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Starlink vs Cable Internet: How Do They Compare and Which is Better?

When it comes to fast, reliable home internet access, Starlink and cable internet are two of the most popular options available today. But how exactly do they stack up? With Starlink still building out its massive satellite network and cable providers upgrading infrastructure all the time, it can be tricky to compare them directly.

This in-depth guide examines all aspects of Starlink and cable internet head-to-head. Read on for a breakdown of speeds, availability, reliability, cost, ease of use and more key factors to help you determine if satellite or cable is the best home internet provider for your needs.

Starlink vs Cable Internet Speeds

When comparing internet download and upload speeds, Starlink and cable internet both offer fast connectivity:

  • Starlink Speeds: 50Mbps to 150Mbps for residential plans currently. Peak speeds are expected to reach 1Gbps as the network expands.
  • Cable Internet Speeds: Typically 100Mbps to 400Mbps download for most packages. Gigabit packages reaching 1Gbps download are becoming more widely available.

So while they operate in a similar performance range, cable generally has faster and more consistent speeds ranging from 100Mbps up to 1Gbps in many areas today. Starlink is still new and speeds may improve over time, but cable likely maintains an advantage for now.

One key caveat – Starlink speeds can fluctuate based on weather and other environmental factors since the signal beams down from satellites in orbit. Heavy rain or snow can temporarily degrade speeds and connectivity. Most cable networks maintain solid performance regardless of weather.

Availability and Accessibility

When it comes to availability, satellite internet like Starlink has a distinct advantage over physically connected options like cable:

  • Starlink Availability: Available virtually everywhere, only requires a clear view of the sky. Ideal for rural areas.
  • Cable Availability: Depends on existing cable infrastructure, less availability in remote areas. Better for suburban and urban areas.

Because Starlink satellites beam high-speed signals down from low-earth orbit, the network has wide potential geographic availability. As long as you set up the small receiver dish with a clear sightline to the sky, you can get connected.

In contrast, cable internet requires actual cable TV infrastructure built out to an area. Less populated rural regions often don’t have access to cable internet – that’s where satellite truly shines. It offers high-speed internet access to many areas traditional broadband networks don’t reach.

So Starlink satellite takes the win for availability and accessibility for internet access, particularly in rural regions. Cable still rules for urban and well-connected suburban regions.

Reliability: Cable vs Starlink

For consistent uptime and reliability:

  • Cable Internet Reliability: Very reliable, with 99% uptime outside large weather events that knock out power.
  • Starlink Reliability: Subject to more variability based on weather, heavy rain/snow can degrade or disrupt connectivity.

Cable internet operates via wired infrastructure, giving it an advantage in day-to-day reliability over a wireless satellite connection. Unless severe weather actually damages cables or knocks out power, cable internet hums along smoothly.

Starlink does promise >99% uptime during normal conditions. But weather can impact connectivity and speeds more readily than cable since data reaches your dish from space. Don‘t expect perfect performance 100% of the time.

If your livelihood depends on very stable internet access, cable may beat out Starlink satellite’s weather variability. But Starlink works fine for most home use cases like video streaming, web browsing and more.

Cost Comparison: Starlink vs Cable

When it comes to your monthly bill, cable internet is generally cheaper than Starlink:

  • Starlink Cost: $110 per month, plus $599 upfront hardware cost
  • Cable Cost: Starts around $50 per month for 100Mbps plans on average

The Starlink satellite dish kit you need to install on your property costs a hefty $599 upfront. Then the monthly network subscription rings in at $110 per month. That covers equipment rental, data usage, shipping and taxes.

For comparison, basic cable internet packages start around $50 per month. And you can often rent any required cable modems or routers for free or a small monthly fee, avoiding a large upfront cost.

If you’re on a tight budget, cable definitely wins out cost-wise. But remember Starlink satellite reaches many areas cable internet cannot. The higher monthly price is worthwhile for some families and rural residents to get connected.

Ease of Installation

When it comes to actually getting your home hooked up with high-speed internet access, cable providers make it easiest by far:

  • Cable Installation: Cable company technicians handle all aspects of installation and setup for you.
  • Starlink Installation: DIY setup as a "self-installation kit." You must mount dish and configure on your own.

Major cable companies like Spectrum, Xfinity and Cox schedule professional technicians to come set up your internet connection when you sign up for service. The tech handles all equipment setup like mounting cables, installing your modem and router, then gets your devices connected on the network.

Starlink takes a different approach – they ship self-installation kits directly to your door. Inside is a small satellite receiver dish, router, cables and mounting equipment. Customers must choose an appropriate location with a clear view of the sky, securely mount the dish, then plug in the hardware. The Starlink router hooks up to your devices via WiFi or ethernet cable.

Cable installation is smoother and essentially hassle-free. But many Starlink users report DIY setup goesquickly and smoothly as well. Just expect to put in some elbow grease getting your new satellite internet up and running. Be prepared to mount the dish on your roof or high point on your property for best reception.

Portability and Moving

Need an internet connection you can take with you? Starlink has a satellite mobility advantage:

  • Starlink: Portable to areas with a clear sky view. Take your dish and subscription anywhere.
  • Cable: Wired infrastructure remains in place when you move. Need to reconnect at new address.

Part of Starlink’s appeal lies in its portability. As long as satellites remain in orbit beaming down connectivity, you can take your receiver dish and hardware anywhere with a clear view of the sky and gain access.

That means you can move houses and take the subscription with you. RV travelers can set up satellite internet from parks and campsites across the country. And you can even use Starlink internet on boats, planes and other vessels as long as the dish can connect.

In contrast, cable internet always ties back to the existing infrastructure wired to your location. If you move homes, you must cancel service and reconnect at the new address. There is no ability to take your access on the go.

For the many mobile Americans and growing remote workforce, the ability to pick up and move with continuous internet connectivity makes Starlink particularly appealing over stuck-in-place cable.

Starlink vs Cable Internet: Quick Comparison

Starlink Cable Internet
Speed 50-150Mbps now, improving to ~1Gbps expected Typically 100Mbps-1Gbps
Availability Available virtually everywhere with clear sky view Depends on existing cable infrastructure, less availability rurally
Reliability Subject to disruption by weather like heavy rain/snow Very reliable, around 99% uptime
Cost $110/month + $599 equipment cost upfront Starts around $50/month depending on speed
Installation DIY setup, you must mount dish and configure system Professional installation scheduled by cable company
Portability Portable anywhere with clear sky view, take subscription with you when moving Wired infrastructure remains in place, must reconnect at new address when moving

Choosing Between Starlink vs Cable Internet

So when it comes down to actually choosing the right home internet provider for your household, should you go with Starlink satellite or cable?

Here is a quick breakdown of which option works best in common scenarios:

Go With Starlink Satellite For:

  • Rural areas unreached by cable broadband
  • Households that move frequently
  • Traveling RV/boat/off-the-grid use

Go With Cable Internet For:

  • Urban and well-connected suburban regions
  • Mission-critical home uses like work-from-home or remote learning
  • Budget-conscious shoppers

Those dependent factors – location, mobility needs and budget – typically drive most users towards one service or the other.

Rural residents outside cable infrastructure absolutely should give Starlink a look as their only viable high-speed home internet option. Households anticipating frequent moves will love its portability. And RV/marine travelers benefit from satellite on the go.

However, city dwellers and suburbanites are likely better off with cable for reliability and lower cost. Large families and remote workers dependent on stable Zoom connectivity might prefer their local Spectrum or Xfinity plan over Starlink too.

In the end, analyze your specific connectivity wants and needs, then weigh up if next-gen satellite internet or good old cable broadband fits best. Both advancements in home internet technology make lightning-fast, reliable access more accessible than ever across the United States.

Featured Image: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock