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Different Types of Internet Connections

The internet has come a long way since the 1960s and has become a global means of communication. It has revolutionized almost every walk of life. Its access has become so common that many of us don’t even think about the technologies behind it. There are different ways to get online, and your internet connection type plays a significant role in availability, speed, and performance. It is essential to understand the distinction between different types of internet connections while determining the connection type and internet provider for your family. Otherwise, you might get stuck with an internet connection that isn’t suitable or affordable for your household. Let’s walk through the different types of internet connections and explore the evolution of internet access.

Types of Internet Connections

Dial-up Internet: Slow and Largely Obsolete Now

While internet technology has evolved significantly over time, people with limited resources still use this type of connection. This connection is still prevalent in some rural and remote areas and is the primary source of connecting to the internet for the rural population. Dial-up does not qualify as high-speed internet and is extremely slow compared to current standards.

Dial-up internet was the first and most popular method of connecting to the internet back in the 90s. It utilizes existing phone lines and a modem to establish a connection. The main issue with this type of connection is that you cannot simultaneously connect to the internet and make a phone call since there is only one phone line at your home. The lines are also prone to frequent interferences, consequently affecting the speeds. This connection is chiefly obsolete now as many providers have discontinued this service.

Prominent Dial-Up Internet Providers

  • Juno
  • NetZero
  • AOL

Speed

Dial-up internet is only used by 3% of Americans today. It clocks at 56 Kbps and is extremely slow by current standards.

Cost

You can use your existing phone line to use this internet connection at no additional cost. Otherwise, you can get a phone line for $42/month, and you’ll have to install a telephone jack in your house too. You can get much faster and cheaper internet options at this price.

Equipment

  • Dial-up modem

What Can You Do With This Type of Connection?

You can only browse limited websites with 56 Kbps speed and this internet connection can only support one person at a time. Hence, it is almost useless compared to other connections.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) Internet: Best for Rural Areas

While DSL also uses phone lines to connect to the internet like Dial-up, it uses broadband technology to deliver much faster speeds. It allows you to use your internet without worrying about an incoming call interrupting the connection.

DSL internet is a reliable and affordable option for the rural population. And while it is slower than cable and fiber internet options, it is also the most widely available connection and is a cheaper alternative to satellite internet. DSL providers keep the prices low because they use existing phone lines to deliver their services.

Prominent DSL Internet Providers:

  • Frontier
  • AT&T
  • Windstream
  • EarthLink
  • CenturyLink
  • Verizon

Speed

DSL internet’s speed depends on your distance from the ISP. However, it is not affected by congestion. It is faster than dial-up internet and you can expect speeds between 1 Mbps to 115 Mbps with this type of connection.

Cost

The cost of this type of connection depends on the provider and your chosen internet plan. The prices can vary from $30 to $100.

Equipment

  • DSL modem and router

What Can You Do With This Type of Connection?

You can efficiently conduct various internet activities like browsing, checking e-mails, and using social media if only one person is using the internet. Depending on your chosen plan’s bandwidth and speed, you can even stream your favorite content.

Satellite Internet: Expensive & Slow

Satellite internet is known for its nationwide coverage because it doesn’t rely on ground-laid infrastructures like cables, cellular towers, and antennas. Instead, it uses a dish to connect with the satellites in space. However, satellite internet requires a clear view of the southern sky for better performance.

Although it is expensive and slow, it is possibly the only internet option for many rural areas. However, it gets affected by the bad weather and has high latency due to the enormous distance between the satellites and the Earth’s surface. On the bright side, Elon Musk’s Starlink network can be the future of this type of connection. The use of low-Earth orbit satellites is improving the speeds while reducing the latency of satellite connections.

Prominent Satellite Internet Providers:

  • HughesNet
  • Viasat
  • Starlink

Speed:

Satellite internet is faster than Dial-up and even DSL internet in some cases. Satellite internet providers offer speeds ranging from 12 to 100 Mbps. Although it can’t compete with fiber and cable internet, it is a suitable option for people with limited internet options.

Cost:

Satellite internet is the most expensive internet connection. Its starting prices for basic plans with low speed and data are from $50 and can go up to $200 for faster speeds and more data.  

Equipment:

  • Satellite dish
  • Modem
  • Power cables

What Can You Do With This Type of Connection?

Satellite internet is a suitable option for small households, and you can stream, browse and use social media with this type of connection. It is not appropriate for gaming because of its high latency.

Fixed Wireless Internet: Similar to Satellite Internet

Fixed wireless internet is another option for the rural population that establishes a connection via radio waves. Just like satellite internet, fixed wireless requires a fixed antenna or receiver. The difference is that this receiver is smaller than the satellite internet dish. It uses these antennas to direct your internet signal from your computer to a nearby tower.

The placement of the antenna is significant for receiving robust signals. It should have a clear line of sight to the tower as any hills, trees, or other objects can hinder your incoming internet signals. Fixed wireless is ideal for areas that lack network infrastructure for DSL, cable, and other connections.

Prominent Fixed Wireless Internet Providers:

  • AT&T
  • Rise Broadband
  • Google Fiber Webpass
  • Starry Internet

Speed

The speeds of fixed wireless internet can vary depending on the various factors that can impact the quality of the signals. However, they usually range from 5 to 50 Mbps.

Cost

Fixed wireless internet is comparatively cheaper than satellite connection as the starting prices range from $35 to $50 per month. Many providers also enforce more lenient data caps than satellite internet.

Equipment

  • Antenna
  • Modem
  • Router

What Can You Do with This Type of Connection?

Depending on your chosen plan and the data limit, you can perform the most basic internet activities with Fixed Wireless Internet.

Mobile Internet: 5G on the Rise

Mobile internet is becoming more prevalent with the emergence of 5G technology. This is one of the best types of internet connections. This network uses the same channels as your mobile phone to access the internet. Mobile carriers send signals from a cellular tower in all directions, which then are picked up by your cell phone.

You can find 5G and LTE networks in areas with robust cellular infrastructure, which allows you to access high-speed internet.

Prominent Mobile Internet Providers

Speed

The speed of mobile internet depends on the strength of mobile signals in your area. 4G provided internet speeds up to 100 Mbps, but with 5G, you can get up to 1 Gbps or higher internet speeds.

Cost

Mobile carriers offer different plans based on your requirements. This type of internet connection can cost you up to $100, but you should contact your cellular provider for more information.

Equipment

  • Hotspot device

What Can You Do With This Type of Connection?

A mobile network allows you to perform basic internet activities depending on your plan. Overall this is a good internet connection type for people who require an internet connection outside their homes.

Cable Internet: Most Common Choice

Cable internet is the most common type of connection. Although it is not as fast or reliable as fiber internet, it is more accessible. It is available to 90% of Americans and is a much better option than other internet types. Cable internet providers use a coaxial cable to deliver this type of connection. It provides faster speeds than DSL or satellite internet connection, and you can bundle it with home phone and TV services. You can find this connection in mainly urban areas of the United States.

Prominent Cable Internet Providers:

  • Spectrum
  • Xfinity
  • Cox
  • Optimum
  • Mediacom

Speed

Cable internet providers use coaxial cable to deliver fiber-like internet speeds, making it one of the fastest internet connections available on the market. However, it is susceptible to slow speeds during rush hours. Most ISPs offer a variety of internet speeds ranging from 100 Mbps to 940 Mbps. While the download speeds are higher, the upload speeds are usually not more than 50 Mbps.

Cost

The cost of cable internet connection varies significantly among providers, but it is one of the more affordable connection types. You can get a basic package from $30 to $50. On the other hand, high-speed packages can range from $60 to $100 per month.

Equipment

  • Modem
  • Router

What Can You Do With This Type of Connection?

Depending on your chosen plan, multiple people can easily stream, download, play games, and browse the internet with this type of internet connection.

Fiber-Optic Internet: Fast & Reliable Connection

Fiber-optic internet is the best type of internet connection as it uses the latest technology to deliver unprecedented speeds. It uses a fiber-optic cable that transmits data using pulses of lights along with numerous glass or plastic fibers. This makes fiber internet more reliable than other connection types.

The major downside of this connection is its limited availability, as it is only available to 45% of US households, specifically in urban areas. The absence of proper infrastructure is the primary cause of this issue, as laying enough fiber-optic cables to connect every city is a massive challenge. However, many providers are making efforts to expand their coverage in underserved areas.

Prominent Fiber Internet Providers

  • AT&T
  • Frontier
  • Verizon Fios
  • CenturyLink

Speed

Fiber internet provides the highest internet speeds. Its speeds usually range from 250 Mbps to 1000 Mbps. Some providers have also introduced multi-gigabit plans, but they are only available in specific locations. The best thing about this connection is that it provides symmetrical upload and download speeds.

Cost

Fiber internet connection type used to be the most expensive type of connection, but in recent years most providers have lowered their prices. As a result, you can now find competitively priced fiber internet plans.

Equipment

  • Modem
  • Router

What Can You Do With This Type of Connection?

You can do anything you want with this connection. With symmetrical, high upload and download speeds, you can even live stream without interruption with this internet connection type.

Final Words

Internet technology has significantly evolved, and we now have more ways to establish a connection. But more options can make your shopping for internet plans tedious. Therefore, you should understand the distinction between all the available internet connection types. So you can acquire an internet plan suitable for your household.

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