean when most people use the internet at once.

Cable Internet Pros & Cons


  • Download speeds up to 1,200 Mbps
  • Can bundle with cable TV
  • More reliable than FWA & satellite internet


  • Low upload speeds
  • Cable TV comes with various additional fees
  • Throttling during peak hours

Most Popular Cable Providers

Let’s compare the most notable cable internet providers:

Provider* Starting PriceMax. Speed# of States ServicedData Cap?Best For
Spectrum$49.99–$89.99/mo.300–1,000 Mbps (DL)
10–35 Mbps (UL)
41 (Availability Map)NoOnline gaming & file downloads
Xfinity Cable$20–$120/mo.75–2,000 Mbps (DL)10–35 Mbps (UL)48 (Availability Map)1.20 TB720p video streaming
Cox$49.99–$79.99/mo.100–1,000 Mbps (DL)5.0–35 Mbps (UL)19 (Availability Map)1.25 TB720p video streaming
WOW!$29.99–$94.99/mo.200–1,200 Mbps (DL)5.0–50 Mbps (UL)91.5–3.0 TB1080p video streaming
Broadband cable internet providers compared.

* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region. Pricing already accounts for discounts when enabling automatic payments.

† Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet) among other factors.

‡ Account holders will incur data overage surcharges upon using all the data cap.

What Is DSL Internet?

Best uses of DSL internet:

  • File downloads & 4K streaming: because of no data caps on most packages
  • Basic online tasks like checking emails, online gaming, & browsing the internet

Digital service line (DSL) internet connects homes to internet service providers through copper telephone wires. DSL is an improved version of ISDN and dial-up internet. As it allows customers to use landline phones and the internet simultaneously.

Meanwhile, it provides download speed of up to 120 Mbps.

These speeds will vary, though. DSL suffers from a weakness called “attenuation.” The further a customer lives from the provider’s Digital subscriber line access multiplexer (DSLAM), the slower the internet they’ll get.

Making DSL not the most cost-efficient option.

I’ve compared more than 5 different types of DSL connections in a separate guide. However, most providers will use asymmetric digital service lines (ADSL). Customers get higher download speeds than upload.

DSL Pros & Cons


  • Affordable(ish)
  • No data caps


  • Slower internet when you live further from your ISP
  • Not as much availability nowadays

Most Popular DSL Providers

Popular DSL ISPs to consider include:

ProviderStarting Price *Average Speed †# of States ServicedData Cap? ‡
Frontier DSL$28–$45/mo.6.0–45 Mbps25 (Availability Map)No
AT&T DSL$55–65/mo.0.8–500 Mbps (DL)0.4–100 Mbps (UL)21 (Availability Map)150 GB
CenturyLink$50/mo.20–140 Mbps (DL)10–12 Mbps (UL)15 (Availability Map)No
Kinetic by Windstream$37/mo.100 Mbps18No
Broadband DSL internet providers compared.

* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region.

† Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet) among other factors.

‡ Account holders will incur data overage surcharges upon using all the data cap.

Mobile Internet (Cellular Broadband)

Best uses of cellular internet:

  • RV owners
  • Checking important messages or emails while away from home

Cellular providers deliver internet access to smartphones, tablets, and other devices through their networks. It differs from fixed wireless access since mobile internet works on the go.

FWA providers require an immobile network gateway or modem.

You’ll need to use a mobile router to get mobile internet at home. Plug a SIM card into the router, and it’ll connect to your provider’s 4G LTE or 5G network and deliver internet. Or you could put that SIM card in a dongle.

The dongle is a plug-and-play USB stick that allows USB-compatible devices to use your mobile data. But there’s a major weakness I’ll cover in the next section.

Cellular Broadband Pros & Cons


  • Internet access anywhere with mobile coverage
  • More privacy compared to public Wi-Fi hotspots


  • Most providers impose hotspot data limits: upon passing these limits, you’ll have much slower internet
  • Expensive to add more high-speed data
  • Slower than most internet options

Most Popular Cellular Providers

Popular cellular broadband providers include [2, 3]:

ProviderStarting Price *Average Speed (DL)Hotspot Data †Premium Data †
Verizon$25–$90/mo. per line56.2 Mbps5.0–50 GB50 GB–unlimited
AT&T$30–$85/mo. per line49.1 Mbps3.0–50 GB50 GB–unlimited
T-Mobile$25–$85/mo. per line150 Mbps5.0–40 GB50–unlimited
Cellular internet providers compared.

* These prices don’t factor in auto pay discounts or taxes. The latter will vary by billing ZIP code. Prices will also fluctuate depending on the number of lines you add to your plan.

† Providers will throttle speeds after exceeding the aforementioned data allowances.

What Is ISDN Internet?

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) internet uses telephone lines to deliver internet services to homes. It’s better than dial-up internet, since customers can use landline phones and internet simultaneously.


it’s slower than DSL. ISDN internet speeds top out at close to 128 Kbps. DSL internet has replaced ISDN in almost all areas because of its lack of speed.

What Is Dial-up Internet?

Dial-up internet connects the internet service provider to your home using copper telephone lines. Customers lucked out if they got the maximum 56 Kbps speeds these plans offered.

What makes DSL different from dial-up?

Both use telephone lines. Unlike DSL, dial-up internet users can’t use landline phones while connected to the internet. Meanwhile, digital service line internet provides much faster download speeds.

Dial-up Pros & Cons

Pros and cons for dial-up internet include:


  • Affordable
  • More secure since it uses a different IP address whenever you log on


  • Super slow
  • Can’t use landline phones while on the internet

What Is Broadband Over Power line?

Broadband over power line (BPL) uses frequencies outside the range of AC power and sends them to homes using existing electrical wires. Meaning, customers could get high-speed internet through electrical outlets.

BPL is an excellent alternative to other connection types due to utilizing existing infrastructure. However, broadband over power line doesn’t have a protective coating like fiber optic cables. That makes it vulnerable to wireless interference.

Only a small town in Illinois has access to BPL internet [4].

Which Internet Type to Choose?

Compare this information surrounding each internet connection type:

FiberDSLCable InternetSatellite InternetFixed Wireless Access
Best For8K streaming, competitive online gaming, & file transfersSaving a bit of money & general browsingBundling with cable TV, online gaming, & watching videosInternet access in remote areasBackup internet, watching videos, & general browsing
Max. Speed10 Gbps120 Mbps1.2 Gbps100 Mbps1.0 Gbps
Avg. Latency8.1 ms34 ms15 ms469 ms40 ms
Avg. Monthly Fee$64/mo.$51/mo.$51/mo.$86/mo.$50/mo.
Equipment NeededONT & routerDSL modem & routerCable modem & routerFlat panel antenna & satellite modemNetwork gateway
InstallationRequires professional installationSelf-installation possibleSelf-installation possibleRequires professional installationSelf-installed

Here’s the order of what internet type you should gun for:

  1. Fiber: highest speeds, lowest latency, & most reasonable pricing
  2. 5G fixed wireless access: no data caps & ideal for homes without many trees surrounding it
  3. Cable: best for homes with 5 or fewer people; but horrible for livestreamers & remote workers
  4. DSL: best for homes with fewer than 3 people
  5. 4G fixed wireless access: affordable & best for 1–2-person households
  6. Satellite: pick this last

Fiber internet has the lowest latency and highest speeds. Almost all optical internet plans include symmetric speeds. This means you’ll have equal download and upload speeds. Ideal for those who manage home servers and remote workers.

If fiber isn’t available, consider 5G fixed wireless access. Though speeds can vary, and FWA can experience interruptions when facing obstacles, there are some major benefits to consider:

  • High download speeds: can handle most home’s online needs
  • No data cap: no data overage surcharges
  • Affordable: usually prices don’t skyrocket after a set period

Consider DSL or cable if the former options aren’t available. High-speed DSL plans are great if you want limitless data. Meanwhile, cable internet plans provide higher speeds on average, but have data limits.

LTE home internet serves as a fantastic backup internet option. And can serve as a nice alternative to satellite internet for 1–2-people homes. If 4G internet isn’t available, then consider satellite.

FAQs: Internet Connection Types

Explore these FAQs to learn more about various internet types.

What Is The Best Connection Type for Internet?

Fiber is the best connection type because it has the fastest speeds, lowest average latency, and affordable pricing.

What are the 6 Types of Internet?

The different types of internet are fiber, cable, DSL, fixed wireless access, satellite, and dial-up. However, there’s also ISDN (outdated) and cellular network internet.

What Is the Most Common Internet Type?

Cable is the most common internet type in the United States due to its vast availability and affordability. While satellite covers almost all the U.S., most people may not use it because of its high costs and low speeds.

Does Dial-up Still Exist?

Dial-up internet still exists. Providers like NetZero still offer dial-up internet for $29.95 a month. Meanwhile, companies like Juno offer internet free for 10 hours a month.

Bottom Line

Fiber optic internet offers the most reliability and highest speeds out of every connection type. But it doesn’t have much availability throughout the United States due to a lack of infrastructure. Meanwhile, DSL, 5G FWA, and cable internet will deliver faster speeds.

Those in rural areas will likely only have access to fixed wireless access internet and satellite. I recommend the former over the latter if you have a choice. It’s faster, doesn’t have data limits, and has a lower average latency.

Now that you have an idea of the type of internet you want, compare providers. Use our reviews to help you get started.

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