What Type of Internet Do You Have at Home?

Like fine wines or French cheeses, internet connections come in multiple types. Whether it’s fiber, cable, DSL, fixed wireless, or satellite, each type uses different technology and infrastructure to deliver an internet signal to your computer or mobile device.

The type of internet connection you have plays a big part in determining how fast, reliable, and costly your Wi-Fi is. But how do all these internet connections work? And which one is best?

We’ll help you figure out which internet type you’ve got now and whether you’d be better off with something different.

Internet providerConnection typeCustomer rating*View plans
AT&TDSL, fiber3.83/5View AT&T Plans
XfinityCable, fiber3.88/5View Xfinity Plans
SpectrumCable3.81/5View Spectrum Plans
CoxCable3.60/5View Cox Plans
EarthLinkDSL, fiber4.01/5View EarthLink Plans
OptimumCable3.92/5View Optimum Plans
WindstreamDSL, fiber3.88/5View Windstream Plans
CenturyLinkDSL, fiber3.79/5View CenturyLink Plans
FrontierDSL, fiber3.77/5View Frontier Plans
RCNCable3.61/5View RCN Plans
SparklightCable3.60/5View Sparklight Plans
SuddenlinkCable3.48/5View Suddenlink Plans
MediacomCable3.31/5View Mediacom Plans
Rise BroadbandFixed wirelessN/AView Rise Broadband Plans
AT&T Fixed WirelessFixed wirelessN/AView AT&T Plans
Starry InternetFixed wireless, 5GN/AView Starry Internet Plans
HughesNetSatellite3.75/5View HughesNet Plans
ViasatSatelliteN/AView Viasat Plans
Internet providerAT&T
Connection typeDSL, fiber
Customer rating*3.83/5
View plansView AT&T Plans
Internet providerXfinity
Connection typeCable, fiber
Customer rating*3.88/5
View plansView Xfinity Plans
Internet providerSpectrum
Connection typeCable
Customer rating*3.81/5
View plansView Spectrum Plans
Internet providerCox
Connection typeCable
Customer rating*3.60/5
View plansView Cox Plans
Internet providerEarthLink
Connection typeDSL, fiber
Customer rating*4.01/5
View plansView EarthLink Plans
Internet providerOptimum
Connection typeCable
Customer rating*3.92/5
View plansView Optimum Plans
Internet providerWindstream
Connection typeDSL, fiber
Customer rating*3.88/5
View plansView Windstream Plans
Internet providerCenturyLink
Connection typeDSL, fiber
Customer rating*3.79/5
View plansView CenturyLink Plans
Internet providerFrontier
Connection typeDSL, fiber
Customer rating*3.77/5
View plansView Frontier Plans
Internet providerRCN
Connection typeCable
Customer rating*3.61/5
View plansView RCN Plans
Internet providerSparklight
Connection typeCable
Customer rating*3.60/5
View plansView Sparklight Plans
Internet providerSuddenlink
Connection typeCable
Customer rating*3.48/5
View plansView Suddenlink Plans
Internet providerMediacom
Connection typeCable
Customer rating*3.31/5
View plansView Mediacom Plans
Internet providerRise Broadband
Connection typeFixed wireless
Customer rating*N/A
View plansView Rise Broadband Plans
Internet providerAT&T Fixed Wireless
Connection typeFixed wireless
Customer rating*N/A
View plansView AT&T Plans
Internet providerStarry Internet
Connection typeFixed wireless, 5G
Customer rating*N/A
View plansView Starry Internet Plans
Internet providerHughesNet
Connection typeSatellite
Customer rating*3.75/5
View plansView HughesNet Plans
Internet providerViasat
Connection typeSatellite
Customer rating*N/A
View plansView Viasat Plans

Take a look to see what internet connection types are available in your area:

What is the best type of internet connection?

The best type of internet is fiber-optic internet because it’s extremely efficient, reliable, and fast. In most cases, it tops out at 1,000 Mbps for both download and upload speeds. Indeed, fiber delivers the fastest speeds possible out of any internet type—all the way up to 2,000 Mbps (though 1,000 Mbps is far more common).

However, fiber—which runs on bundled fiber-optic cabling—is also the least commonly available type of internet. If you can’t get it in your area, cable is another excellent internet type. It’s capable of reaching 1,000 Mbps download speeds and is much more readily accessible since it runs on the coaxial wiring provided by large cable companies.

What types of internet are available?

Internet typeMax speedPriceAvailability (for % of US population)*View plans
Fiber2,000 Mbps (2 Gbps)$49.99–$299.95/mo.39%View Fiber Plans
Cable1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)$19.99–$109.99/mo.89%View Cable Plans
DSL100 Mbps$27.99–$69.99/mo.88%View DSL Plans
5G1,100 Mbps (1.1 Gbps)$50.00–$90.00/mo.N/A**View 5G Plans
Fixed wireless100 Mbps$39.95–$99.00/mo.46%View Plans
Satellite100 Mbps$30.00–$150.00/mo.100%View Satellite Plans
Internet typeFiber
Max speed2,000 Mbps (2 Gbps)
Price$49.99–$299.95/mo.
Availability (for % of US population)*39%
View plansView Fiber Plans
Internet typeCable
Max speed1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)
Price$19.99–$109.99/mo.
Availability (for % of US population)*89%
View plansView Cable Plans
Internet typeDSL
Max speed100 Mbps
Price$27.99–$69.99/mo.
Availability (for % of US population)*88%
View plansView DSL Plans
Internet type5G
Max speed1,100 Mbps (1.1 Gbps)
Price$50.00–$90.00/mo.
Availability (for % of US population)*N/A**
View plansView 5G Plans
Internet typeFixed wireless
Max speed100 Mbps
Price$39.95–$99.00/mo.
Availability (for % of US population)*46%
View plansView Plans
Internet typeSatellite
Max speed100 Mbps
Price$30.00–$150.00/mo.
Availability (for % of US population)*100%
View plansView Satellite Plans

DSL, fiber, and cable

DSL, fiber, and cable are the most common types of internet services available. They’re the fastest, most accessible, and most affordable connections for the vast majority of internet customers in the United States.

Fixed wireless

Fixed wireless isn’t as common, but it comes in handy if you want an alternative to the main providers in town. If you live in a neighborhood with poor cable or DSL coverage, for example, or a rural area without many internet options to choose from, fixed wireless is a good choice.

5G

5G is a relatively new technology based on wireless cellular networks. It’s not widely available at the moment but could emerge as a solid home internet type over the next few years.

Satellite

You can also get satellite internet, which beams an internet signal down from space. It is by far the most available option out there, but it’s more expensive than other internet connections and delivers slower speeds and less data. It’s really something you’d want only if you live in a rural area with limited options.

Type your zip code to find different types of internet providers in your area:

How to know what type of internet you have

To find out what type of internet service you have, you can ask your internet provider, look at your monthly bill, or just look at the cable that connects your modem to the wall, as we explain in the chart below:

Internet typeHow it’s connected (where the cord plugs in)View plans
FiberFiber-optic terminalView Fiber Plans
CableCoaxial cable outletView Cable Plans
DSLPhone jackView DSL Plans
5G5G device or 5G fixed-wireless antenna*View 5G Plans
Fixed wirelessAntenna consoleView Plans
SatelliteSatellite dishView Satellite Plans
Internet typeFiber
How it’s connected (where the cord plugs in)Fiber-optic terminal
View plansView Fiber Plans
Internet typeCable
How it’s connected (where the cord plugs in)Coaxial cable outlet
View plansView Cable Plans
Internet typeDSL
How it’s connected (where the cord plugs in)Phone jack
View plansView DSL Plans
Internet type5G
How it’s connected (where the cord plugs in)5G device or 5G fixed-wireless antenna*
View plansView 5G Plans
Internet typeFixed wireless
How it’s connected (where the cord plugs in)Antenna console
View plansView Plans
Internet typeSatellite
How it’s connected (where the cord plugs in)Satellite dish
View plansView Satellite Plans

Pro tip:

If you want more info about providers and what types of connections they have, see our guide to comparing internet providers.

Fiber internet

fiber internet connection explained

Speed: 100–2,000 Mbps

Availability: 39% of US population

Animal likeness: Cheetah

Price: $49.99–$299.95/mo.

Fiber is truly the fastest, most reliable, and most high-tech internet around. Unlike internet connections like cable and DSL, it doesn’t rely on older or potentially outdated communications infrastructure. Instead, it carries data over light signals through its own spiffy network of fiber-optic cabling.

That makes fiber incredibly powerful and fast, capable of reaching up to 2,000 Mbps (although 1,000 Mbps is far more common). It also lets you take advantage of symmetrical internet speeds, boosting uploads to 10 times the speed of what you normally could get otherwise. This way you can upload enormous video files, do Zoom video-conferencing, and complete other upload-heavy tasks with fast speeds and no interruptions.

But fiber also costs more than what you’d usually get from a cable or DSL plan. And the networks are less widespread, so it’s not as readily available.

Pros

  • Efficient connections
  • Symmetrical upload and download speeds

Cons

  • Less availability
  • Higher prices

What are the best fiber internet plans?

ProviderPlanSpeedPrice*Sign up
AT&TInternet 300*300 Mbps$45/mo.View Plans
CenturyLinkFiber Internet**940 Mbps$65/mo.View Plans
ProviderAT&T
PlanInternet 300*
Speed300 Mbps
Price*$45/mo.
Sign upView Plans
ProviderCenturyLink
PlanFiber Internet**
Speed940 Mbps
Price*$65/mo.
Sign upView Plans

Cable internet

cable internet connection explained

Speed: 25–1,000 Mbps

Availability: 89% of US population

Animal likeness: Horse

Price: $19.99–$109.99/mo.

Cable internet is reliable, fast, and pretty much ubiquitous. It runs over the coaxial wiring of a cable company, so you can usually bundle it with cable TV plans or streaming options. It doesn’t quite match fiber for speed, but it can hit 1,000 Mbps download speeds, which is ridiculously fast. And it has a much wider range of speeds available compared to DSL, so you have more speed tiers to choose from.

Cable internet can slow down during peak hours since your service draws from a neighborhood-wide network. Cable also tends to feature seasonal price hikes, so your bill can go up after a year or two of service. But cable companies are usually game to negotiate, so don’t be afraid of calling up your provider and asking for a promotional hookup if it’s time for your bill to go up.

Pros

  • Fast speeds
  • Frequent promo offers

Cons

  • Lengthy contract requirements
  • Slower speeds during peak hours

What are the best cable internet plans?

ProviderPlanSpeedPriceSign up
XfinityPerformance Pro200 Mbps$39.99/mo.*View Plans
SpectrumInternet UltraUp to 400 Mbps$69.99/mo.**View Plans
ProviderXfinity
PlanPerformance Pro
Speed200 Mbps
Price$39.99/mo.*
Sign upView Plans
ProviderSpectrum
PlanInternet Ultra
SpeedUp to 400 Mbps
Price$69.99/mo.**
Sign upView Plans

DSL internet

dsl internet connection explained

Speed: 0.5–100 Mbps

Availability: 88% of US population

Animal likeness: Tortoise

Price: $27.99–$69.99/mo.

Instead of photons zooming through fiberglass or signals beaming across the latest telecom protocols, DSL internet carries data over the old-school wiring of a landline phone network. That makes DSL many times slower than cable or fiber—and the signal gets even weaker as you get farther away from the main network.

But if you can get 25 Mbps on DSL or faster in your area, you’re pretty much good to go. You won’t be able to rely on it for uploading terabyte-sized film projects to YouTube or doing Netflix movie marathons in 4K resolution. But you can still stream in HD, surf social media, and do plenty of other stuff with minimal issues as long as you live in a small household.

DSL is as widely available as cable. And DSL plans are fairly straightforward when it comes to pricing, so it can be a good option if you need Wi-Fi at a cheap price with minimal fuss.

Pros

  • Wide availability
  • Straightforward pricing

Cons

  • Slower speeds
  • Inconsistent performance depending on area

What are the best DSL internet plans?

ProviderPlanSpeedPriceSign up
CenturyLinkPrice for Life 100 MbpsUp to 100 Mbps$49.00/mo.*View Plans
EarthLink45 Mbps InternetUp to 45 Mbps$69.95/mo.**View Plans
ProviderCenturyLink
PlanPrice for Life 100 Mbps
SpeedUp to 100 Mbps
Price$49.00/mo.*
Sign upView Plans
ProviderEarthLink
Plan45 Mbps Internet
SpeedUp to 45 Mbps
Price$69.95/mo.**
Sign upView Plans

5G internet

Wireless cover most populated areas in the U S

Speed: 40–1,100 Mbps

Availability: Very limited (technology still emerging)

Animal likeness: Unicorn

Price: $60–$90/mo.

5G is built on the latest generation of wireless technology, which promises superspeeds of 1,000 Mbps and faster with minimal buffering. But 5G networks are still in the process of coming together, so it may be a few years before 5G home internet becomes a properly viable internet type. Right now availability is very limited, as most wireless companies are focusing on cell phone service. Also, the technology works best in densely-populated areas, so 5G rollouts are mostly focused around towns and cities, for now at least.

Providers like Starry Internet do offer 5G fixed-wireless service in some small markets, though—so it’s worth running a search to see if it’s available in your area. Otherwise you will have to access 5G over a phone or hotspot, which requires that you get a 5G device.

Pros

  • Fast speeds
  • Low latency

Cons

  • Limited availability since it’s new technology
  • High barrier to entry since it requires an expensive 5G device

What are the best 5G internet plans?

ProviderPlanSpeedPriceSign up
Starry InternetUp to 200 MbpsUp to 200 Mbps$50/mo.*View Plans
ProviderStarry Internet
PlanUp to 200 Mbps
SpeedUp to 200 Mbps
Price$50/mo.*
Sign upView Plans

Fixed-wireless internet

fixed-wireless internet connection explained

Speed: 5–100 Mbps

Availability: 46% of US population

Animal likeness: Pigeon

Price: $39.95–$99.00/mo.

Fixed-wireless technology delivers internet over radio signals beamed to an antenna console that you install in your home. It’s not a particularly common internet type, but it does come in handy in cities with bad internet service and in rural areas where your only other option is satellite internet, which tends to be slower and cost more.

That said, fixed-wireless internet will still give you slower speeds and less data for the money compared to cable, DSL, and fiber providers. You’ll likely also have limitations when it comes to monthly data usage. But fixed wireless is usually offered by smaller internet providers, so that means you can get more personalized customer service experience.

Pros

  • Great rural option
  • Cheaper than satellite internet

Cons

  • Limited coverage
  • Monthly data caps

What are the best fixed-wireless internet plans?

ProviderPlanSpeedPrice*Sign up
Rise BroadbandUp to 50 MbpsUnlimited$70.00/mo. (with autopay discount) or $75.00/mo. (without autopay)View Plans
AT&T Fixed WirelessUp to 25 Mbps250 GB/mo.$40.94/mo. (with autopay discount) or $44.94/mo. (without autopay)View Plans
ProviderRise Broadband
PlanUp to 50 Mbps
SpeedUnlimited
Price*$70.00/mo. (with autopay discount) or $75.00/mo. (without autopay)
Sign upView Plans
ProviderAT&T Fixed Wireless
PlanUp to 25 Mbps
Speed250 GB/mo.
Price*$40.94/mo. (with autopay discount) or $44.94/mo. (without autopay)
Sign upView Plans

Satellite internet

satellite internet connection explained

Speed: 12–100 Mbps

Availability: 100% of US population

Animal likeness: Space monkey

Price: $30–$150/mo.

Satellite internet works by beaming a signal down from satellites in space. That means you can get satellite internet basically anywhere in the US. But it also means your internet will be fairly slow because your signal has to travel literally to space and back again—a distance that could span up to 1,200 miles one way—to reach your computer, tablet, or phone.

Satellite internet could get a lot more spectacular in the near future as companies like SpaceX race to launch LEO (low-Earth orbit) satellites into the cosmos to provide improved speeds and reduced latency. Until then, we recommend satellite internet as a fallback if you can’t get any other type of internet service.

Pros

  • Nationwide availability
  • Potential for growth with new tech

Cons

  • Slow speeds and high latency
  • Low data limits

What are the best satellite internet plans?

ProviderPlanSpeedPriceSign up
HughesNet30 GB Data Plan25 Mbps$99.99/mo.*View Plans
ViasatUnlimited Gold 50Up to 50 Mbps$100.00/mo.**View Plans
ProviderHughesNet
Plan30 GB Data Plan
Speed25 Mbps
Price$99.99/mo.*
Sign upView Plans
ProviderViasat
PlanUnlimited Gold 50
SpeedUp to 50 Mbps
Price$100.00/mo.**
Sign upView Plans

FAQ about internet types

What type of internet connection do I have?

The type of internet connection you have is determined by your internet provider. You can either have fiber, cable, DSL, satellite, or fixed-wireless internet. Some customers may also have access to 5G or another type of internet through their cell provider or a company like Starry Internet.

What is the most common type of internet connection?

The most common type of internet connection is cable. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), it’s available to 89% of the US population.

DSL is also extremely common. It’s accessible to 88% of the US population, according to the same FCC data. By comparison, fiber internet is available to just 39% of the population.

How do I know my internet connection type?

You can find out your internet connection type by checking to see what kind of connection you have between the network and your modem. Here’s what to look for:

  • Connection through the phone jack—DSL internet
  • Connection through the coaxial cable outlet—cable internet
  • Connection through a fiber-optic terminal—fiber internet
  • Connection through an antenna console—fixed-wireless internet
  • Connection through a satellite dish—satellite internet

To find out your internet type, you can also ask your internet service provider (ISP) or look on your ISP’s website.

Punch in your zip code to see what internet providers and internet connection types are available in your area:

Author -

Peter Holslin has spent more than a decade writing for Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless other publications. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008. Since then, he has roved from city to city and lived overseas, mastering his craft as an editor, staff writer, and freelancer while also acquiring ninja-like skills to address feeble Wi-Fi speeds and other internet challenges.

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.

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