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Cable Vs. Satellite TV

Cable Vs. Satellite TV

While technological advancement has made the difference between cable TV and satellite TV services considerably blur, there do exist some differences that can tell you which is a better bet for you. A must read, if you intend to subscribe to either of these service or switch over to something better.
Abhijit Naik
Choosing between the cable TV and satellite TV can be a daunting task, especially if you have no idea whatsoever about how these services differ from each other.
  • Scenario 1 - You are disappointed with your cable service provider, or vice versa, and intend to opt for an alternative to the same.
  • Scenario 2 - You are finding it a bit difficult to decide which of the two - satellite TV or cable TV, is ideal for you.
Irrespective of which of the two aforementioned scenarios you find yourself into, the answer lies in comparing the two head on to find which of these is ideal for you. Basically, cable TV service is accessed by means of fiber optic or coaxial cable, whereas satellite TV service is accessed by means of a satellite dish and a set top box.
Cable Television
Cable television, also referred to as cable TV or CATV (Community Antenna Television), is a system wherein radio frequency signals are transmitted to the television sets by means of a fixed coaxial cable or a fiber optic cable. Cable TV made its debut in the United States in 1948, and since then it has become so popular that more than half of the American households and commercial establishments avail this service as of today. When it comes to cable TV in the United States, names like the Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications and Cablevision, don't quite need any introduction - with each having more than a million subscribers to boast of.
Satellite Television
As the term satellite TV itself suggests, satellite television service is provided by means of communication satellites, and is accessed by a satellite dish and a set top box located at the subscribers property. In the United States of America, satellite TV acts as a direct competitor to the cable TV services. The major players in the field of satellite television in the US are DirecTV and Dish Network, both having a significant market share in terms of customer base. While satellite Direct TV has a subscriber base of 19.2 million, Dish Network has a subscriber base of 14.3 million. More importantly, current trends suggest that these service providers are becoming popular by the day.
Cable Vs. Satellite TV
Starting with the equipment required, cable TV service can be accessed on a single receiver while satellite TV requires a satellite dish and a set top box. In both the cases though, the equipment is installed by the service provider, and thus you don't really have to worry about this aspect - unless you have more than one television sets at your home. If you do, you will require one satellite TV receiver per set and that will add to the overall charges. (Some satellite TV providers offer discounts on the second and subsequent connections with the intention providing better deals for their customers.)
When it comes to reception, cable TV offers both analog and digital signal. Most of the satellite TV service providers, on the other hand, offer 100 percent digital TV channels, and thus have an upper hand over cable TV. When you talk about the reception quality, you also need to take the weather factor into consideration - especially if you intend to opt for satellite TV. Whilst going through the customer reviews, you come across several complains about signal disruption in rough weather conditions - and that is true to some extent.
As far as the number of channels is concerned, both the services have almost the same number of channels to offer. Cable TV though, gives access to a range of local TV channels which you might not get if you opt for satellite TV. Similarly, satellite TV has more to offer in terms of international programming as compared to the cable service. So sacrifice is inevitable; it's just that you have to decide what to sacrifice. While satellite TV has always been boasting of having more HDTV channels to offer, cable TV providers are fast catching up. The battle is expected to become even - at least in terms of HD channels, sometime soon.
Coming to customer service comparison, both have a pretty bad reputation in this context. A closer look though, and you realize that the satellite TV service providers have a slight advantage over their cable service providers. In terms of price, satellite TV deals, starting from $29.99 per month and going up depending on the packages you choose, are much better than those offered by cable TV providers. Cable subscription fees tend to differ from one service provider to another. With so many service providers in fray, it is a bit difficult to come to a specific conclusion in this context. The competition within, alongside the competition with satellite TV service providers, is expected to force the cable TV operators slash their price sooner or later.
You, as the end consumer, have to take into consideration the reception quality, programming, customer support, and the most important of all - the price factor; all these factors are discussed above. Which service to opt for is entirely your decision, but these are the points of distinction in the digital cable and satellite TV comparison which you can't afford to ignore.