Satellite vs. Cable TV

Television is the backbone of the entertainment industry and it has been like this for decades. Even though technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in this period, still nothing has been able to replace television. Although the TV itself has made quite a lot of progress in this time, the underlying workings of it have more or less remained the same. 

Americans love TV and stats prove that it is a fact because according to a rough estimate, every household in the United States has at least one television. The studies conducted by Consumer Electronics Association show that there are currently 285 million televisions in use in the United States alone.

Television has also progressed drastically from its earlier form. The first lot of televisions only had a few channels and monochrome visuals. With the passage of time and technological advancements, we see that current televisions not only have hundreds of channels but they are of crystal clear quality and also provide an immersive sound experience. 

Television has always provided its users with something new. Even in the past, TV was the sole entertainment resource that was accessible to everyone. Even now, when we are going through lockdowns and most of the population is stuck in their houses, television is the only medium that is keeping us informed about our surrounding while entertaining us at the same time.

Another benefit of television is that it has a plethora of content for an average user to watch. Now, there are specific channels that cater to viewers’ distinct tastes and cover almost every age group. 

There are dedicated channels for news, kid’s content, movies, comedy and family sitcoms, sports, weather channels, and much more. The wide range of content is one of the reasons why people love television so much. If we take a closer look, we’ll see that a simple television is a marvel of modern technology in itself because there are so many components involved in bringing some electronic signals to full visual form.

How Does a Television Work

In a layman’s term, television works when a set of signals are converted into visual form. To elaborate, signals are sent to a consumer’s address through two general mediums. These include cable signals or wireless transmission by satellite. This is the only major difference between different TV technologies and both these transmission means have their own pros and cons, which we’ll look into below in detail. 

Cable providers are also distinguished by the medium through which they offer their services and this has a significant impact on their quality of service and costing. A popular satellite TV provider is Dish TV while in cable providers Cox cable is a well-known brand.

The Core Differences between Cable and Satellite TV

Coverage Area

The most prominent advantage that satellite TV has over standard cable programming is coverage area. Because a satellite TV does not require any kind of special wiring, this allows satellite TV to work in places where you won’t be able to get a standard cable connection. This especially is a major selling point for people living in rural areas that don’t have access to proper infrastructure that people from metropolitans enjoy. 

A satellite connection only requires a transmitter to be installed on the roof of a house facing south and as long as there are good weather conditions, you’ll be good to go. This brings us to our second point but more on that later. Since a satellite’s coverage area is hypothetically the whole world, a customer who’s looking to hook up satellite TV will have no problems no matter where he or she lives.

Stability of Connection

This is the part where cable TV takes the cake. Not only is it more reliable and provides stable transmission, but it’s also practically immune to any kind of outside physical interference. The reason behind this is that the whole infrastructure of cable TV is based on underground wiring and is pretty safe from external factors like bad weather.

The only way a cable TV is cut is when the whole system is down or when there is a general outage. On the contrary, a satellite TV connection is prone to external factors. The most common one being the weather. Bad weather conditions severely damage the reception a satellite TV gets, as everything is wireless. This ultimately hampers the connection stability and may tarnish a seamless watching experience.

Value for Money

If you’re looking to get something cheap, then you should consider getting a satellite connection. The reason behind this is that a premium satellite TV package costs somewhat similar to the basic cable TV package. Both these packages contain the almost same number of channels and sometimes also include premium content e.g. HBO Max.

The only downfall that might come with a satellite connection is heavy installation fees and in some cases, even that is waived off if a user is signing up for a long-term commitment plan. These commitments sometimes may also cause trouble for some users, but if you’re looking for good value for money and have plans to stick with your provider, definitely consider satellite over cable TV.

Terms and Conditions

Since satellite receivers are delicate, most satellite TV providers require customers to sign term commitments and agreements. These agreements are often contracts that ensure that users will remain with their current providers for a specified time period, usually a year or two.

Agreements might become problems for some users who are not happy with the services and are looking to switch because, in case of breach of agreement or damage to equipment, customers are subjected to pay heavy dues.

In the case of cable TV, there are no such agreements and most cable TV providers offer services on a month-to-month basis. The major factor behind this is that there is no specialized equipment involved apart from regular set-top boxes. 

This provides an advantage to customers who are looking to switch their current providers due to various reasons. Customers have the option that they can easily switch providers without the need to pay any early termination fees (ETF) which is associated with term agreements.


The decision to use a specific type of provider, whether cable or satellite, and what might be suitable for a user, boils down to factors like the type of area a customer lives in, the budget that they have, whether they want to sign up for a contract or not, and most importantly, personal preference.

To put it in simple words, if a user is looking for a stable connection, it would be recommended to spend a few extra bucks and go for a stable cable connection with high quality of service. However, in areas where there is no physical cabling present, a satellite becomes the only option that would provide a better value for money with some compromises like external interference and picture quality.