Cable companies are constantly expanding their networks to reach new customers and deliver new services. With nearly 60 percent of all U.S. homes subscribing to cable TV services, cable is the most popular way to receive TV programming.
In a cable network, coaxial cables run from cable providers to each individual home. The early networks of the 1950s transmitted TV signals to homes, but providers began upgrading their networks at the end of the 20th century to support broadband Internet access.
Cable TV providers offer a wide range of cable services, which bundle multiple channels together. Even the most basic options include subscribers’ local channels such as Fox and ABC at no additional cost. More expensive offerings typically include networks like TNT, USA, and The History Channel.
Subscribers can also order subscriptions to premium networks like HBO and Starz. Most premium networks require separate subscriptions, but The Movie Channel is often bundled together with Showtime. These subscriptions tend to cost $10 to $15 a month for most customers.
Cable networks are always growing. They can be found in nearly every urban and rural area, and cable providers can upgrade equipment in one neighborhood without disrupting service in another.
Coaxial cables have been upgraded over the years to support digital signals, which has allowed cable ISPs to reach millions of customers. Within half a decade, cable Internet overtook traditional dial-up Internet access in market share because cable’s network infrastructure was already in place.
Compared to other Internet technologies like fiber-optic networks, cable networks are quick and inexpensive to upgrade. Several years ago, cable TV providers began offering video on demand and high definition programming. Subscribers began receiving these new services without significant disruptions.
Most cable providers are now installing their networks underground to further improve signal reliability. Besides protecting against inclement weather, vehicle accidents, and other disruptions, the switch from telephone poles to underground installations allows service technicians to easily diagnose and repair network problems.
Unlike satellite TV services, cable TV subscribers never have to fiddle around with satellite dishes or worry about static-filled video. Cable TV simply works.
High Speed Internet
Cable Internet and other cable services share the very same coaxial cables. In fact, subscribers can receive both types of service from the same cable by using a coaxial splitter.
To use cable Internet, subscribers must install cable modems. Cable subscribers can connect their computers directly to the Internet through their modems, or they can install routers to create home Wi-Fi networks.
The cable modem is the single most important piece of equipment that a cable subscriber will use. Modems that support DOCSIS 2.0 technology can receive download speeds up to 38 Mbps, but newer DOCSIS 3.0 modems can receive much faster speeds up to 300 Mbps.
However, subscribers’ Internet speeds will be capped by their Internet plans. Subscribers with basic 3 to 20 Mbps Internet plans will not benefit from newer modems unless they upgrade their service. Most cable ISPs will provide cable modems for a small monthly fee, but customers can save money by purchasing their own.
Faster than DSL
ISPs love to claim that they have the fastest broadband speeds in the world. When it comes to cable, it’s absolutely true. With speeds of 3 to 125 Mbps, cable Internet customers receive some of the fastest speeds in the world. Future revisions to the DOCSIS 3.0 standard will support speeds up to 1 Gbps, and future cable technologies may increase speeds even beyond that.
Unfortunately, DSL customers are capped at just 40 Mbps, and most customers don’t even receive speeds close to the cap. By the end of the decade, the average cable subscriber will have access to 100 Mbps Internet service.
How fast are these speeds? A 3 Mbps Internet user can browse websites without waiting for pages to load. A 15 Mbps user can stream standard definition video. Anyone with 30 to 50 Mbps service can stream HD movies and play video games without lag. A 1 Gbps user could download an HD movie in about half a minute.
Many cable providers also bundle online TV services with Internet access so subscribers can watch TV episodes and other content online. Because online TV services work in web browsers, any Internet capable device can stream TV programming.
Cable providers are also branching out into telephone communications with Voice over IP cable services. Instead of using a separate phone line to place calls, VoIP customers can place phone calls over their Internet connections.
Because VoIP services use existing Internet networks, VoIP packages are very affordable. Most services include unlimited long distance calling, and international rates are extremely competitive.
On top of excellent call quality, VoIP services typically include features like caller ID, number blocking, voicemail, and other services at no extra cost. However, VoIP users must have broadband Internet connections to place calls. Most cable providers offer significant discounts for customers who bundle TV, Internet, and VoIP services together.