DSL Vs. Dial Up Speed


When it comes to internet speeds, many computer users are left completely confused, especially when trying to understand the differences in speed between a DSL (digital subscriber line) and a dial-up internet connection. But as you are about to learn, the difference is that of night and day.


  • In order to better understand the speed differences between a DSL and a dial-up internet connection, you should first be aware of what the two have in common. On the back of any DSL modem, you'll notice an ordinary telephone line plugged into it--this is the same line you would use if you were using a dial-up modem.

    In the case of a dial-up connection, however, an analog line is used to transfer data, which must be converted into digital data. DSL, on the other hand, uses two separate channels--one for data and one for voice--and this is why a dial-up connection simply cannot reach the speeds of a DSL. So even though the ordinary phone line is necessary to establish the internet connection in either case, the similarities in connection speed between DSL and dial-up end there.

Actual Dial-Up Speeds

  • The fastest dial-up modems on the market today are clocked at a rate of 56K. What this means is that in the best-case scenario, your dial-up modem is capable of transferring 56 kilobits of data per second. However, the Federal Communications Commission has regulated this speed to 53K, which still isn't a very likely speed to achieve.

Actual DSL Speeds

  • Actual speeds of DSL connections are rated using two figures: a download speed and an upload speed. Again, these are speeds that are possible to achieve and actual speeds are never guaranteed, but using a DSL, it is possible to attain download speeds of 8 megabits per second and upload rates around 1024 kilobits per second. That's a data upload speed that is 20 times faster than the highest possible download speeds available through dial-up.

PC Connection and Speed

  • Whether you're using a DSL or a dial-up modem, you'll need a way to connect it to your computer. Most dial-up modems are internal cards that are installed right inside your PC. This means that there is really nothing you can do to improve the speed of your dial-up modem.

    DSL modems, however, can be tweaked to attain faster speeds and improved performance. They are typically external devices and can usually be connected to your computer either with an Ethernet cable connected to an internal Ethernet card or through the use of an ordinary USB cable. Experts agree that DSL connections tend to be faster and more efficient when using Ethernet cables as a means of connection.

Average Costs

  • Because dial-up modems have been around for so long, dial-up internet service is dirt cheap--usually along the lines of $5 to $10 a month--and it may even be included in your phone bill. DSL service is slightly more expensive, with current customers paying anywhere from $20 to $60 monthly.

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