DSL vs. Cable vs. Wireless vs. Fiber-Arvig Content
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DSL vs. Cable vs. Wireless vs. Fiber: Understanding Your Business Internet Service

Written by Arvig in Blogs Business Internet

When considering the right Internet speed and bandwidth requirements for your business, it is important to understand the major differences between different types of Internet services. The four major options often available to companies are Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), cable, fixed wireless and fiber. Services vary based on geographical location and Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Each offering has strengths and limitations for businesses based on their operations and goals. Here, we’ve put together a quick overview of each option so you can begin to better understand your business Internet service.


DSL uses an existing phone line to provide dedicated broadband Internet service. It is available in two main forms, each with slight variations. Asymmetrical DSL (ADSL) offers download speeds of up to 15Mb with upload speeds reaching 512Kb. ADSL is the most widely used Internet option in the United States; however, the main limitation of ADSL is the upload speed. The other main DSL variation is Very-high-bit-rate DSL (VDSL), which offers higher upload speeds. As its name implies, VDSL offers higher speeds, up to 50Mb download speed and 5Mb for upload speed.  

Both types of DSL are considered reliable and are broadly available. Because it can be accessed with just a simple phone wall jack and modem, DSL is considered highly economical. Either type of DSL may be ideal for rural businesses and smaller companies that don’t require a heavy need for Internet use.


Cable, or DOCSIS, derives its name from its original source: cable television. It provides broadband Internet access speeds of up to 100Mb download and 5Mb upload. Cable requires the use of a modem, but access is generally easy to find in most areas because of the prevalence of cable television. Cable Internet is often highly economical as well, and may be ideal for a large number of businesses, from start-ups and law offices, to large corporations.

Cable is considered a reliable platform. However, because cable Internet works on shared bandwidth, speeds can be affected at times of peak use throughout a day. When neighbors use their connections at the same time, speeds may vary if the cable happens to be oversubscribed in that area. In certain geographical areas, customers may be able to reach download speeds of up to 1Gb.


Wireless internet service may be an option at in some areas for businesses that are outside the footprint of a traditional service provider. This can be an ideal Internet solution for rural businesses that do not have the resources required to put the infrastructure in place for other Internet service options. Speeds generally reach 6Mb for download and 1Mb for upload. Although speeds may be less than seen elsewhere, wireless can have a dramatic impact on the success of a business that may not otherwise have Internet access. 

Fiber Optics

Fiber optics are made up of bundles of very thin glass or plastic strands that transmit data in the form of modulated light. Fiber includes a core, a cladding that covers the core and reflects the light back to the core, and a buffer coating that acts as a protective sleeve. Hundreds or thousands of these fine fibers can be bundled into a single optic cable. Their design allows digital information to travel incredibly far distances with very little degradation. The quality of the data is unmatched in other technologies in use today. Speeds for fiber optics can generally reach up to 10Gb, using dedicated bandwidth.

Despite the benefits of the technology, access to fiber optics is lacking in many areas, and therefore adoption is currently lower than the other platforms. However, businesses are becoming more aware of fiber optic technology and what it can do, so usage rates are on the rise. Technology- and Internet-based companies can find the high, reliable speeds of fiber optics very beneficial, and many mid-size to large companies would likely say the cost of fiber is worth the benefits. As time goes by and more markets are added, fiber optics is expected to overtake all other Internet options available today.

Whether you’re choosing a new speed plan from your provider or looking at revamping your entire Internet network, consider the platform’s benefits and limitations. For many businesses, an upgrade to the speed package can fix day-to-day slow-down issues. But for some, your needs may exceed the platform’s capabilities. In that case, an investment in a more robust solution may be required.

Arvig is prepared to help you find a customizable solution to meet all of your business technology needs, starting with your Internet service.