DSL Speed Falls Behind Other Options

DSL Speed Falls Behind Other Options

Consumers want to connect to the Internet at high speeds and not pay a lot extra. DSL speed and cable speed were the original broadband speeds, but now optical fiber and mobile networks are offering higher speeds. When you sign up for a service and are locked in for several years, you want to make sure you have chosen one that gives you the speed you want at a competitive price.

Digital Landing summarizes some of the factors to evaluate. Although, each option has advantages and disadvantages, DSL speed is falling behind. If you’re on DSL and are looking for a higher speed, it’s worth examining all the options.

DSL Speed

modemThe technology behind DSL has suffered from the problem of sending large amounts of data at high speeds through small copper telephone wires. When you increase the speed, the wire reaches capacity and the distance you can send the data becomes shorter. That’s why DSL services always say that your speed depends on your distance from the nearest access node.

Newer technologies called ADSL2 and VDSL allow higher DSL speed and are common in Europe and Japan. The Broadband Forum has published a detailed analysis of the new DSL technologies. In North America, service providers have been slow to roll out these higher speeds, especially since they top out at between 55 and 100 Mbps.

Large North American communications companies are rolling out optical fiber connections, either right into homes or into neighborhoods, running the last few hundred feet with wire. Such a system gives them much higher potential speeds. In such a business environment, DSL may be on its way out. GigaOM thinks so and has a historical overview. But if you’re a DSL service customer and are satisfied with DSL speed, you can save money by keeping the service until it is clear which other options may suit you better.


The other legacy broadband technology is cable. Unlike DSL, cable doesn’t suffer from the same capacity limitations. The coaxial cable supplying your Cable TV signal can handle a lot of data at very high speeds. The cable service’s problem comes when all the local connections are used fully and they overload the shared main cable back at the road. The challenge for cable service providers is to increase capacity on the shared parts of their network.

In addition to facing continuing costs for main network capacity increases, cable operators face technical limits with their technology as well. While they can handle a much higher speed than DSL with their current technology, they can’t match optical fiber. If they want to compete with optical networks, they have to invest even more in new technology.

If you’re a cable subscriber, your Internet speed is likely to improve as your cable company installs more capacity and transitions to faster technology. To cover these costs, cable companies will have to raise prices.

Optical Fiber

Companies installing optical fiber also face high costs because they are creating completely new local networks. Once they have laid the fiber, they have the fastest technology available and can focus on expanding their base. The main problem with optical fiber connections to the home is their limited availability. Optical fiber is expensive and companies are concentrating on densely populated urban areas where they can sign up many customers without laying long sections of fiber for each residence.

An alternative is a mixed approach where companies lay fiber into a neighborhood and complete the connections to homes with wire. The technology is slower than fiber into each home but it is an economical way of obtaining fairly high Internet speeds.

Either of these methods for connecting to the Internet has the capability of meeting the need for faster Internet speeds well into the future. If they are available in your area and you don’t want to be locked into an obsolete technology, these are attractive but currently more expensive options than basic broadband.


Companies operating mobile networks are rolling out faster technology in the form of LTE and 4G networks. They can obtain high speeds but have limited capacity. That’s why mobile Internet plans are either expensive or have data caps. The networks don’t have the capacity for everyone to start downloading movies and streaming video all at the same time.

If you only use the Internet for a few emails and a bit of browsing, you can get a fast connection and save money by connecting all your devices through the mobile network directly or through a mobile WiFi hot spot. But you have to watch your data use. Going over a data cap or buying high data capacity in advance is expensive.


Your communications link technology is changing and which one is the most appropriate for you depends on the Internet speed you want and the services you need. If you only want basic broadband and are not interested in speeds made possible by the latest technology, a DSL service with DSL speed may be your cheapest option. If you want the latest and highest speed, optical fiber to the home is your best bet as long as it is available. Cable is an in-between solution, and high speed mobile is only for low data use.

Photo Credit: Lsefton