Cable vs Satellite: How to Choose

For the last several years, television companies have been waging an ongoing war: cable TV versus satellite. Which is better for the consumer? Many customers will swear by one provider or the other, insisting that their choice is the superior one, but since both sides have pros and cons, how does a customer choose?

If you’ve been struggling with advertisements and websites, trying to decide between cable and satellite, this article will help outline the pros and cons and allow you to choose the right one for your family. The decision really lies in what you like to watch on television, where you live, and how often you watch TV.

EQUIPMENT

Cable service comes with many different packages to choose from. Basic cable requires no extra equipment, though a technician will have to come out and install the connection. If you want to upgrade to the next available option, a cable box and interactive remote is required. The box and remote are lent from your cable provider to you, and must be returned when you cancel your service. Upgrades are usually free of charge.

Satellite requires a dish that is positioned on your roof near the place where your television is located. The dish feeds your channels to your television through a satellite, and is required to receive service. For HD channels (high definition) you will need a second, larger dish to receive premium channels.

The prices for installation are usually comparable, and since installation is a one-time fee, this should not be your deciding factor.

Who Wins: Draw

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RECEPTION

With cable, you will rarely lose service, unless the entire system is out of order. Typically, cable is lost only for a period of an hour or so, and most providers will deduct time lost from your bill. Satellite, on the other hand, will be fuzzy or nonexistant during a storm because the satellite feed will be garbled by thunder and lightening.

Who Wins: Cable

PRICES

If you rarely watch television, then cable’s smallest package might be right for you. It requires no box or remote, and provides limited channels. The median prices is around $35.00 per month, and comes with a TV guide channel that scrolls continually on a specific channel. You don’t have the interactive menu.

With satellite, however, providers don’t have to pay taxes levied by local governments and they also boast smaller infrastructures. This allows the customer to receive more channels for a much lower price. For premium, HD, and Pay-Per-View channels, satellite offers more for your money. Cable companies are constantly raising prices because they are in the process of converting thousands of miles of subterranean cable into digital cable, which is extremely expensive. If you don’t want to see your prices climb higher and higher, satellite is your best bet.

Who Wins: Satellite

AVAILABILITY

Unfortunately, cable is only available to homes where providers are within a certain amount of distance. There are some areas of even large metros where cable is not available, which is frustrating. Satellite, on the other hand, is available everywhere because the dish only has to face the southern sky. This is convenient for rural dwellers who still want to watch television.

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Who Wins: Satellite

DIGITAL, HDTV, and DVR

You can acquire any of these premium services from both cable and satellite. Most companies will lease the equipment on a monthly basis, while others require that you buy the HD box up front. Either way, you’ll get the same great channels from either provider.

Who Wins: Draw

BUNDLED SERVICES

Many companies, especially in large metro areas, will combine services with telephone and high-speed Internet companies to provide bundled services. This means that you receive a discount when you buy cable, Internet and phone services together. Cable companies are more likely to provide bundled services than satellite, though you will find some satellite providers that offer phone and Internet as well. The prices will inevitably be better with cable.

Who Wins: Cable

CUSTOMER SERVICE

I have always experienced great customer service with cable because they have “brick and mortar” storefronts where customers can change out equipment, pay their bills and ask questions about service. You can even request upgrades from these stores. Satellite, on the other hand, operates solely from Internet and telephone support lines, which can be frustrating during an outage or if you are experiencing a problem

Who Wins: Cable

CONTRACTS

You won’t find many cable companies that require contracts with service, though it is fairly common with satellite. Cable companies offer month-to-month service, which means that you can cancel or upgrade at any time. With satellite, on the other hand, you might be confined to their service for periods of up to one year.

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Who Wins: Cable