Despite the fact that there are many viewing options available, when it comes to setting up a home entertainment system, the choices usually come down to 2:
Cable or Satellite
Both are established technologies, offering programming for decades.
Both have advantages and disadvantages.
Both carry basically the same programming.
So how to decide?
Here is a list of pros and cons of both platforms so that you can choose which is best for you.
Here satellite can claim an advantage. Since cable service requires an established network of cables to deliver the programming to a customer, where the cable stops, there also stops the service. In addition, most areas are served by only one or two cable providers, limiting your supplier options.
Satellite signals, on the other hand, are set up to cover large areas and can provide service to places where cable has not yet been established, such as villages, farms and even caravans and vacation homes. While there are large segments of the planet that do not have consumer grade satellite service, most developed countries have ample coverage.
In addition, the Astra satellite group which covers the UK market carries signals from a variety of services including SKY, Freesat and others.
Here the score is about even. While Cable signals are carried by fairly rugged wires and optical cables, which would seem the safer way to go, they are subject to outages and service loss due to downed wires, failing switches and other faults inherent in a system that employs a large, complex network to deliver programming.
This system contains an additional limitation in how complex a signal can be carried on the existing network. This makes it hard for some older cable companies to deliver higher definition signals.
Despite having part of its infrastructure in orbit around the planet, satellite TV is really a simpler system. The signal goes up from the programming centers, and back down to the receivers. The only problem is interference, which does occur during particularly stormy nights. This is less of an issue today than in days gone by, due to improvements in the transmission equipment in the satellites, but still happens. And while cable is less affected by storms, unless a falling tree breaks the connection, since they get much of their programming from satellites as well, they are not completely immune to weather related issues.
With most cable companies, you are limited to the programming packages that they offer. With a satellite dish, you can often subscribe to a number of different channels and services, in effect creating your own programming mix.
While advances in satellite based internet service continue to roll in, cable still has the edge in this category, providing much faster data speeds, usually for less overall cost.
Where satellites do shine is in providing Internet service to remote areas or on the road. Many holiday travelers use portable satellite rigs to maintain their email and Facebook connections when away from home.
Here cable also wins. While satellite systems require mounting and aiming the dish, brining your dish cable into your house and connecting it to your equipment, cable only needs a hole drilled in the wall to let the cable through. And since most residences are either built cable ready or have been fitted for cable long since, this is for the most part a non-issue.
Another problem with satellite is the location of the dish. It must have a clear, unobstructed view of the part of the sky where the satellite is located. This may sound simple, but if your property is surrounded by high trees and/or buildings, this can be a problem. Also an issue is installing a dish on a multi-unit structure, when your exterior walls are facing the wrong direction.