Cable vs. Satellite: Which TV Provider is Right for You?ReviewAdviceFAQ's

Cable vs. Satellite: Which TV Provider is Right for You?

Although, we've chosen DirecTV as the TV provider with the best overall value, there are a number of differences between cable and satellite services. Satellite may be ideal for one person while cable may be better suited for someone else. When considering the different prices, packages and performances, be sure to pick the provider that best fits your budget and technological needs. Here is a comparison of the two television options:


The decision between cable and satellite may be clear depending on where you live in the country. People in major cities typically have several TV service providers to choose from but options for rural folks might be more limited. Cable networks work by connecting subscribers to a network of coaxial or fiber-optic cables. This means it is based on a physical network of wires and cords. If any given network doesn't extend to your area then you cannot get cable service from that provider.

Some areas have no cable access at all, which makes the choice simple. Satellite has more nationwide coverage. In the most basic sense, satellite services bounce a signal off of a satellite in orbit which then transmit that signal to your home satellite dish. With this method, the provider can reach virtually any home in the US.

In terms of overall availability, it is difficult to beat a provider that's broadcasting from orbit. Of course, if there are local cable providers that offer you great deals in your area then you might want to consider them. However, if you are off the grid in terms of cable networks then satellite is always a good choice.

Cable vs. Satellite: Which TV Provider is Right for You?

Speed and Reception

While relying on physical cables is a disadvantage in the availability category, it is a great advantage for speed and reception. It is difficult to beat the unfettered transmission of a signal that has its own fiber-optic highway on which to travel. The path is a bit longer for satellite transmissions. TV satellites are in a geostationary orbit, which means they travel with the earth as it rotates over 22,000 miles above the equator. The provider sends signals at the speed of light on a 44,000 mile round trip to get to your home, which takes about one fourth of a second. This sounds fast but when compared to a cable's signal speed it's about 20 times slower.

Reception is another issue that is affected by distance and wireless transmission. Cable broadcasting is relatively unaffected by things like weather. Unless you lose power or the cable connection is severed, you will typically get uninterrupted service. On the other hand, satellite signal can be interrupted by poor weather conditions and physical obstructions.

Packages and Bundles

The most popular networks are available on both cable and satellite plans, but a basic satellite plan can have up to 200 channels which is comparable only to the top premium channels for most cable providers. Also, DirecTV has exclusive deals that allow them to offer sports packages like the popular "NFL Sunday Ticket."

Both cable and satellite also offer bundled TV, internet and phone service. Combining all of your services into one bundle can save you plenty of money, especially if you already pay for each one separately.

Cost and Contracts

Value is measured by how much you get you're your money but sometimes the highest value isn't the lowest price. Because DirecTV offers so many channels and exclusive deals, they are the service with the most valuable packages. However, it is not the cheapest option. If you are looking for basic, bare-bones service then you might want to look into basic cable packages. You'll get the top local stations and some of the major channels for one low monthly price. Also, subscriptions to cable services are typically on a month-to-month basis while many satellite services operate on annual terms.

There are clear differences between satellite and cable services but many of them depend on individual needs and preferences. Choose the one whose service benefits you the most.

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