What Is DSL Internet? | Learn How It Works Compared With Other Network Options

You may or may not have heard of dial-up internet, which is an older form of internet service that uses telephone lines to connect you to the internet. You may have also heard of DSL spoken of in relation to dial-up, but what is DSL service? 

DSL is comparable to dial-up in that they both are both phone line internet services, but DSL is like dial-up’s younger sibling that is somehow better than them at everything and makes them feel bad about it. Before you proceed, check out what solid internet speeds are. Below, you will find all the information you need to know about how DSL works and whether it is the right internet service for you. As part of that, you’ll want to check out these internet providers reviews to see which ones are available in your area.

What Is DSL?


So, what does DSL mean for internet? Well, DSL is an acronym for Digital Subscriber Line, but that doesn’t exactly explain the question “what is DSL” or “what is DSL connection” now does it? What even is a Digital Subscriber Line? Internet DSL, like dial-up, provides internet through phone line, but unlike dial-up which would place a call to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to connect you, DSL operates on a higher frequency than telephone calls and uses digital information rather than analog which means it won’t interrupt your telephone services.


The internet service provided by a DSL network can come in two varieties, Symmetrical and Asymmetrical. A symmetrical DSL service will have equal upload and download speeds, whereas an asymmetrical DSL service has a lot more download than it does upload. The reason these two types exist is because most people download a lot more information than they upload, which makes an asymmetrical system far more practical. 


For home use, you are more likely to get more usage out of an asymmetric DSL connection because most home users rarely upload anything to the internet but are downloading very frequently. When you are streaming videos online, you are downloading data continuously, but most likely the only times you are uploading things to the internet is when you post a picture on social media or submit a file for work.


what is dsl

A symmetrical DSL internet system is more targeted toward a business than a home user because file sharing is much more prevalent in that kind of environment. Symmetrical systems also have a tendency to operate at much slower speeds than your average asymmetrical system which is another reason they are less than ideal for a home environment. You would have to pay more for less.

How Does DSL Work?

When you have a telephone line connected to your home it usually takes the form of two copper wires through which data will pass. The thing is, those little copper wires can actually carry a lot more data than just phone conversations, so DSL uses that extra data capacity to transmit the data required for the internet. This doesn’t have any effect on your ability to place a call over those lines because it uses different frequencies than the phone line typically does for conversation.

Once you connect to the internet using this system, the data will transmit over the phone line and to your ISP. Unfortunately, this system comes with a few problems. Because of how this system functions, if you are far away from your ISP’s central office then your speeds will be much slower, and this problem gets exponentially worse the farther away you are. This means that, depending on where you live, you might have no choice but to have very slow internet speeds.

One of the great things about DSL internet service is that it is available almost everywhere, so if you live in a rural area that doesn’t have a cable or fiber option for high-speed internet, then you can usually get DSL service. Any place that has a telephone network, which is pretty much everywhere, can have DSL service as well.

read on about dsl and what it is

How Fast Is DSL Internet?


DSL is a slower internet option than either cable or fiber, but it can still get pretty fast. The average DSL internet speed is between 1 and 35 megabits per second (Mbps), but some ISPs offer much faster speeds that go up to 100 Mbps. This doesn’t even begin to compare to the higher-tier speeds of cable and fiber which can go up to 1,000 Mbps but it is still fast enough for most uses.


One of the benefits of having a DSL connection is that it is specifically for you. If you were to use a cable connection you would have to share bandwidth with all of your neighbors and may get less speed than you are paying for because of it, but with DSL the only people you have to worry about live in your house.


One of the downsides of using DSL for your internet service is that your speed is largely based on your proximity to your ISPs central office. If you are far away then your speeds will be lower, but if you are closer then they are likely to be faster. Unfortunately, there is no way to get around this problem except to change where you live, which is not an option that is available to many people.

How Fast Is DSL Internet?

DSL is a slower internet option than either cable or fiber, but it can still get pretty fast. The average DSL internet speed is between 1 and 35 megabits per second (Mbps), but some ISPs offer much faster speeds that go up to 100 Mbps. This doesn’t even begin to compare to the higher-tier speeds of cable and fiber which can go up to 1,000 Mbps but it is still fast enough for most uses.

One of the benefits of having a DSL connection is that it is specifically for you. If you were to use a cable connection you would have to share bandwidth with all of your neighbors and may get less speed than you are paying for because of it, but with DSL the only people you have to worry about live in your house.

One of the downsides of using DSL for your internet service is that your speed is largely based on your proximity to your ISPs central office. If you are far away then your speeds will be lower, but if you are closer then they are likely to be faster. Unfortunately, there is no way to get around this problem except to change where you live, which is not an option that is available to many people.

Equipment You Need for DSL Internet


The first thing you will need is a phone line. Even if you don’t have a landline in your home and don’t have any intention of using one, you will still need a phone line connected to your home because that is how DSL connects you to the internet.


You will then need to connect your computer to a modem. If you have had a cable connection before then this will be familiar. This connects your computer to the phone line and is what makes it possible to connect your computer to the internet.

Then you will need a router, which connects to your modem and provides your wireless internet service. Essentially, you are given one internet connection when you purchase internet from an ISP and that is through your modem which can only be connected to via a wired connection. 


If you want Wi-Fi service, you need to connect a router to the modem which will broadcast that connection and allow anything with Wi-Fi capability to connect to it. Sometimes these are built into the modem itself, which makes it easier, but if not you can set it up yourself easily.


If you do decide to have a landline then you will need one more piece of equipment, a splitter or line filter. This is what separates your internet service from your phone service and makes it so you can use both at the same time. It essentially turns one phone jack into two and filters the frequencies available through one of the inputs to only allow phone data.

Pros and Cons to DSL Internet

Is DSL good? There are many pros to going with DSL for your internet service, but there are quite a few cons as well. Some of the pros include not having to share bandwidth with your neighbors, having to spend less money on your internet connection, not needing extra equipment for your internet connection like a satellite dish, and its wide availability.

Some of the cons include having generally slower speeds than other internet service options and having your speed based on your location in comparison to your ISP. Depending on where you are and what you can afford you might have a difficult time doing things like playing online games or streaming movies, but DSL should serve just fine for all other uses like browsing the internet and interacting with social media.

dsl vs cable for gaming

DSL vs Cable for Gaming


Gaming can be a difficult subject when it comes to internet services because knowing exactly how fast your internet speed needs to be depends on a variety of factors. If you play a lot of online games that require a quick reaction time then you will need much faster internet service, but if you play games that are turn-based then a fast internet is less necessary.


Generally speaking, I would say anything above 25 Mbps is a decent speed for gaming and you should have minimal connection issues or lag, but you still may experience those problems on occasion. As a general rule, faster is better when it comes to gaming so, to be safe, you should get the fastest speed you can afford if you are going to be gaming a lot.

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