Although communications are the heart of any business, surprisingly few people know the difference between cable, DSL and fiber optics. Most people find it easier to understand the end result – internet speed – than the technology behind it. All of these services offer high-speed connectivity, so how do you decide which one is right for you?
Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL)
ADSL service uses the copper wiring in a standard phone line to deliver internet access at varying speeds depending on level of service. It’s the oldest of the three choices and eminently suitable for most home users. It’s often less expensive than cable, more reliable than satellite service, and makes dialup look like snail-mail; there’s no comparison. If you’re shopping for a home or a tiny office with only a couple of computers, for a business that does not require a lot of large files to be uploaded or sent by email, then ADSL may be an economical solution. Download speeds are around 7 Mbps, and upload speeds average about 640 Kbps.
It’s a widespread misconception that cable and fiber optics are one and the same. Cable is routed through the coaxial cable that delivers your television signal. One notable drawback to cable is security. Your internet connection, and those of every neighbor in your vicinity, are run through the same lines. This is not true of ADSL, which is a dedicated line. Cable is a much faster option than ADSL, boasting internet speeds range from 3 to 10 Mbps. Generally, the faster the speed, the higher the cost.
Of the options, fiber optics is far superior in terms of speed, data transfer, and clarity, making it more flexible for additional types of data, like voice and video transmission. Fiber optic lines are thinner, lighter and more durable than other types of cabling, which makes it more impervious to the elements. The conductor is glass, which does not conduct electricity, so a lightning storm will not cause the interference experienced on traditional phone lines, satellite and cable TV lines, and ADSL.
Your internet connection will be stable under almost any weather conditions. And because they require so little maintenance, the price of fiber optic lines is generally less than cable and comparable to ADSL. The drawback is that fiber optics service is not available in all areas. It’s the latest option on the market and still in development outside major metropolitan areas.
The option you choose should depend on your needs, availability, and your budget. If fiber optics is available and affordable, it is the best overall choice for the best price. Between cable and ADSL, it’s really a question of speed over price or vice versa.