Choosing the Right Internet Connection Type for You: A Guide
Not all Internet connections are created equal. Find out which type of connection is best for your needs and budget with this guide from SmartMove.
For anyone about to move, making sure they continue to have Internet at home will seem as essential as having electricity. After all, how else do you stay up-to-date on current events, keep in touch with family and friends, work, study and entertain yourself?
Of course, having Internet doesn’t always mean you have the right kind of Internet. Whether you’re moving across the country or moving across town, this SmartMove guide will help you understand the variety of Internet connection types available, as well as which type will work best for you.
Understanding Your Internet Connection Options
Here’s a look at the most common types of Internet connections and how they differ from one another.
- Dialup Internet
- DSL Internet
- Cable Internet
- Wireless Internet
- Satellite Internet
- Cellular Internet
- Fiber Internet
Dialup is the original way most people accessed the Internet, and it’s been around for more than a few decades now. How does dialup work? Well, your computer sends out an analog signal over the telephone line that is then converted into a digital signal by your modem. It works — but slowly.
The problems with dialup weren’t that noticeable at first. After all it was, for many years, the only game in town. But telephone lines experience interference and signal overload, which can affect Internet speed significantly. Plus, with dialup Internet, the computer and the phone can’t be in use at the same time.
Dialup Internet is still an option in many places, and if you only use the Internet for occasional browsing and email — and you don’t mind tying up your home phone line (landline) — it might be the right choice for you, especially if you’re trying to keep your Internet costs as low as possible.
DSL, which stands for “digital subscriber line,” also connects to telephone wires but uses its own line so that it doesn’t interfere with your phone connection. A DSL connection will transport data at a speed that’s faster than dialup but still not the fastest available.DSL is a reasonable option for casual Internet users but probably not the best choice for those who regularly download and upload large files, gamers, or anyone who wants to stream content from their computers. Households with multiple users might also need a more robust connection than DSL.
Cable Internet connects to the web using a cable modem, which operates using your cable TV lines. These lines are also called coaxial cables. Cable Internet provides much greater bandwidth than dialup or DSL. Dialup and DSL Internet connections range from 28 kbps to 8 Mbps with some DSL Internet connections claiming to reach as high as 100 Mbps download speeds. But cable Internet can reach download speeds of 10 to 500 Mbps, depending on the quality of your cable TV connection. The average cable Internet speed is around 100 Mbps.
For gamers, heavy streamers and households that have several users and connected devices, cable Internet is likely the slowest Internet connection type they should choose.
Wireless Internet, or WiFi, is one of the most common types of Internet connection today in homes and businesses. Devices that use wireless Internet don’t have to be physically hooked up to a router or modem. However, to get WiFi at home, you will need some way of getting Internet to your modem, be it via DSL, cable, fiber or some other Internet type.
Here’s how wireless Internet works: Using radio frequencies, WiFi allows users to connect to an Internet service provider’s broadband network. Internet can then be accessed from anywhere within a given router’s range. WiFi speeds vary greatly but typically fall within 5 to 20 Mbps.
Because gamers have very specific Internet needs, they will often want to avoid using WiFi for online games, and instead, connect directly via ethernet.
Satellite Internet access happens via satellites orbiting the Earth. Because this data has to travel such a long distance, satellite Internet users can experience delays in connection when compared to more traditional forms such as DSL, cable and fiber. Speeds tend to range from 512 kbps to 2 Mbps. The signal can also be interrupted more easily due to weather, sun flares, etc.
Cellular Internet connection is provided by cellular data, which you pay for through your mobile phone plan. This type of connection is most often used on smartphones. It can also be used for computers that connect to a cellular hotspot.
Cellular Internet has typically fallen into the category of either 3G or 4G speeds. Third-generation (3G) Internet tends to offer speeds of roughly 2 Mbps, but it’s becoming less common, because the technology is no longer supported. Fourth-generation (4G) Internet is able to provide speeds close to 21 Mbps.
Fifth-generation (5G) is becoming increasingly common and is a considerable improvement compared to 4G. It offers speeds of up to 20 Gbps at peak data rates. The average is >100 Mbps.
Fiber Internet is an extremely fast form of Internet that is primarily available in big cities — at least currently. Unlike other forms of Internet connections that transmit data through copper cables, fiber Internet transfers data through fiber-optic Internet cables, which allows for much faster and more efficient transfers.
This means fiber users can enjoy speeds of up to 940 Mbps. Fiber is a great choice for those who work from home with data-heavy programs, as well as for avid online gamers and households with dozens of connected devices and users or a smart home setup.
Picking the Perfect Internet Connection
With so many types of Internet out there, it can be difficult to make the best choice based on your needs. But ultimately, the best Internet connection for you is the one that provides the speed and stability you need for work, school or leisure, while also working within your price range.
If you only need to connect to the Internet once in a while and relatively slow speeds won’t make a huge difference in your experience, you’re probably better off spending as little as possible on an Internet connection. If this sounds like you, dialup, DSL, cable, or even satellite internet are all good options. Plus, if you already have a landline phone or cable TV hooked up, you won’t have to worry about having new cables installed.
Regular Internet users who participate in common online activities like surfing the web, streaming music, or watching TV shows and movies will probably want a faster and more stable Internet connection with WiFi. While anyone who mostly accesses the Internet from their phone can make do with a good cellular data plan.
Heavy Internet users who are running large online programs for hours at a time, using video chat or Zoom regularly, gaming online, or streaming HD video content should consider fiber to optimize their online experience, while keeping other Internet users in their household happy.
SmartMove can help you find the best Internet for your situation, especially if you’re moving. Enter your address here to find out more.
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