Difference Between DSL Modem and Cable Modem

Technology and the internet have taken humankind through a different period. The modes of connection have changed from wired to wireless connections.


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Two such modems of the modern world are DSL modems and cable modems.

Key Takeaways

  1. DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) modems utilize existing telephone lines to provide high-speed internet access, with speeds dependent on the distance between the user’s location and the service provider’s central office.
  2. Cable modems use coaxial cable lines originally designed for cable television to provide internet access, generally offering faster speeds and more stable connections compared to DSL modems.
  3. The primary difference between DSL and cable modems is the method of delivering internet service. DSL modems use telephone lines, and cable modems use coaxial cable lines, resulting in differing speeds and connection quality.

DSL Modem vs. Cable Modem

A cable modem connection is made by connecting to the TV setup through coaxial cables. It provides high internet speed, which is affected by the number of users.DSL modem connection is created by connecting directly to the telephone line. A user’s distance from a central connection affects its speed.

DSL modem vs Cable modem

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The DSL modem is connected directly to the telephone line. Though the speed provided by this service is low, it is enough for lower data streaming and an average family.

The added advantage is the network’s stability even if many people connect to the same modem.

The cable modem is connected to the TV setup box. This provides reliable high-speed data.

The pros of the cable modem include that even if the distance between the device and modem increases, the connection remains stable.


Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonDSL ModemCable Modem
ConnectionConnected to the telephone lineConnected to the tv cable
SpeedIt has a speed of only up to 400 MBPSIt has a speed of up to 10GB
UseUsed for lower data speeds like videos, movies, etcUsed for higher data needs like video gaming streaming
StabilityIt is more stable because the landline is uniqueIt is not stable because a large region uses the same signal
DistanceThe further you are from the connection, the lower the speedAs long as you are within the cable region, the connection is not affected


What is DSL Modem?

The DSL modem is connected to telephone lines. Therefore the connection is made through phone services.

Since each house’s telephone line is unique, the connection is also unique. This assures stability. 

The devices have individual connections. So even if the actual speed of the DSL modem is slow(only 400 MBPS), it wouldn’t be affected by the number of devices connected to the modem.

The DSL modem, therefore, has a reliable connection.

The DSL modem is connected to the telephone line making the distance between the modem and the connected device important. The greater the distance, the connection becomes worse.

They are usually used in places with low data requirements, like watching videos, downloading movies, etc.

dsl modem

What is Cable Modem?

The cable modems are connected to the TV set-up box. This assures high-speed internet, approximately 10 GB.

So this is used in large-scale data usage like in businesses or companies. This is also used for gaming.

Though the cost of a cable modem is higher than a DSL modem, this price difference is only due to the high speed provided by this modem.

Since it covers a large range, the region covered by the TV cable will also be covered by the internet cable modem. This means that the distance would not affect the connection received by the devices.

But the number of devices connected to the modem can make a difference in the speed of the internet received. The more devices that are connected, the lesser the speed of the internet.

This is because the speed of the data is dependent on the scale of connections made.

Cable modems were once very popular, but due to the added advantage of the price and the reliability of the DSL modem, it is slowly in decline.

cable modems

Main Differences Between DSL Modem and Cable Modem

  1. The key difference between a DSL modem and a cable modem lies in their connection. While the DSL modem is connected to the telephone line, the cable modem is connected to the TV cable set-up box.
  2. Due to the difference in connections, one can also observe the difference in the internet speed. The cable modem has a high speed of up to 10 GB, but the DSL modem, on the other hand, has only a speed of up to 400 MBPS.
  3. The difference in the speed of the two modems gives rise to the difference in their need. The high speed of the cable modem ensures connection stability and can be used for high data requirements like continuous gaming or business work. But the DSL modem is used for videos, downloading movies, and other activities with low data requirements.
  4. The reliability of the modem depends on stability. Since each telephone line is unique to a house, the DSL modem is more stable because only the people within the range use the modem. But in the case of cable modems, many people in the region would be using the same connection. Therefore at peak hours, the speed of the internet will be affected.
  5. Distance plays an important role in the DSL modem because the network would be strong only if the connected device is within the telephonic range. As the distance increases, the speed decreases. But the cable modem is not affected by this distance.
Difference Between DSL Modem and Cable Modem

  1. https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/REST_a_00070
  2. https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdf/10.1257/aer.91.2.302
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