Alternatives to traditional wired home broadband internet connections have recently gotten a lot of attention. Many people annoyed with their current internet service provider and are excited about new options emerging into the market. Satellite internet technology utilizing low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, along with 5th generation cellular technology (5G) are now promising to offer a decent alternative to traditional wired home internet service providers such as Verizon Fios, AT&T Fiber, Spectrum, and Xfinity (Comcast).
SpaceX’s Starlink Internet Service is creating quite a strong buzz within the telecommunications industry. Many consumers are excited to have more competition in the market. Many others are excited because for the first time they will be able to get decent internet service at their rural location. The idea of Starlink may sound like a pipe dream to many, but service is quickly expanding its footprint to more and more regions each month.
Spectrum internet is an established player in the market with an expansive service territory. Much like Comcast, Spectrum is often accused of monopolistic practices including buying out competitors or briefly pricing competitors out of the market until they fail, only to then raise prices. For these reasons among others, many people are interested in an alternative to Spectrum internet. For many people their only other option is slow antiquated DSL service from their local phone provider. DSL is not really a great option in the modern internet era of streaming and cloud services. Spectrum does however have a lot going for it as well.
Generally Spectrum internet is fast and reliable, with speeds of 1 Gbps available in most areas. Cable internet utilizing DOCSIS 3.1 technology is generally the next best thing to fiber based internet. In many regions Spectrum internet is far and away the best option available. If you happen to live in a Verizon Fios coverage region or have access to fiber based internet from your local telco operator, that can also be a great choice. Generally fiber internet has the absolutely lowest latency and the highest upload speeds. Spectrum upload speeds are a fraction of your download speeds but generally fast enough for most people.
Consider Switching to Starlink Internet If the Following Applies
- Your are currently using a legacy satellite ISP such as HughesNet and Starlink is your only other option.
- Your internet usage is modest and you do not care about having the fastest speeds possible.
- You are not a gamer.
- You do not work from home.
- You do not care about using your own router.
- You are a cord cutter or looking to cut the cord.
If you are currently using a satellite internet service from a legacy provider such as HughesNet or Viasat and do not have access to cable or fiber based internet you will want to sign up for Starlink. Starlink is potentially going to be life changing for you. When compared to legacy satellite internet providers, Starlink wins hands down. Latency is in the 30 – 90 millisecond range vs the 500+ millisecond range with legacy satellite internet service providers. This is due to Starlink’s use of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites. Additionally download and upload speeds will be much higher with Starlink. Best of all Starlink currently has no data caps on their service. When compared to legacy providers, this is a game changer and then some!
If your internet needs are relatively modest Starlink internet may be a good option for you. On the average downloads are fast enough for 4K streaming and other online activities. During peak hours your speeds may be lower than expected. This is highly variable and largely depends on how crowded the Starlink cell you are located in is. It is also important that your Starlink dish has an fully unobstructed view of the sky. Any obstructions will impact performance and reliability. Generally download speeds of 75 Mbps to 150 Mbps is typical with Starlink. Upload speeds tend to be in the 15 Mbps to 30 Mbps range. Overall for the casual internet user with modest needs Starlink is likely a good choice, provided you have no obstructions block your dish.
Gaming is certainly possible on Starlink and usually works acceptably most of the time. Latency is relatively low but not nearly not as low as with Spectrum internet. Download and uploads speeds are more than enough for gaming. Gaming only requires about 5 Mbps of bandwidth for optimal results.
Unexpected drops is the main issue when gaming on Starlink. Starlink says that occasional drops averaging several seconds are to be expected until more satellites are launched to enhance coverage and stability. For gaming these drops are extremely frustrating. You will get booted from a match whenever a drop occurs.
Another potential downside of using Starlink for gaming is the use of CGNAT. Starlink uses CGNAT to assign IP addresses to subscribers. This is not unique to Starlink, other satellite internet service providers, and most cell phone carriers also use CGNAT.
The issue mainly affects people that are looking to get an “Open NAT Type” on a PlayStation or Xbox console. With CGNAT it is usually not possible to get an Open NAT Type. In most cases CGNAT will result in an automatic “Strict NAT Type”. This is due to a double NAT configuration. CGNAT plus the NAT on the Starlink router combine to form a double NAT. This is not ideal for gaming.
If you wish to get an Open NAT Type using Starlink your best option is using a quality VPN provider. The VPN provider that in my experience works best for gaming is ExpressVPN. They offer servers in North America for optimal performance and also offer servers globally which can be used to access geo-restricted content. ExpressVPN also offers a 30 risk free money back guarantee. If you are not satisfied you do not pay.
If you work from home the drops experienced with Starlink could be a real problem. Real time applications such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams will completely cut out and disconnect whenever a drop in internet service occurs. Additionally you may have issues connecting to certain corporate VPNs depending on what VPN protocol your company uses. You will also get drops in your VPN whenever your service cuts out even momentarily.
Performance can also be inconsistent at times and slightly higher latency makes Starlink less ideal for virtual meetings. If you rely on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other any videoconferencing platform you will want to stick with a traditional wired home broadband internet connection such as Spectrum or Verizon Fios.
If you wish to use your own router, avoid Starlink. Starlink internet uses CGNAT and their gateway offers no bridge mode or passthrough mode. This means that if you connect your own router you will have a triple NAT environment. This is far from ideal. The first layer of NAT is happening on the Starlink network via CGNAT, the second layer of NAT is happening on the Starlink provided gateway, and the third layer of NAT is happening on your personal router. Triple NAT can create a variety of issues ranging from performance to connectivity.
With Spectrum and most other cable providers you have the option of either using a straight cable modem without router functionality or putting your gateway into true bridge mode. This will pass your public IP address though to your personal router. This results in a properly configured network with just a single device (your personal router) performing NAT. If you wish to use your own router, (we highly recommend it) Spectrum is the better choice.
If you currently have cable TV service with Spectrum and have no plans to cut the cord, bundle your internet and TV services and save big. Spectrum offers some significant discounts for bundling your services. Using Xfinity for TV and Starlink for internet could easily cost you an extra $60 per month vs just using Spectrum for everything. If you are a cord cutter this does not apply as you would not be bundling TV and internet together. That said, Spectrum is likely still cheaper for internet on its own anyways. At $110 per month and $599 up front for equipment, Starlink is not exactly inexpensive.
Stay With Spectrum If The Following Applies
- You need a highly stable and reliable internet connection.
- You are a gamer.
- You do not have an unobstructed view of the sky.
- You want to use your own router.
- You want the fastest possible speeds.
With Spectrum you will usually get a highly reliable internet connection with consistent download and upload speeds. This is vital if you rely on your internet connection for critical tasks. This could include working from home, running a small business, or using VoIP services. Latency with Spectrum is usually in the 20 ms – 30 ms range, and jitter is usually less than 1 ms. This means that real time communication platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams will perform well. Corporate VPN connections will also be highly stable and free from drops most of the time.
If you are a gamer you will be well suited to using Spectrum for internet service. The low latency offered and lack of CGNAT makes it an ideal choice for gaming. If you want an open NAT type in games Spectrum is a good option. You get a public IP address that you can use to set up port forwarding.
The quality of service you will get from Starlink largely depends on how many Starlink users are active within your coverage cell and the number of obstructions blocking your dishes view of the sky. With Spectrum you will generally get full performance most of the time. This is the nature of DOCSIS technology. Wired communications tend to be more reliable because they are less susceptible to outside interference.
If you are unable to position your Starlink dish with an clear view of the sky, you will almost certainly have connection issues. Starlink offers a mobile app that can help you with placement of the dish and maximizing performance. That said, if you know the only place you can put the dish has trees blocking its view of the sky, you should just give Starlink a hard pass.
With Spectrum you get a public IPv4 address and the ability to bridge your public IP address to your own router. There are many reasons you may want to use your own router. These can include better Wi-Fi coverage, faster speeds, or additional security features. If you wish to use your own router, Spectrum makes it a breeze to properly configure.
Last but not least, another reason you may want to stay with Spectrum is if you want the absolute fastest download speeds. With Spectrum you can get internet service of 1 Gbps in most areas. A 1 gigabit internet connection will net about 945 Mbps of download speed due to packet overhead. This is ideal if you do a lot of downloading of large files or have multiple users sharing the internet connection. Most people would be perfectly fine with 200 Mbps to 500 Mbps, but if you need and or want the extra speed Spectrum can offer it, at a surprisingly affordable price too. Your bandwidth will generally be highly consistent and you can expect to get the speeds you are paying for most of the time.
Alternatives to traditional home broadband internet connections have recently gotten the attention of the public. Many people are fed up with their current internet service provider and are excited about new alternatives on the horizon. Starlink is a newcomer to the home internet market. For many people Starlink internet may be a decent option. For people who lack access to cable or fiber based internet, Starlink can be a total game changer.
For other people, Spectrum internet is well worth it because it offers the consistent reliable performance they need. Which ever you end up choosing, you can’t argue with having more competition in the market. The home broadband market is badly in need of some additional competition both to reduce costs and to drive the innovation of new technology.