Home TECHNOLOGY DSL Or Cable – How Do Technologies Differ?

DSL Or Cable – How Do Technologies Differ?

A DSL connection can be found in almost every household today – no wonder, because this technology is easy to set up and only requires a telephone connection. However, DSL is increasingly facing competition from another model: Internet over the cable connection . What was previously only suitable for watching TV is now providing users with record-breaking surfing speeds. But how do DSL and cable differ in terms of transmission rate, stability, installation, availability and costs? We’ll tell you in our overview.

DSL And Cable – How It Works


The abbreviation DSL stands for “Digital Subscriber Line”. As with the predecessor standard ISDN, data is sent via the copper line of the telephone connection. The difference: DSL uses higher frequency ranges and is therefore much faster .

In order to use this type of Internet, several things are necessary: ​​starting with a switching interface that processes the signal further. From there, the data often travels several kilometers to the household, where it is received by a DSL modem. A router ensures that users can surf with different devices – either via LAN cable or WLAN. The modem, in turn, is usually integrated into the router today.


Cable television has been around since the 1980s. However, in order for this technology to be used for the Internet, a conversion is necessary. The reason: Conventional coaxial cables only allow data to be transmitted in one direction – from the operator to the receiver in the home. In order to enable reverse data transmission as well, signal amplifiers with return channel capability are required . This conversion is progressing rapidly: almost 99% of Vodafone cable connections are already Internet-enabled.

In addition to the appropriate infrastructure, users need a so-called multimedia socket with connections for radio, TV and data communication – as well as a cable modem , which is finally connected to the router. Combination devices with a modem and router in one are also available.

DSL Or Cable Internet – Which Is Better?

To answer that question, let’s look at the pros and cons of DSL and cable below.

Download Speed

Probably the most important argument for cable internet are the astronomical transmission rates : up to 1,000 Mbit/s are possible in the download.

Conventional DSL – also known as ADSL – offers a maximum download speed of 16 Mbit/s . That may be enough for occasional users. However, those who want to download large files, play online games or stream videos in 4K will hardly be satisfied.

Fortunately, the providers also have faster alternatives:

  • VDSL with vectoring allows transmission rates of up to 100 Mbit/s. A connection to the fiber optic network makes it possible. Only the last few meters to the house connection consist of copper lines.
  • If DSL Super Vectoring is used, up to 250 Mbit/s are possible. However, depending on the household, the distribution box must be converted.

Despite this further development, the fact remains that DSL currently only offers a quarter of the download speed that can be achieved with cable.

You can test exactly what speed is possible at home with DSL and cable on the provider’s website.

Also Read: Tips For Responsible Use Of Technologies

Upload Speed

DSL allows an upload speed of up to 40 Mbit/s . For a long time, this standard was faster than cable Internet – and a better choice for users who not only want to consume data, but also want to share it with others.

In the meantime, however, a lot has changed. Providers such as Vodafone and PYUR already offer their cable customers up to 50 Mbit/s in upload . As with DSL, the higher the download speed, the faster the upload. The record speed is usually only available in the higher-priced tariffs.

Speed Stability

DSL and cable providers like to advertise with astronomical speeds. But what looks fast on paper often falls short of expectations in everyday life . This applies to both DSL and cable Internet – but for different reasons:

The cable connection is a so-called “shared medium”: Several connections have to share a limited bandwidth . Especially at peak times, this can mean that the capacity is not sufficient and the speed plummets. For example, many users complain about slow internet in the evening hours when most households go online.

This problem does not exist with DSL Internet , as each household uses its own line . However, there is another drawback: the further away the DSL connection is from the distributor, the slower the transmission rate. Households in poorly developed regions therefore often only get a fraction of the speed advertised by the provider. Vectoring technology is intended to remedy the situation, but is not yet available across the board.


DSL scores in comparison to cable Internet with the lower latencies . Put simply, this means that data packets are sent to the server and back to the home PC more quickly. This criterion is particularly important for online games , where every millisecond counts. High latencies would mean a disadvantage there – and so many gamers still prefer DSL. For users who mainly surf, stream or download files, the latency plays a minor role.

Choice And Availability

DSL has been established for a long time . Accordingly, you can choose between different providers , regardless of where you live – for example Telekom, Vodafone, O2 (telefonica) or 1&1. These providers in turn have numerous tariffs for every taste in their range.

The situation is different with cable Internet . Several companies such as Vodafone, O2 and PYUR offer this type of connection. Depending on where you live, however, you are limited to the regional provider . Also, not all providers have already upgraded their network. Even if you can book cable TV, there is no guarantee that cable Internet will also be offered at your location. In addition: 35% of all households do not have a cable connection , so that expensive retrofitting may be necessary.

Possible Combinations

The combination of DSL and landline telephony is not a problem , and most providers have combined tariffs that can save you money. Unlike in the past, a so-called splitter, which sends the signals to the router and telephone, is needed less and less often. Instead, the telephone connection also runs over the Internet. Television can also be booked – for example with MagentaTV from Telekom. However, this option is only recommended for transmission rates of 32 Mbit/s and above.

And what about the cable connection ? It goes without saying that you can also watch TV with this. But be careful: Pure cable Internet is not enough for this. Instead, you need a combination contract to unlock the TV frequencies . You can also make phone calls via cable . A prerequisite is a so-called MTA (Multimedia Terminal Adapter), which is usually integrated in the cable modem.

DSL Vs Cable – Which Connection Is The Right One?

Let’s summarize the above points again:

A DSL connection is particularly suitable for users who

  • Do not have a cable connection or want to retrofit it
  • Value low latencies – for example for online gaming
  • Can live with slightly slower download speeds
  • Want to choose from many different providers.

On the other hand, we recommend cable internet for those who

  • Already have a cable connection in the house
  • Want to download files particularly quickly
  • Want to save money compared to similarly fast DSL tariffs
  • Can accept speed losses at peak times.

Also Read: Four Ways To Encourage Your Employees To Use New Technologies

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