Cable vs. Satellite Internet: Which Should You Use?

Always choose cable internet over satellite if it’s available in your area. It costs less and provides much higher internet speeds. Satellite internet works well if you’re in a rural area that doesn’t have access to fixed wireless access internet.

I’ve always found it tough to decide on an internet connection type. To help us narrow our options, I’ve compiled a bunch of pros and cons surrounding cable and satellite internet.

As you read on, I’ll cover the following:

Let the games begin.

Should You Get Cable or Satellite Internet?

Always pick cable internet if it’s available. And here’s why:

  • Higher download & upload speed: capable of watching online videos
  • No soft data cap: though some providers may enforce hard data caps
  • Lower latency: ideal for gaming & online video calls
  • Costs less: refer to the chart in the next section
  • No ridiculous equipment fees: satellite equipment fees can go up to $500

ONLY go with satellite internet if fixed wireless access (FWA) isn’t available in your area. FWA uses 3G, 4G, and 5G frequencies to deliver home internet. It provides higher bandwidth and lower latency without breaking the bank.

Or if you love wasting money.

But who knows? Satellite internet may evolve to become usable for everyday online tasks like online gaming. Without costing an arm and a leg.

Check out what happens when you pit satellite and cable internet against one another.

Cable vs. Satellite Internet

Let the battle between satellite and cable internet begin:

Cable InternetSatellite Internet
Best ForBundling with cable TV, online gaming, & watching videosInternet access in remote areas
Max. Speed1.2 Gbps100 Mbps
Avg. Latency15 ms469 ms
Avg. Monthly Fee$51/mo.$86/mo.
Equipment NeededCable modem & routerFlat panel antenna & satellite modem
InstallationSelf-installation possibleRequires professional installation
Cable and satellite internet compared.

Because I listed the “average latency” doesn’t mean that’s the ping you’ll get. These numbers come from finding the median of all the ISPs’ latency.

Cable vs. Satellite Internet: Latency

Cable internet has 15 ms of ping on average. Much lower than the satellite’s 469 milliseconds. Meaning, satellite internet isn’t viable for online gaming or reliable video conferencing.

For Skype to perform well, you’ll want ping under 150 milliseconds [1]. Otherwise, you’ll have noticeable lag during your calls. That’s generous.

But not enough so for HughesNet and Viasat. Starlink has a more reasonable latency of between 25–50 ms [2].

While Starlink has much lower latency than its counterparts, it still doesn’t compare to cable internet’s average ping. Meanwhile, it fetches a much higher price.

And has lower speeds.

Because of the low speeds and latency that come with satellite internet, you won’t want to game online. Gamers want at least fewer than 40 ms of ping for lag-free online gaming. Let the chart above speak for itself.

Cable vs. Satellite Internet: Speed

Cable internet provides download speeds up to 1,200 Mbps and upload up to 35 Mbps. Satellite providers offer around 3.0 Mbps upload speeds and up to 100 Mbps download speeds on average.

100 Mbps could accommodate every online task. But consider soft data caps. It’s the amount of data your household can use before the ISP throttles your internet speed into oblivion.

And unless you go with Starlink, you’ll have data caps of 100–300 GB. To conserve your data, you’ll want to restrict your home to the following:

  • Streaming 480p SD video
  • Checking emails
  • Browsing the internet

Due to latency, you won’t want to use satellite internet for online gaming and video calls.

Cable internet can accommodate any online activity except those that require uploading large files (e.g., video uploads on YouTube). Since this piece compares cable and satellite, there’s no winner regarding upload speed.

Cable vs. Satellite Internet: Availability

Here’s how cable availability compares to satellite [3]:

  • Satellite internet: 99.96%
  • Cable: 80%

There’s fine print to this. Satellite’s 99% coverage only applies to plans with 25 Mbps (download) and under. 100–250 Mbps download speeds cover 29.54% of the country.

Residential cable’s more consistent. Most speeds provide coverage to 79–82% of the country. Whereas, 0.35% of the country has access to 1,000 Mbps (download).

Cable vs. Satellite Internet: Costs

Satellite internet, on average, costs $30 more monthly than cable. That doesn’t include installation or equipment fees. Or data top-ups.

Providers like HughesNet charge $3.00 per gigabyte (GB) you add to your plan. Upon passing your soft data cap, you’ll need to top up your data. Otherwise, you’ll have throttled download speeds up to 3.0 Mbps.

While cable internet doesn’t have soft data caps, they enforce hard data caps. You’ll need to pay data overage surcharges upon using all the allotted data. These usually cost $10 per 50 GB used.

Since satellite internet requires specific modems, you can’t buy a third-party device to shave money off your bill. But with cable you can.

Cable vs. Satellite Internet: Reliability

Cable internet is more reliable than satellite because it’s not as susceptible to outages from storms. However, satellite internet’s reliability could fall to the following:

  • Humid weather
  • Fog
  • Snow
  • Trees
  • Storms

Despite having more reliability, I wouldn’t trust it as much compared to cable.

Cable vs. Satellite Internet: Equipment & Installation

Satellite internet charges equipment and installation fees ranging up to $500. Because of the precision needed from the home satellites installed, you’ll need a technician to install your dish.

The same doesn’t go for cable.

So long as your home doesn’t need more coaxial cables, you could opt for self-installation. The ISP will send your modem/gateway in a self-installation kit. You plug in some wires, activate your device, and connect to the internet.

Cable vs. Satellite Internet: For Video Streaming

Cable works better for streaming video resolutions under 4K UHD. Otherwise, your home will use all your package’s data within 200 hours in a month [4].

That’s better than the horrendous soft data caps satellite providers offer. Imagine only streaming 20 hours of 480p SD video before breaking through a 15 GB data cap.

Horrendous, right?

Though Starlink has a generous 1.0 terabyte (TB) soft data cap, it’s expensive. You’re much better off paying for cable.

Otherwise, you should have more than enough download speed with both connection types to stream content through every major platform.

Here’s a reference:

TaskDownload Speed
Netflix3.0 Mbps: 720p
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
25 Mbps: 4K
Disney+5.0 Mbps: 1080p
25 Mbps: 4K
Hulu3.0 Mbps: Hulu’s Streaming Library
8.0 Mbps: livestreaming television
16 Mbps: 4K
Peacock TV3.0 Mbps: 1080p
Spotify2.0 Mbps
YouTube2.5 Mbps: 720p
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
20 Mbps: 4K

What Is Cable Internet?

Cable is home (or business) internet delivered through coaxial cables. Average download speeds for cable internet range from 1.0 to 1,200 Mbps. However, maximum upload speeds usually sit at 35 Mbps.

These cables will transmit internet services to your home’s modem or network gateway (modem/router combo). It doesn’t require much setup. And providers usually allow you to install your own equipment.

Many cable internet providers also offer television products. Since both services use the same coaxial cable networks. Meaning, customers could bundle their TV and internet services.

Cable internet providers will often enforce “hard” data caps. Instead of explaining what it means, I’ll provide an example.

Cox enforces a 1.25 terabyte (TB) data cap. Upon exceeding this data, you’ll need to pay $10 per additional 50 gigabytes (GB) used.

Pros & Cons of Broadband Cable Internet

Here’s why cable internet is awesome:

  • Can bundle it with cable TV
  • High download speeds
  • Acceptable average latency

Cable has the following downsides:

  • Will likely encounter lower speeds during peak hours
  • Often low upload speeds
  • Less availability

Satellite internet could make up for cable internet’s con in availability. Since folks in rural areas could likely get it.

Most Popular Broadband Cable Internet Service Providers

Compare all the most popular cable ISPs before deciding on a provider:

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
Cable 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.

While Spectrum’s the only provider on this list without a data cap, their website suggests they admit to throttling internet speeds during peak usage hours. This will lead to slower upload and download speeds while many people in your area are online.

WOW! offers a much higher data cap on their 500 Mbps and over plans. But it isn’t available in many areas.

That leaves you with Xfinity or Cox, unless you choose a niche provider. Both providers enforce data caps and have upload speeds on the lower end. But Xfinity allows you to have higher upload speeds and bypass their data cap when renting their network gateway.

Because money’s the solution to many of life’s issues.

What Is Broadband Satellite Internet?

Internet service providers fire internet signals from network operations centers to satellites in space. These satellites then transmit these signals to customers’ home satellite antennas.

Maximum speeds for satellite internet go as high as 100 Mbps. And while we’d like to imagine you could bundle satellite internet with its television counterpart, you can’t.

Satellite internet providers don’t offer television services. And most satellite internet providers don’t provide portable satellites for RVs, boats, and other rigs (except Starlink). Because your satellite antenna must remain at a particular position to receive internet signals from space.

Speaking of:

Two types of satellite internet exist:

  • Low-earth orbit (LEO):
    • Low latency & higher internet speeds
    • Satellites hover 300 miles away from Earth
    • Starlink & Project Kuiper use these satellites
  • Geostationary orbit
    • Lower internet speeds & higher latency
    • Satellites drift 22,000 miles away from Earth
    • HughesNet & Viasat use these satellites

All satellite internet plans require professional antenna and modem installation. Meaning there’s no way to escape Starlink’s $500 equipment fee.

Pros & Cons of Digital Broadband Satellite Internet

Wins I’ll give satellite internet include:

  • Availability

Otherwise, satellite internet doesn’t do well in these areas:

  • High latency: more than 200 ms on average
  • Low soft data caps: 15–300 GB on average
  • Expensive equipment fees: up to $500
  • Pricey plans: costs $86 on average

Cable internet overcomes satellite’s cons by offering $51 monthly prices on average, waiving installation fees, and providing lower latencies. They may enforce hard data caps, but they give you much more online activity data than most satellite providers.

Most Popular Satellite Internet Service Providers

Let’s see what satellite internet providers you could choose from:

Plan* Starting PriceMax. 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.

There’s also Amazon’s Project Kuiper, but it’s not available. At the time of writing. It, like Starlink, will use low-earth orbit satellites.

You’ll have an additional option for lower latency and higher internet speeds.

Otherwise, SpaceX’s Starlink offers the most value at the moment. Compare its 1.0 TB soft data cap to HughesNet’s 15 GB.

HughesNet would allow you to stream 5 hours of 1080p FHD video. Whereas, your household could watch more than 350 hours with Starlink.

Starlink offers a 30-day trial. But charges a massive installation fee. Something Viasat and HughesNet don’t have.

Go with Starlink or HughesNet’s Fusion plans if you’re in a rural area and want to game online or video chat. Supposedly the Fusion plans offer lower latency, yet don’t provide the numbers.

Otherwise, Viasat and HughesNet are useful for expensive backup internet connections. Or for Googling stuff. Starlink is better for online video streaming because of the higher data cap.

Consider LTE or 5G fixed wireless access internet for downloading and uploading files. Otherwise, you’ll burn through your data FAST.

Other Internet Connection Options Compared

Here are other internet connection types to consider:

Internet TypeStrengthsWeaknessesBest For
CableAffordable, reliable, and fast DL speedsMay experience throttling during peak hoursGaming & watching videos under 4K res.
SatelliteMost accessibleSlow, high-latency, & expensiveBackup internet connection
Fixed Wireless AccessLow latency (varies by frequency) & high DL speedsTrees could interfere with connectionWatching videos online & gaming
FiberLow latency, fast, reliableLimited availabilityRemote workers, home servers, & constant file downloads/uploads
DSLNot susceptible to throttlingSuffers from attenuationWatching 1080p or lower res. videos
Internet connection types compared.

Let’s go down the totem pole of the best connection types you should choose. If your home doesn’t support the connection type, move to the next item on the list.

Here are the connection types to choose in order:

  1. Fiber: ideal for anyone
  2. 5G fixed wireless access: high speeds & low latency
  3. Cable: great for watching videos online, but not so for file downloads
  4. DSL: could offer higher speeds if you live close to the provider
  5. 4G fixed wireless access: accessible in most areas
  6. Satellite: pick it as a last resort

Always pick fiber first. Choose satellite as a last resort. And choose whatever’s in between based on their availability.

The former offers the highest speeds and the most reliability. Thus, providing the most value. Many fiber providers offer reasonable pricing on their plans as well.

Most homes may find fiber optic speeds (e.g., 1.0 Gbps) unnecessary. But many providers offer download and upload speeds as low as 300 or 500 Mbps.

Oh yeah, this post is about cable and satellite internet. Not fiber.

Many cable providers enforce hard data caps. This means you’ll need to pay a data overage surcharge after exceeding “X” GB or TB. And providers like Xfinity make it so you can buy your way out of the cap.

Most homes won’t break through ISPs’ hard data caps. They will easily surpass the low soft data caps (e.g., HughesNet’s 15 GB cap). For instance, it would take 20 hours of watching Netflix in 480p SD to breach this cap [5].

Don’t rush into choosing a provider. Consider all available options and refer to the above list for help.

FAQs: Satellite & Cable Internet

Explore these commonly asked questions about cable and satellite internet.

Is Satellite Internet the Same as Cable?

Satellite internet is not the same as cable. The former relies on satellites in space to transmit internet. The latter uses coaxial cables.

Why Choose Satellite Over Cable?

Only select satellite internet over cable if the latter connection type isn’t available in your area.


Always pick cable internet over satellite. So long as it’s available in your area. Otherwise, your household will pay more and have slower internet.

Consider fixed wireless access instead if you’re looking for a backup internet connection.

Since you have a better idea of what type of internet your home should get, explore your options. We’ve compared many ISPs through various guides. Check them out.

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