Satellite vs Cable

Satellite vs CableSatellite dishes and cable boxes seem to be quite popular. The old traditional antenna is becoming obsolete. Data packets of information enter your television through the sky or from a network of cables. One question still remains, “which is better for me?”

Of course the answers is a resounding, “it depends.” Both have a high quality of picture and deliver on a number of options. However, here are a few tips that should help in making a decision between satellite or cable.

One of the first questions you should ask yourself is how many TV sets do you have in the house? If your answer is more than four, than you may want to go with cable because some satellite providers can only provide up to four receivers per home. In order to get HD programming both satellite and cable require an HD receiver, and you usually pay additional fees for HD receivers. Satellite has a starting cost around $30 per month, which includes local channels. Each additional receiver will carry a charge, plus a monthly fee of around $5. If you upgrade to HD then satellite usually charges around $10 per month, regardless of how many receivers you have. Cable typically has a higher starting cost than satellite, but averages out when adding additional receivers. Therefore, if you only want one or two receivers then satellite is probably the cheaper option.

Another thing to consider is pay-per-view. Each satellite receiver gives you the ability to buy additional movies and sporting events. I believe there are some that still use traditional cable with no receiver. This option does not allow HD or pay-per-view. If you are like me and want to keep track of your favorite football team, than you need the pay-per-view option!

A third thing to consider is high speed internet access. If you go with cable they usually give you a discount for high speed internet. Both cable television and internet run around $100, which is quite expensive. Most people that go with satellite end up getting DSL for high speed internet. The combination of satellite and DSL is around $75, which is less expensive than the cable options. Keep in mind that cable internet is a little faster with respect to latency (ping rate) than the basic DSL option. DSL is still very fast and provides a great service that is cost efficient.

One final thing to consider when choosing between cable or satellite is signal interruptions. Sometimes in severe weather the satellite reception can get brief signal interruptions that result in a garbled picture. The good thing about satellite interruptions is they only last for a few seconds in brief intervals. If the cable goes out it is usually because of a broken line in the network that can take several hours fix. So decide how you will react when watching your favorite show or sporting event; do you want a brief interval of static, or a smaller chance, but still possible, of missing the whole show?

If you are wondering what choice I made, it is satellite. I really like the HD DVR and it is a little cheaper than cable. I also like the satellite DVR software better than what cable offers.


27 Responses to Satellite vs Cable

  1. Rick Love says:

    Most of the discussion involve saving money… not a bad goal, but if we take money off the table, which service is best? Let’s say I’m willing to pay anything.

  2. david wescoe says:

    Satellite Installers have made it much easier to switch to directtv or dish, providing all the installation equipment. I love having satellite tv far more than cable because of the DVR and the fact that all the channels are digital. And since the “line of site” is no longer an issue with satellite dishes I have never had an outage.

  3. Melody says:

    There are some things to consider with satellite and cable tv connections. But I find having the satellite connection like DIRECTTV better compared to having the regular cable connections.

  4. Bill says:

    We had direct tv like the other services they tell you you will only have to pay so much for the first 3 months then after you end up paying full price.We had the whole home DVR with direct tv with 2 HD tvs and 1 none HD TV with all the channels we ended up paying around 155 dollars a month after are credits ran out for tv only.So we tried comcast they had a triple play phone internet and tv all channels for 198 dollars a month for all 3 services that was a better price than direct tv paying 155 for just tv then having to pay for the internet and phone so then we got dish network tv pretty much the same as direct tv a little cheaper with the tv when it goes to full price it was 133 dollars a month for all their tv channels so if you can go with a lower package like the 120 or 200 or 260 i believe you pay from 88 a month for the 120 you wouldnt be paying a 100 a month for tv i think it goes up by a a little under 15 dollars for the 200 and then for the 260 channels and then all the channels for 133 a month so comcast seemed the chapest for phone tv and internet getting the triple play for the 198 a month for all of there channels.

    • Jason says:

      Thanks for the input Bill! There is no easy answer and it helps to hear about other people’s experience with these companies.

  5. Doris says:

    I’m considering switching from a bundled CableOne package (Internet.Cable with HD/DVR) to Dish and getting Internet through Big Dog Satellite as I think I’ll save some money. I get confused with how much Internet “power” I really need? I’m your typical ‘Net surfer, Facebook addict 😉

    • Jason says:

      Even the typical ‘Net surfer, Facebook addict’ requires a reasonable internet connection. Especially if you are uploading pictures to your Facebook account, or posts. Upload speeds are slow with most satellite connections. Also, “Burstable Speeds” are really unreliable. It is unknown to the user how the company defines “burstable”, so I wouldn’t plan on obtaining “burstable” speeds. I would definitely purchase the higher residential package of 2MBPS, but even at that it is most likely slower than your previous CableOne package. What exactly you need is difficult to say, your load time is dependant on your computer system, and your patience with a slow connection. I have a 14 MBPS connection and am relatively happy, but still sometimes wish it were faster. I have 5 seperate devices connected to my internet connection, one of which was an extremely fast (and expensive) computer. This computer had the slowest connection speeds because I had chosen an anti-virus software that drastically slowed down my connection. Once that was fixed my connection significantly improved. Bottomline: Since you came from a Cable Connection I think you will be disappointed with your satellite connection. It may work great for you (especially if you have a little patience), but I would suggest paying for the faster package. Or, you could sign up for the slow package and then upgrade if it is not sufficient. Companies are always willing to cut you a deal if you will upgrade.

  6. Greg says:

    I have comcast cable and paying $257/mo for digital expanded service and high speed internet service (15 Mbps). For TV, the $257 includes 4 premium channels, 3 HD DVR receivers, 1 HD receiver, 1 standard receiver, and 2 converter boxes (7 TVs). My house is already pre-wired in 4 rooms for satellite hook up. Out of the $257, I pay $58.95 for the high speed internet service. I’m looking to keep the internet service because DSL top speed for my location is only 3 Mbps, but I’m interested in switching over to satellite but don’t want to loose any of the tv service I receive through cable. Any suggestions?

    • Jason says:

      It sounds like you have it all, a great internet connection and excellent TV service. I assume you are changing in order to save money. I would suggest calling Dish Network. Dish Network has the ability to connect all of your televisions with premium service for around $156.99 per month. This would give you all HD reception with DVR capability for all of your televisions. If your high speed internet service does not change prices you would still have a savings. Unfortunately, in order to get the best price you have to be willing to switch companies every couple of years. Sometimes, just doing the shopping and then calling Comcast will enable them to match or beat the quote from Dish Network. These companies have different prices for different areas, so I could be wrong at $156.99 per month, it could be more or less depending on your area. Bottomline: Do the dirty work, call Dish Network, then call back Comcast and see if they will match it. If they won’t, then be willing to switch, just be aware that Comcast could up your high speed internet service bill, thereby taking all of your savings away. Also, don’t worry about the connections, the installers will take care of everything for you. Small warning: while you are being installed, be there to talk with the technician, if they are busy, they will sometimes do the quick and easy install by drilling holes in places that are easy for them, but unsightly for you.

  7. Joan Morford says:

    My husband is very upset with ATT bundle package. He wants to stop service due to the high price he’s paying every month. We now have internet, tv with extra tier, & phone. We have experienced frequent tv signal interruptions through ATT our entire service contract. What can we do to cut the cost subscribing to another service? As a teacher, I need internet service. What do you suggest for internet, tv, phone?

    • Jason says:

      Unfortunately, this is not an easy answer. It is dependant on where you live and what services you have available. Your television service comes from Direct TV. Satellite television will experience the most signal interruptions due to weather as compared with a cable connection. To receive a better connection you may consider moving your satellite dish to a better location on your home, one that is protected better from the weather. You have an excellent internet connection with AT&T and would probably experience slower internet speeds by switching to a local satellite internet provider, although these local satellite internet providers can be significantly cheaper. You can call your local cable company to see about internet and television service, both would be excellent, BUT in my experience it is almost always more expensive to have cable service. Bottomline: If you want the same level of internet service, then only switch to a cable internet connection, otherwise stay with your current DSL connection (AT&T). As far as television, there is always a cheaper way to become connected. I find the best deals with Dish Network, but there are also some great deals with a cable company like Comcast. For telephone service I use a device called Ooma. It connects to my DSL internet connection and provides phone service for only the cost of the taxes associated with telephone service (about $3 a month). Of course you have to pay for the device which is a couple of hundred dollars, but for me it paid for itself within 6 months. The telephone service I receive through Ooma is not as good as one you would receive through AT&T, but it is sufficient and I love the price. Good luck, finding a good price takes a lot of time.

  8. Russell says:

    My wife and I are current DirecTV subscribers with DSL Internet service, and we are moving. We would like to get cable internet service through Comcast, but stay with DirecTV. Can both run on the same wiring? Or will one of the providers need to run new wiring and install additional jacks?

    • Jason says:

      Each signal will need its own cable (unless it is just standard definition television). Splitters will not work for high definition.

      Some homes have a central wire hub where all the coax cables are broadcasted out, so you could route some cables with DirecTV and others with Comcast cable.
      Bottom line: Take a look at your new home wiring. Consult with a knowledgeable technician or two. This would probably be free because you will be starting service, just make sure they know what they are talking about. If you are lucky this could be done with minimal wiring.


  9. patti summers says:

    Same question but less high tech. I have Time Warner Cable – Standard Tier which runs a little over $70 per month (including taxes, etc). I dont have any premium channels. I think I have access to about 70 channels total. I currently have availability in 4 locations in my house but am moving to a larger house. I would like to go up to about 5 or 6 TVs – no HD, no premium channels. I normally watch Lifetime, TNT, local channels, and E, etc. I currently dont even have Lifetime Movie Network which is the next step up on Cable. Any recommendations without increasing my monthly bill?

    • Jason says:

      I think you could get 2 Dish dual-tuner receivers which can support 4 TVs for under $70 a month. You probably will go over that amount with an extra receiver to get a 5th and 6th TV connected. Of course for the first year it will be less than $70 a month since you would be a new customer, but after that it would be around $70 a month. All the channels you listed come with the basic programming package. The best thing to do is go to and select your options and they should give you an estimate of setup and monthly fees. Good luck.

  10. Marilyn Conyers says:

    I have Time Warner cable and I have 5 TVs; 3 are basic cable and 2 have HD DVR receivers. I also have high speed wireless internet. I don’t have any premium channels. The monthly cost is a little over $185 per month. We are looking for the same services plus some premium channels for a better price. Is this possible or will I be loosing out on some of the services that I have now?

    • Jason says:

      $185 is a lot per month. I believe you could get it cheaper with the Dish Network. Here is my suggestion. You could go with two dual HD DVR’s which allow you to have 2 HD connections and 2 standard connections. You could record up to 4 different programs at a time or watch 4 different programs at a time (on seperate TVs). 2 Dual HD tuners with Dish would be less than $100 a month even with some premium channels. To get the 5th TV it would require another receiver which would run about $5 additional a month. The challenge is the startup costs. I think the first HD DVR would be free, but you may have to pay for the second HD DVR. Dish runs all sorts of promotions that may be better for your situation. Then you would have to get DSL or Cable internet for less than $85 a month which is very possible. Short summary; satellite is usually cheaper than cable.

  11. John says:

    I have a lot of tall trees around my house, will satellite be able to get good reception? Will leaves on trees effect reception? My cable provider does not offer HD or NFL package in this area now.

    • Jason says:

      Trees branches and leaves can cause signal disruption for satellite reception. You want to place your satellite dish such that it has a clear line of sight to the satellite in the sky during all months of the year. Some make the mistake of having a clear line of sight in the summer, but not in the winter.

  12. Mark says:

    Looking at switching from Comcast Cable to DirecTV Satellite. Getting a bit of a run-around on a straight answer if our two Tivo HD, dual-tuner boxes will run off of the DirecTV system. Will they have to be hooked up directly to the whole-house DVR or any of the HD or SD boxes we’ll be getting for the other rooms?

    • Jason says:

      You will have to get a DirecTV DVR receiver. One way you can make use of your existing Tivo boxes is to connect them to a standard (non DVR) receiver and then use the Tivo box to pause, rewind, and fast-forward from a non-DVR DirecTV. The only reason to get the whole-home DVR is to transfer content to any receiver in the house. I do not think you can directly communicate between the Tivo box and the DirecTV DVR.

  13. Jerry says:

    My DirecTV satellite subscription expires in November. I am currently paying $110 month! That is way too high and I feel I am paying to much. I got into a 2 year contract at a reduced rate, but then after a year the rate increased. DirecTV would not make the adjustment and wouldn’t let me out of the contract. Therefore am looking for a more affordable company. I have 4 TV sets. Should I switch to cable?

    • Jason says:

      There is more information I need to give an answer, but I can make a suggestion. I would go with Dish network as they offer a dual tuner DVR and the total cost should be around $65 a month (for 4 TV sets). The only downside is only two TV sets would have HD and the others would be standard reception.

  14. Rex says:

    What service offers a better picture, satellite or cable?

    • Jason says:

      With the rise of HD programming both satellite and cable offer excellent picture quality. So it comes down to price and features for the final decision.

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