While it is true that you can find much of the same content on satellite, cable, and fiber optic – such as premium channels and sports packages – there are also marked differences between them all. Some of these differences could determine which option is the better choice for you.
ConnectivityThe biggest difference between satellite, cable, and fiber optic is the way you connect to the service.
Both cable and fiber optic rely on a wired connection to bring the content into your home. This means that there needs to be an infrastructure of cabling in place in your city, town, and neighborhood, to support the signal.
Fiber optic is still fairly new and there are a lot of places where it is not available simply because the fiber optic cables haven’t been installed yet. There are also places where even cable is not available because the coaxial wiring was never installed.
Even in places where cable service is available, it’s possible that many of those lines are older and in need of costly maintenance or replacement. In places where the wiring is outdated, this means that customers can have frequent problems with poor connectivity and signal disruption.
While satellite uses cables to connect the satellite dish to the receiver(s) inside the house, the actual signal reaches the satellite dish over the air – all you need is a clear line of sight to the broadcast satellite in space. People who live in remote areas that can’t get cable or fiber optic can get a crystal clear television signal through a satellite provider.
Also, because satellite does not rely on wiring that could have been installed several decades ago, it also means that you don’t have to worry about signal degradation over poorly-maintained or outdated cabling.
CostSatellite tends to be slightly cheaper than cable. Depending on which provider you choose, and any specials they have running, you can get a satellite package with 200 or more channels for as low as $35 a month, versus almost $85 for a similar cable package.
EquipmentJust like the programming, the equipment is often comparable between the three types of providers. However, satellite receivers sometimes have more DVR space, and can record more channels simultaneously than some cable and fiber optic equipment.
Satellite companies have also pioneered technology like wireless receivers, which allow you to move the receiver to any room without having to worry about installing and running wiring to that room.
Things to ConsiderAlthough satellite systems are more flexible in terms of connectivity, are cheaper, and tend to have better equipment, there are also some things to consider before signing up for a satellite system:
- Satellites require a clear line of sight. Shadows from buildings, tree cover, and even clouds can disrupt the signal. However, satellite technology has also gotten better at finding a signal in conditions that might otherwise disrupt the broadcast.
- The specials for satellite TV usually last one year, but satellite TV services usually come with two-year contracts. When considering Satellite TV deals and packages, you should also take into account the length of the contract and whether or not you can negotiate the rate once the initial promotion ends.
- With satellite, you actually lease the receivers from the satellite company. If you wish to upgrade your equipment, you might have to pay a deposit for the equipment and the cost of a service call. However, satellite providers also offer a maintenance program which, for a few dollars a month, allows you to waive most technician fees. Satellite companies also offer periodic equipment upgrades to loyal customers.
- Satellite TV requires you to install a dish on the exterior of your house, or somewhere on the property. It might also require cutting back tree branches or making other minor alterations. If you are a renter, you will need to have landlord approval before scheduling the installation of new satellite service. If the place is already wired for satellite, you should still have written approval from the landlord just in case the technician has to install a new satellite dish or run cabling to a different room.