Cable vs. Satellite vs. Fiber Optic: How to Choose a Television Service Provider

When it comes to television, there are so many options out there that it can feel nearly impossible to choose the right service provider.

You can go with a local cable company, satellite, or even fiber optic services. If you aren’t sure what to choose, here is how to pick the best television service provider for you.

Cable vs. Satellite vs. Fiber Optic

First you have to decide how you want your television transmitted. The biggest difference between cable, satellite, and fiber optic is the way you receive your TV services.


When you get cable, cables go into your house from the ground outside. They combine hundreds of analog and digital channels into a single cable that decodes and passes the picture through your television screen.


Satellite is completely different. With this type of service, you receive your TV signals from satellites that orbit the Earth. The satellites stay in the same general position, so you’re able to receive your programming through these transmissions.

Fiber Optic

Fiber optic is a little harder to explain. It works a lot like internet services. When you want to watch a program or channel, a request is sent to a server to display a channel or a program stream. From there, the data is transmitted through the cables and to your TV, allowing you to watch what you want when you want it. It’s almost like an “on-demand” service but in a broader sense.

The Pros and Cons of Cable, Satellite, and Fiber Optic


Cable doesn’t need much equipment, and most homes are already equipped to receive cable transmissions. It’s also one of the cheapest ways to get TV. However, the price will vary from place to place. The picture and sound for cable are inferior compared to satellite, but a drive toward high-definition (and possibly 4K) has been changing this aspect. Signals may also be less secure depending on where you live and if the cables were properly grounded.


Satellite rates are fixed based on channel packages, but companies charge extra if you want on-demand or premium channels. This fixed price is great because your bill rarely changes from year to year, unlike cable. Satellite, as mentioned, has superior quality and sound compared to cable services, but if there is heavy rain or snow, you can lose your picture easily.

Fiber Optic

Fiber optic is one of the best options, and the price will usually reflect the quality. It depends on where you live, but the price can sometimes be double that of cable services. Fortunately, that price also comes with quite a few benefits. One, fiber optic television is much more reliable and usually higher quality than both satellite and cable due to the higher data transfer speeds. The biggest drawback of fiber optics is that it isn’t available everywhere. Many big cities have fiber optic technology, and the field is expanding, but it has yet to reach most cities around America.



Most old buildings have an issue with cable transmissions because the grounding may not be up to par. This problem can cause slow internet speeds and constant interruption of your television picture. Another issue to consider is whether the cables to and from your home were updated recently. If you’re still using old satellite cables, your picture won’t be the best. This dilemma is a simple fix, but it can impact your decision if you have to pay for rewiring.

As mentioned before, satellite transmissions may be affected during times of heavy snow or rain. If you live in an area notorious for this kind of weather, consider shying away from satellite. If you need more information about satellites, ask neighbors and friends in your area to see if they have satellite. If they do, ask about their signal strength during times of harsh weather.

If you have your heart set on fiber optic, you first need determine if it’s available in your city. Google, AT&T, and Verizon are some of the biggest names in fiber optic, but these services aren’t everywhere. For example, Google Fiber can only be found in Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Kansas City, Nashville, Provo, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, and San Antonio. That’s it. Sure, there are plans to expand, but how long will it take? Call companies that have invested in fiber optic and learn if it’s available in your area.


The amount of money you want to spend per month will impact what type of service you ultimately choose. If you want to spend as little as possible, you might consider choosing cable. Satellite may be cheap for a few channels, but keep in mind that you’ll also spend quite a bit of money on the equipment needed to receive channels. Investigate each cable, satellite, and fiber optic package to see what channels you receive and the cost per month. Most companies will charge a promotion price for the first year, and then your bill can go up significantly, so be sure to inquire about the cost of your services after promotions end.