Exploring Types of Internet Connections

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When comparing internet plans, it’s easy to focus on just the speed and price. While those are important factors to consider, you should also pay attention to the way you connect to the internet. Different types of internet connections come with various benefits and downsides.

To help you make the most informed decision, here’s how the most common connection types compare.


Wired broadband internet connections are the most common type of connection in the U.S. and cable is the most popular type. These services send signals through coaxial cables — the same kind of wire you’d use for TV. They’re available in almost all areas, are easy to set up and offer a nice balance between price and speed.


The main benefits of cable internet connections include:

  • Affordability
  • Fast download speeds
  • High availability
  • Reasonable reliability


Some downsides you may notice with cable internet include:

  • Slower uploads than downloads
  • Speeds dropping at peak demand times


Fiber is another one of the most popular types of internet connections. This newer technology sends signals through light instead of electricity. Fiber is often the only way to get gigabit speeds for both uploads and downloads. Since it’s relatively new, it’s mostly limited to big cities at the moment. 


Fiber internet has many advantages, including:

  • Lightning-fast speeds
  • Equal upload and download speeds
  • High reliability


The main downsides of fiber are:

  • High costs
  • Limited availability


An even newer home internet connection type is 5G. These plans typically come from mobile providers like Verizon and T-Mobile and use 5G cellular networks to deliver your web connection. It’s similar to how you can use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot but it uses a router for that signal conversion instead.


The biggest advantages of 5G internet are:

  • Relatively fast speeds
  • High bandwidth
  • Easy setup
  • Existing mobile customers can often get discounts


5G’s reliance on wireless signals comes with some disadvantages, including:

  • Low reliability, especially at peak times
  • Uneven coverage around walls and other barriers
  • Limited availability


Cable, fiber and 5G are all mostly available in urban and suburban areas. However, you may need different internet services if you live in a rural part of the country. Many of these areas rely on satellite connections, which beam signals to Earth from orbiting satellites.


Satellite internet’s benefits include:

  • Available almost everywhere
  • Faster than other rural connection types


As you may expect from a newer technology, satellite is working through a few downsides, including:

  • High prices
  • Latency problems
  • Plans often have data caps
  • Unreliable in bad weather

Less Common Internet Connection Types

A few less common internet connections are available as well. Some of the most well-known are DSL, which uses phone lines, and fixed wireless, which is like 5G but uses older mobile networks.

These connection types are more likely to be available in rural areas where newer cable and fiber infrastructure isn’t. While they can be more affordable, they’re quickly fading from popularity due to slow speeds and unreliability, especially for modern needs like streaming and gaming.

Which Is the Best Type of Internet Connection?

The best internet connection type depends on what you need. Cable connections are the best all-around option to balance affordability with decent speeds. Fiber offers the best performance if you can afford it. It’s worth it if you do a lot of online gaming or work online, both of which require faster upload speeds.

5G’s bandwidth is a nice change of pace if you have a lot of smart home devices, but its speeds can be spotty. Satellite may be your only reasonably fast option if you’re in a rural area.

Review these pros and cons if you need help finding the best internet deal. Once you know what each type offers, you’ll have an easier time getting the right connection for your needs.