What Type of Internet Do You Have at Home?

Internet comes in several different connection types—and the type of connection you have plays a big part in determining how fast, reliable, and costly your Wi-Fi is.

Fiber internet is the fastest connection you can get, but it’s also the hardest to find. Cable is also reliable, but it’s not as cheap as DSL internet. There’s also 5G internet, a promising and affordable new type of service, but it may be a while before it’s widely available to the public.

So which internet type is best for you?

We put together a guide to help you figure that out. Read on to get all the details of how these types work, how much they cost, and what speeds you can get from each. And of course, use our zip check tool below to see what type of internet you can get in your area.

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 Plans
Cable1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)$19.99–$109.99/mo.89%View Plans
DSL100 Mbps$27.99–$69.99/mo.88%View Plans
5G1,100 Mbps (1.1 Gbps)$50.00–$90.00/mo.N/A**View Plans
4G LTE9–50 Mbps$40.00–$100.00/mo.N/A**View Plans
Fixed wireless100 Mbps$39.95–$99.00/mo.46%View Plans
Satellite100 Mbps$30.00–$150.00/mo.100%View 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.

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, fiber 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.

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

How to know what type of internet you have

Internet providerConnection typeCustomer rating*View plans
AT&TDSL, fiber3.8/5View Plans
XfinityCable, fiber3.5/5View Plans
SpectrumCable3.6/5View Plans
CoxCable3.7/5View Plans
EarthLinkDSL, fiber4.2/5View Plans
OptimumCable3.5/5View Plans
WindstreamDSL, fiberN/AView Plans
CenturyLinkDSL, fiber3.5/5View Plans
FrontierDSL, fiberN/AView Plans
RCNCable3.7/5View Plans
SparklightCable3.7/5View Plans
SuddenlinkCable3.6/5View Plans
MediacomCable3.6/5View Plans
Rise BroadbandFixed wirelessN/AView Plans
AT&T Fixed WirelessFixed wirelessN/AView Plans
HughesNetSatelliteN/AView Plans
ViasatSatelliteN/AView Plans

To find out what type of internet service you have, you can ask your internet provider. Most internet providers have one type of internet on their network, or two at most. You can also 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 Plans
CableCoaxial cable outletView Plans
DSLPhone jackView Plans
5G5G device or 5G fixed-wireless routerView Plans
4G LTE4G LTE phone/hotspot or 4G fixed-wireless routerView Plans
Fixed wirelessAntenna consoleView Plans
SatelliteSatellite dishView 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

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 Pro Plus200 Mbps$39.99/mo.*View Plans
SpectrumSpectrum Internet® UltraUp to 400 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)$69.99/mo. for 12 mos.View 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

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
VerizonVerizon 5G Home InternetUp to 1,000 Mbps$50–$70/mo.View Plans
Starry InternetUp to 200 MbpsUp to 200 Mbps$50/mo.*View Plans

4G LTE internet

Wireless cover most populated areas in the U S

Speed: 9–50 Mbps

Availability: Limited (technology still emerging)

Animal likeness: Turtledove

Price: $40.00–$100.00/mo.

4G LTE internet gives you a Wi-Fi connection over a 4G wireless network. It’s what you get when you use the internet data on your phone or a mobile hotspot. But lately it’s also evolved into an option for home internet with the launch of services like Verizon’s 4G LTE Home Internet and T-Mobile Home Internet.

Although the speeds can be inconsistent—since they depend on where you are in relation to the nearest cell tower—4G LTE internet still has some perks, including an affordable price and availability in rural areas. It’s an excellent alternative to satellite internet, since it gives you faster speeds and a lot more data. Cellular carriers are gearing up to expand 4G LTE home internet service nationwide over the next few years, so keep a look out if it’s available in your area.

Pros

  • Available in remote areas where 5G isn’t
  • Faster than satellite internet (and has more data too)

Cons

  • Slower than fiber and cable internet
  • Hard to find because it’s new technology

What are the best 4G LTE internet plans?

ProviderPlanSpeedPriceSign up
VerizonVerizon LTE Home Internet25 Mbps$40–$60/mo.View Plans
T-MobileT-Mobile Home Internet25 Mbps$50/mo.View 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 more than a decade of experience working as a writer and freelance journalist. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008 and went on to contribute to publications like Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on covering 5G, nerding out about frequency bands and virtual RAN, and producing reviews on emerging services like 5G home internet. He also writes about internet providers and packages, hotspots, VPNs, and Wi-Fi troubleshooting.

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.

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