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Today, there is a wide variety of internet types available for residential consumption in the US. DSL, cable, satellite, fiber-optic, fixed wireless—all are in the market. There are also some providers like AT&T which utilize a wide mix of technologies to deliver a different type of internet connection in different service locations—depending on their network infrastructure in any given area. Meaning, you cannot determine the type of internet connection you have by the provider and/or package that you are subscribed to.

But, is knowing which type of internet connection you have that important? You may ask. Well, let us tell you, that is the key to understanding whether a provider and/or package is even capable of delivering on its promise.

Read on to learn more about why it is necessary for you to be aware of the internet connection type you have, and also how to find which one is it.

Why You Must Know Your Internet Connection Type

Let’s face it. Never before have humans been as dependent on the internet as we are today. With the pandemic taking its toll on every walk of life, for millions across the U.S. the only way to ensure financial, emotional, and day-to-day survival is the internet. Given these high stakes, it becomes necessary to gain information about how the different types of internet connections work, and what they can do for you.

More often than not, when subscribing to an internet plan people only care about two things: speed and data. Sure, they are very important factors to consider when deciding on which provider and/or package to go for, but they alone do not guarantee a quality internet service. When you also know internet types well enough, you get armed with the knowledge to assess if a service provider and/or package is indeed the best for you.

It may be that your needs can be easily fulfilled by another type of internet connection which is less costly. Or the increased consumption of internet in your home now demands faster speeds and more data—which is only possible with a different type of broadband internet connection. In any case, once you know about the internet connection types, you’ll be able to assess the performance of your current provider on an authentic basis. And, determine the course of your future choices and moves.

Types of Internet Connection

Chances are if you’re unaware of the broadband internet connection you use, you were not included in the decision-making process or your new rental home already had an internet connection when you moved in. Whatever the reason may be let’s take a look at which internet connection types are available for residential consumption, and what is the best for. Based on your current usage pattern, you’ll then be better able to decide if the provider and/or package you have fits your needs or it’s time for a change.

Dial-up

This is an almost obsolete technology that is no more in widespread use. However, in rural regions where choices are limited, a dial-up connection is still offered by some providers and makes for a budget-friendly option that lets you take care of your basic internet needs like checking the email or browsing the web.

DSL

High-speed DSL is perfect for moderate users whereas traditional DSL is good for light internet usage. CenturyLink Internet, Frontier Internet, and AT&T Internet are among the best when it comes to DSL. These providers have revamped their network capacity by extending the fiber optic backbone in the network, and by utilizing the latest networking protocols. And, are now able to provide high-speed DSL in areas that are located close to the provider’s central hub. While in regions that lie farther out from the provider’s hub, you experience traditional DSL speeds that are slower.  

DSL internet is also one of the most widely available internet connection types in the US.

Cable

Great for moderate to heavy usage—if you belong to a household where adults work from home and kids attend school online, and you also use the internet for leisure time activities like video chatting, streaming, and playing games online. Cable broadband providers like Optimum and Suddenlink by Altice, Mediacom, RCN, and WOW! have been quick to adapt to new available networking technologies, and now even deliver Gig service thanks to their hybrid Fiber-Coaxial cable networks.

With widespread coverage, Spectrum, Xfinity from Comcast, and Cox are among the top ones in the list of US cable internet providers.

Fiber Optic Internet

With lightning-fast speeds, this is perfect for any and all online activities, as well as a great many numbers of users. More and more providers are expanding their fiber optic network infrastructure to offer fiber internet connections across their service locations. But some like AT&T, CenturyLink, and Frontier have got it all figured out to the T. And, get you a 100% fiber-optic connection with fiber lines reaching straight to your doorstep.

Overall, a pure fiber internet connection is not that widely available in the US. Albeit as we move forward in time, this internet connection type is expected to expand its reach beyond the more prosperous urban and suburban neighborhoods.

Fixed Wireless

A good fit for light to moderate users, this type of internet is an ideal choice for rural America. You can work or learn, and stream or game with ease. So, if you are in the line of sight of a fixed wireless provider’s access point, fixed wireless internet is a great option. Rise Broadband is the largest provider of fixed wireless internet across the US—and uses focused point-to-point wireless devices to direct a strong signal to your location, rather than banking on LTE tech which broadcasts the signal in a general direction.

Satellite

Moderate speed and modest data limits, it’s a godsend for people in remote areas looking to connect. Albeit satellite internet has been infamous for its latency given how it works, in recent times providers like HughesNet have achieved a breakthrough with HughesNet Gen-5 Internet. Putting years of expertise in the fields of satellite and smart technologies, the provider now delivers fast speeds with lower latency—which you can even play online games on. A big plus is with HughesNet Internet you can also get a satellite TV connection because the provider partners with DISH to bring a combo of internet and TV to its subscribers.

How to Find Which Type of an Internet Connection You Have

There are a couple of ways that help you determine which type of internet connection you have. Here are some to get you started. Rest assured figuring this out is easy.

Examine Your Internet Equipment

The internet equipment you use is the best guide when it comes to figuring out which type of connection you have. While most gateway devices nowadays come with a label detailing what type of internet connection they are for, if this information is missing, you can still check to get an answer. Just grab your modem or the modem-router combo referred to as the gateway device, and look at what type of wires are connected to it. And, compared with the descriptions below to see which one matches the system you have.

Use Your Computer to Determine the Internet Connection Type

To gauge the internet type correctly, looking at the modem or gateway setup is of critical importance. However, for a quick educated guess, you can also run a speed test on your computer. For the best speed test results, we’d suggest you connect your computer or laptop to the internet via an Ethernet cable. It will give you a more accurate reading relative to what you get on a wireless connection. Based on this reading, you’ll have clues to what your internet connection type may be:

With that said, as you can see speed test results alone cannot help you make much more than an informed guess—even if you are able to judge the difference in the overall performance of your connection and make a good guess, for a definitive answer, your best bet remains the information revealed by the equipment used on the internet set up at your home.

Which Type of Internet Connection is the Best?

Once you know which type of internet connection you have, the question you need to ask is: is it the right one for you. Given the impact the internet connection type can have on your online experience, you shouldn’t let this go. For all you know, changing the type of connection you have may resolve all your connectivity issues. So here’s a comparison of internet connection types to help you find the one most compatible with your lifestyle.

Online Activity

Ideal  speed

Cable

DSL

Satellite

Fiber

Fixed wireless

Checking email, browsing the web & streaming music (1-2 devices)

1-5 Mbps

?

?

?

?

?

Working from home, Online School, Video Calling & streaming video or online gaming (1-3 devices)

5-40 Mbps

?

?

?

?

?

Streaming HD, online gaming, remote work, online school, video conferencing (1-4 devices)

40-100 Mbps

?

?

X

?

X

For a medium-sized family that indulges in all of the above-mentioned activities

(1-7 devices)

100-500 Mbps

?

X

X

?

X

For a large household that indulges in all of the above-mentioned activities (10 devices)

500-1,000 Mbps

?

X

X

?

X

               

 

This table highlights the capabilities of each of these internet connection types. For a more detailed breakdown on what speed do you need for any said online activity click here. Once you are aware of how much speed do you need to take care of everyone’s online needs, you’ll be able to better assess what kind of internet connection would be the best suited for your family usage.

Final Words

Why it is essential to know your internet connection type? What types of internet are available in the market? What pattern of internet usage is supported by these connection types? All these questions when answered can help shape a more accurate idea of what may be a perfect fit for your household.

So, if you do not know what internet connection type you are paying for, and what you can do to improve your online life—go ahead and put what you have learned to exercise. Knowing the providers name alone cannot help determine what type of internet you are getting. CenturyLink delivers both a high-speed DSL and pure fiber internet service, so the difference in speed will tell you what you are on. But, with AT&T you may have to check the equipment to see if your 100 Mbps plan is an IPBB connection or fiber internet. And, if you are on a 25 Mbps plan, and have a dish receiver kind of equipment installed on the roof, you may not be able to easily tell if its HughesNet satellite internet or fixed wireless from Rise Broadband. More often than not, a fiber internet connection is the easiest to tell apart.  

So, did you find this article helpful? With easy-to-follow steps, we hope you’ll be able to figure it all out on your own. The type of internet connection you have is just as important as the speed you get and learning more about it will only make your online experience better.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many types of internet connections are there?

These types of internet connections are available in the US residential market at this time: dial-up, DSL, cable, fixed wireless, satellite, and fiber optic. Mobile broadband can also be counted in, but you would need a hotspot device setup to make use of it for your family.

Which type of internet connection is the best?

A fiber internet connection is the best to have as it offers high upload and download speeds, and ultra-low latency. However, it is not as widely available and is more costly in most cases. So if your internet usage is not high, getting a fiber internet service may not be the best option for you.

Which type of internet connection is the slowest?

Dial-up internet connections are the slowest with speeds maxing out as just 56 Kbps.