DSL vs. Dial-Up

DSL and dial-up. These two Internet technologies get categorized together a lot – but why? Do the two really have anything in common?


Technology: the same, but different

So how can DSL Internet service and dial-up have the same technology, but be different at the same time?

Well, it’s really simple actually. DSL and dial-up both use a phone line/landline to deliver Internet access. If you have dial-up, you use the same phone line for Internet and for your home phone. But – you can’t do both at the same time. If you’re online and someone tries to use the home phone, you’ll get booted offline.

That’s where DSL is different.

DSL Internet service providers have technology that’s a lot newer than dial-up technology. With a DSL connection, phone calls and Internet access operate on different frequencies (on the same line), so the two never overlap with one another. Basically, you can always get online and talk on the phone at the same time.

Did you know? Some DSL providers offer a DSL connection without home phone service.


Coverage area

Dial-up Internet providers have something that cable and even fiber Internet providers don’t: a huge coverage area.

Because all you need to get online is a phone line, dial-up is available pretty much anywhere – big cities, suburbs, small towns, rural neighborhoods.

DSL also has a big coverage area, but not as large as dial-up. But if they both only need a phone line, then why isn’t the coverage area the same? Because of download speeds.

Did you know? Download speeds are always much faster than upload speeds, no matter the type of Internet service.


Download speeds

A DSL connection is much faster than dial-up. Because DSL providers want to keep it that way, they limit the places they offer DSL to regions they know they can offer super-fast download speeds.

Each DSL provider has a local office – where you live in relation to that office determines how fast your speeds are. The closer you are, the faster speeds your speeds are. So because of that, DSL connections aren’t always available in the most rural areas.

Did you know? The local DSL office is called a DSLAM (digital subscriber line access multiplexer).