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DSL Vs. Cable Modem Who Wins the 100 Yard Dash?

Aug 3, 2008
Residential DSL and Cable combined account for 90 percent of the broadband market in the U.S. There is a trend in the US of cable modem subscribers being consistently slightly higher in number than DSL subscribers. Although, in a survey of residential customers conducted by JD Power and Associates in 2004, participants rated DSL higher than cable.

Factors such as security, installation and price, are all taken into consideration when assessing customer satisfaction but speed and performance are the most important qualities hands down.

Security is a concern for subscribers due to the fact that you maintain an internet connection at all times with either high-speed option. The buzz over the past few years was that cable is less secure due to cable modem service using a shared cable line for an entire neighborhood. Basic network firewall capabilities prevent this problem by blocking files from being viewed or downloaded. And providers systematically bundle security features in the cable modem hardware. Hence, neither option is more or less secure than the other. Furthermore, the solution for both is identical. Limiting printer and file sharing when possible along with installing firewall anti-virus software is sufficient protection for most.

Installation may be a bit easier with DSL. Most computers have an existing phone line in close proximity and it is widely known that DSL is fairly easy to self install. It is also possible to self install cable, however, it is not as widely known and it is less likely that an extra cable line is readily available. This leaves the customer at the mercy of the cable company to run the line and install the modem.

Prices are fairly close. One sample showed DSL being slightly less expensive and later that same year a sample produced the opposite results. This is the result of competition being fierce and different promotional packages, for example, free installation or promotional introductory rates which yield similar net results.

Speed and performance is ultimately going to determine the victor especially with the other variables being so close. Cable modem theoretically offers higher levels of bandwidth which roughly translates to raw speed. There are a number of factors that reduce this speed. A number of people accessing the internet from the same neighborhood simultaneously can reduce the speed. The home network may not be able to match the speed of the internet connection. Also, cable providers often set "speed caps" that limit the bandwidth of their service.

Technology and upgrades in network infrastructure have enabled DSL to work on closing the gap, however, DSL is offered in lower bandwidth than cable. Like cable, the maximum bandwidth of DSL often will not be reached. Furthermore, depending on location, speed may vary between households. DSL providers also set speed caps. Speed caps are set for a number of reasons such as to ensure that the provider can accommodate more customers or as an attempt to create equal distributions of bandwidth.

Generally speaking, cable's theoretical bandwidths are higher and its speed is more consistent amongst users. In contrast to DSL in which you may experience greater speeds depending on the quality of the phone line at your residence and the proximity of your home to the phone company! Even with the speed caps set by providers of both types of service cable maintains the advantage of being faster than DSL.

In the US cable modem subscribers are consistently slightly higher in number than DSL subscribers. Factors such as security, installation and price, are all taken into consideration when assessing customer satisfaction but speed and performance are the most important qualities as evidenced within the high-speed internet market.
About the Author
I have an extensive background in Finance and Fiscal Procedure. I also have a web business where I offer Educational Computer Software and Games . Please visit us at http://www.thesoftwarespot.com !
Thank you, Allison Merlino
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