Starlink vs. Spectrum: Is Satellite or Cable Better?

Starlink
Starlink
Price:
$90.00–$5,000.00/mo*
Download speed:
20–220Mbps
Data:
Unlimited
Internet type:
Satellite (LEO)
Check Availability
filled red circle with the letter i cut out of the middle filled green circle with a check mark cut out in the middle
Price:
$19.99–$79.99/mo.**
Download speed:
30–1,000Mbps
Data:
Unlimited
Internet type:
Cable

*Plus hardware, shipping & handling fees, and tax. Fully refundable. Depending on location, some orders may take 2 weeks or more to fulfill.
**Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter.


Dave Schafer
Nov 18, 2023
Icon Time To Read8 min read

Is Starlink’s satellite internet as good as Spectrum’s cable internet?

Starlink is one of the top three satellite internet providers. It has nationwide availability, so it’s a great choice for rural customers and on-the-go use. Although it’s pricey, the fast speeds and unlimited data make it an attractive option for getting online in remote areas.

But being a cable internet provider, Spectrum still offers better prices, speed, and reliability than Starlink—just in fewer areas. We recommend it over Starlink if you can get it.

Need more info to make your decision? We’ve analyzed both providers’ plans, prices, equipment fees, and reliability ratings so you can see how Spectrum, one of the most widely available cable internet providers, stacks up against SpaceX’s popular satellite service. Let’s dive in.

Starlink internet plans

Plan
Price
Equipment cost
Speed
Data
Starlink Standard (Residential)$120.00/mo.$599.0025–100MbpsUnlimited standard
Starlink Priority (Business)$140.00–$500.00/mo.$2,500.0040–220Mbps40GB–2TB priority data; unlimited standard
Starlink Mobile (Roam Regional and Global)$150.00–$200.00/mo.$599.005–50MbpsUnlimited standard (lowest priority)
Starlink Mobile Priority (Mobility, Maritime)$250.00–$5,000.00/mo.$2,500.0040–220Mbps50GB–5TB; unlimited standard

*Plus hardware, shipping & handling fees, and tax. Fully refundable. Depending on location, some orders may take 2 weeks or more to fulfill.

Starlink offers four main internet services, with two being mostly directed at average users (Starlink Residential, now called Starlink Standard, and Starlink Roam, now called Starlink Mobile Regional and Starlink Mobile Global) and two being aimed more for business owners (Starlink Priority, previously Starlink Business, and Starlink Mobile Priority).

The choice is fairly simple: Residential is for home use, Roam is for taking on the road. Starlink Mobile Priority now includes what used to be Starlink Maritime. The boat plan, like all Starlink Mobile Priority data tiers and plans, comes with an in-motion dish, which accounts for the frankly exorbitant equipment cost. Starlink Priority uses this same dish but is intended for fixed location use. All the other plans use the standard Starlink dish.

The speeds for each plan are fixed, in the sense that you can’t choose a faster or slower plan to match your needs and budget. The actual speeds you see can vary though, depending on where you are and how much stress the network is under.

Finally, it’s also worth noting that Starlink likes to change its plan names rather frequently. Don’t be surprised if these get tweaked slightly. But the plans’ offerings tend to stay fairly consistent.

Spectrum Internet plans

Plan
Price
Equipment cost
Speed
Data
Spectrum Internet$49.99/mo.*No additional chargeUp to 300MbpsUnlimited
Spectrum Internet Ultra$69.99/mo.*No additional chargeUp to 500MbpsUnlimited
Spectrum Internet Gig$79.99/mo.*No additional chargeUp to 1,000MbpsUnlimited

*Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter.

Spectrum offers a few plans, but the main three are shown above, and which you’d prefer mostly depends on how much speed you need. The slowest plan on offer clocks in at 300Mbps, which is already faster than anything Starlink offers (and probably enough for most households). From there, you can choose to jump up to either 500Mbps or all the way to 1,000Mbps, which should be enough for even the most strenuous use cases.

All Spectrum’s plans include Wi-Fi equipment at no additional charge, or you can pay $5.00 per month to add Advanced Wi-Fi, which gives you increased security and network performance. All plans also feature unlimited data at no additional cost.

Compared to some other cable providers, Spectrum is a little expensive—you can definitely find 1,000Mbps plans for less than $79.99 per month. However, the low equipment costs and unlimited data do go a long way toward justifying the higher price.

Starlink vs. Spectrum: Pros and cons

Starlink pros and cons

Pros
pro Wide availability nearly everywhere (including many areas outside the US)
pro Portable or even in-motion use
pro Faster speeds and lower latency than many other satellite providers
pro Unlimited data
Cons
con Expensive prices for some plans
con Hefty equipment fees up front
con Lengthy waitlists

Starlink comes with many of the same pros and cons as other satellite internet providers like Viasat and Hughesnet. Generally, satellite internet is more expensive than hard-line internet types like DSL, cable, or fiber internet. But it’s also more widely available, so it’s perfect for people in remote or sparsely populated areas that get ignored by traditional internet providers.

Cable providers avoid these kinds of areas because the cost of laying copper lines doesn’t make sense for the few people living in the area. Starlink circumvents that issue by shipping you a satellite dish and instructions that walk you through self-installation. You can even choose between stationary equipment for your home and an in-motion Starlink Roam plan. And of course, you get unlimited data just like you do with Spectrum nowadays. Not half bad, right?

But even Elon Musk’s brainchild Starlink comes with downsides. In addition to its hefty upfront equipment costs (which other satellite providers require), you also have a monthly internet bill in the hundreds (which other satellite providers can also do). Plus, Starlink still had latency issues, even if it’s not nearly as much as providers like Viasat.  

Spectrum pros and cons

Pros
pro Wide availability
pro Much faster speeds than satellite
pro No extra costs for equipment
pro Unlimited data
Cons
con More expensive than many competing cable providers
con Large gaps in rural coverage
con Slower top speeds than many cable and fiber providers

Spectrum is one of the best cable internet providers for both populated and rural areas. It gives you a great bang for your buck in any city, and if you’re like me and grew up in dense forests with no houses in sight, Spectrum is more likely to be available near you than any other cable internet provider. Spectrum, more than any other cable provider, has purposefully built out its availability in these areas, connecting rural users all across the country.

In fact, where I grew up, we were hoping against hope we’d get Spectrum as we struggled to connect to Netflix on our dilapidated DSL network. We were lucky when we got 1Mbps and didn’t suffer from constant buffering. But of course, once I moved away, Spectrum came to town. At least my sister back at home can now enjoy streaming TV without a hint of lag.

So when you compare cable to satellite internet, cable comes out ahead in price, speed, and stability—it’s all around a better choice. But no internet service is perfect. Because Spectrum, like any cable provider, can’t match Starlink in portability or availability. Spectrum offers some of the best rural availability of its type, but it’s nothing compared to satellite internet’s full nationwide availability. And of course, you can’t pack up those copper cables into an RV for on-the-go travel, but you can bring Starlink Roam.

Want to see if Spectrum is available in your area? Enter your zip code below to find out.

Starlink and Spectrum’s internet types make them apples to oranges, so the real question comes down to what you need. Check out their features detailed below to see which provider best fits your lifestyle.

Starlink vs. Spectrum: Performance

Starlink offers perhaps the best performance of any satellite provider currently available. It has fast speeds and lower latency thanks to Starlink’s low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite setup.

However, even Starlink can’t match cable performance. Spectrum’s most affordable plan offers speeds up to three times faster than Starlink Standard, and it only gets faster from there. Cable also doesn’t suffer from the same high latency as satellite, making video calls and gaming smoother.

Starlink vs. Spectrum: Data

Starlink and Spectrum both feature unlimited data at no additional cost, which is a big win. No data cap means you can watch all your favorite shows worry free. In Starlink’s case, it also eliminates one of the biggest issues with satellite internet—typically data caps are prohibitively low and you have to pay through the roof for extra.

Starlink vs. Spectrum: Price

Starlink’s monthly service prices are more or less average for satellite internet. But while you may find plans from Viasat or Hughesnet for less, they also come with less speed and data.

Where Starlink’s price really stings is the equipment—those upfront costs are pretty steep, either $599.00 or $2,500.00 depending on which satellite and plan you choose.

Bullhorn

If price is a concern, you might want to check out a 5G home internet service. T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T all offer plans, and they’re an outstanding value.

Spectrum, while a bit pricey for a cable provider, is much more affordable than Starlink. The most you’ll pay for a new Spectrum plan starts at $79.99 per month, and that’s with equipment fees included—and for a plan that’s about 10 times faster than Starlink Standard.

Starlink vs. Spectrum: Equipment

Both Starlink and Spectrum provide all the gear you need to get up and running. In Starlink’s case, that means a satellite dish and a wireless router. The dish type varies depending on the plan you choose—Standard and Roam come with the Standard Starlink dish for $599.00, while Starlink for Boats and In Motion plans use the Flat High Performance Starlink dish for $2,500.00.

Spectrum’s equipment consists of either a basic wireless router (no additional cost) or the Spectrum Advanced Wi-Fi router (an extra $5.00 per month). These costs are a lot easier to stomach, but in terms of functionality, neither provider really has a leg up on the other.

Starlink vs. Spectrum: Availability

Starlink is available basically everywhere in the U.S., which is typical for satellite internet. There have been some issues in the past with waitlists, but at the time of writing, the Starlink availability map doesn’t show any, and we’re hopeful it stays that way. Starlink also has the distinct advantage of being available globally—you can get Starlink service in a number of countries around the world.

Spectrum has great availability in rural areas for a cable provider, but realistically, no cable provider can match satellite for coverage. It also has large gaps in the central and western states.

The easiest way to see whether Spectrum (or any other provider) is available in your area is to use our zip check tool. Just enter your zip code below to get a list of all your internet options.

Enter your zip code to find the best internet providers in your area.

Spectrum TV service

One potentially significant advantage of Spectrum over Starlink is that, as a cable provider, Spectrum offers TV service. Although many people have left cable TV for streaming, some still find a lot of value in live television. Plus, if we’re being honest, cable might actually be a better deal now than streaming—streaming prices have really skyrocketed over the years, and the fact that you often need several services to get all your favorite shows means the cost can actually exceed cable.

Spectrum TV plans, bundled with internet start at $119.98 per month and include a huge selection of channels. You can also stream your TV plan on your phone or tablet, so you don’t have to worry about being tied to your living room. There’s also the convenience of having TV and internet on the same bill.

The Verdict: Should you get Starlink or Spectrum?

When it comes down to it, Spectrum gives you a lot more for a lot less, but Starlink is still great for rural customers.

If you have access, Spectrum is definitely the way to go. You get faster internet service for a lot less money than you’d pay for Starlink. The only exception would be if you wanted internet for boating, RV use, or another mobile application, in which case Starlink is the way to go.

That said, not everyone has Spectrum availability. In fact, many people can’t get cable internet at all. In these cases, Starlink is a very strong choice, particularly because of its unlimited data. You may also want to consider alternatives like Viasat or Hughesnet if you need something a little more affordable. You might get less data with them, but that may be worth it if you only want some internet access and more money in your wallet.

Enter your ZIP code below to see what internet service providers are available in your area.

Starlink vs. Spectrum FAQ

Is Starlink more reliable than Spectrum?

No. Since Spectrum is cable, it’s generally less likely to experience issues than a satellite service like Starlink. That’s not to say Starlink is unreliable—we don’t think you’d have major problems with either service. However, if reliability is a top concern for you, go with Spectrum.

Is Starlink better than cable internet?

This really depends on your needs. Cable internet is generally faster and more affordable than satellite internet like Starlink. For many, that means cable is better. However, if you need internet in a remote spot, need to take your connection on the road, or want to put internet on an RV, boat, or other vehicle, Starlink is the better choice.

How much does Starlink cost?

Starlink Standard, the company’s basic residential plan, starts at $120 per month, with a one-time charge of $599 for equipment. Prices for priority data plans are higher, with monthly costs reaching up to $5,000 on some packages.

What is the cheapest Spectrum Internet plan?

Spectrum’s most affordable plan is $49.99 per month. For that price, you get 300Mbps internet and a wireless router included at no additional cost.

Dave Schafer
Written by
Dave Schafer
Dave has written professionally for tech companies and consumer technology sites for nearly five years, with a special focus on TV and internet. He uses his industry expertise to help readers at HighSpeedInternet.com get the most out of their services. No matter the project, he prefers his coffee black (the stronger, the better).