How to choose the best internet connection: DSL, cable or fibre-optic?

How to choose the best internet connection: DSL, cable or fibre-optic?

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Choosing what type of internet connection is right for you and your family can be tricky. explains what type of internet connections are available in the Netherlands, and gives us a few tips on how to make a choice. 

To get access to the internet in your home, you need your home to connect to a physical network that is connected to the world wide web. In the Netherlands, there are three types of connections for landline broadband internet available: DSL, cable and fibre-optics. Each connection type has its own advantages and disadvantages.

DSL or Digital Subscriber Line

A step up from the dial-up connections of yesterday, DSL allows for both phone and internet usage at the same time. A DSL connection uses your local phone line to deliver internet access at speeds as high as 200 Mbps. If the successor of DSL (VDSL) is available at your home, you can get acceptable speeds with DSL.

DSL broadband connections tend to be among the cheapest internet connections, and also have the highest coverage: Dutch homes without a DSL connection are scarce. Keep in mind, however, that unlike cable and fibre-optic connectivity, the actual download speeds for DSL can be slower than the speed advertised by the ISP. Generally, the further you are from your neighbourhood’s network access point, the slower the internet speed.

Cable internet

Cable is the most widespread type of connection (almost every Dutch home has a cable connection). Ziggo / Vodafone basically have a monopoly on the Dutch cable market, so a subscription to the internet via the cable is basically a subscription to the internet via Ziggo / Vodafone.

Cable subscriptions in the Netherlands tend to offer higher speeds than DSL. Speeds average between 40 Mbps and 400 Mbps, and a cable connection is often fast enough so that a large household with multiple people can watch movies online at the same time.

In general, the upload speed is about 10% of the download speed. So if you’d like to have a higher upload speed via a cable connection, you will need to get a subscription with a higher download speed. While cable connectivity is faster and more reliable, its main drawback is that it is more expensive than DSL and may not always be available to you.

Even if there is availability, chances are that your choices are restricted to a single provider. Keep in mind that cable internet connections are generally offered as a package, the most basic of which includes a television service. This is a disadvantage if you have no need for a television subscription.

Fibre-optic internet

If the fastest speeds possible are a high priority for you, then a fibre-optic connection is the way to go. Tiny glass fibres send and receive data at speeds ranging from 40 Mbps to 750 Mbps, making a fibre-optic connection the fastest internet solution out there. This is especially noteworthy when it comes to upload speeds: fibre-optic connections can upload data up to five times faster than both DSL and cable networks.

But, why does upload speed matter? A good upload speed is essential for sending large files (like backups to a cloud backup service or large videos to YouTube) or while hosting video conferences online.

While fibre-optic internet connections usually have the same download and upload speeds, cable internet connections generally feature upload speeds that are 10% of the download speeds.

So, why is fibre internet not the obvious choice for all users? For the simple reason that it requires the presence of fibre-optic cables in your area. Therefore, this option is ruled out if your area doesn’t support the installation of a fibre-optic connection.

In 2018, only 36% of Dutch homes featured a fibre connection. So, chances are that it’s not possible for you to get a fibre-optic internet subscription. Also, consider that a fibre subscription is often a bit more expensive than DSL.

So, how do you choose between DSL, cable or fibre-optic?

What do you want from your broadband connection? Don’t like to wait? Or just want something for your basic internet browsing needs?

Low standard, limited use

  • 1-2 person household
  • No need for frequent Skype contact with family in the mother country
  • No problem if it takes a while for windows updates or app updates to be downloaded
  • Fast internet connection available at work
  • No online gaming
  • Streaming movies occasionally, but seldom / never with multiple persons at the same time
  • No watching TV / sport via the internet connection
  • Low price is important 

If your expectations for your internet connection are low, a simple internet connection will do for you. Don’t bother paying too much for speed you won’t use: choose a simple subscription of 25-30 euros a month (20-40 Mbps). 

A higher standard, more intensive use

  • Household of 1-2 persons
  • Household with young kids
  • Watch Netflix, listen to Spotify
  • Share photos and videos online
  • Skype with family 

Look for an internet connection with at least 50 Mbps up. Cable, DSL or fibre-optic will do.

High demands, intensive use

  • Teenage kids in your household (who’d like to watch Netflix, watch their favourite YouTubers & send Snapchats all day long)
  • A lot of connected devices at the same time (phones, tablets, laptops, smart devices like video camera’s, doorbells, etc.)
  • You work at home, for example as a video editor, freelance photographer, vlogger
  • Would like to share photos and videos fast
  • Smooth online gaming experience, without lagging
  • Be able to backup files online instantly
  • Be online with multiple users at the same time, streaming Netflix films, watching YouTube, playing online games and having an uninterrupted Skype conversation 

Is sending large files, uploading videos to YouTube or sharing large sets of photos with your family in your home country something you do on a regular basis? Don’t want to wait? Or don’t want to hear people (your teenage kids, for instance) complaining about the internet connection? Choose a speedy cable or fibre-optic connection from 100 Mbps.

Some DSL providers offer connections with speeds of 200 Mbps; however, there is only a small chance that there’s a high-speed DSL connection available at your address.

Internet speed and the hardware in your home

Please note that your internet speed does not solely depend on your broadband subscription. If you connect multiple devices, you might need a better router than the one the ISP provides. If you connect your devices over Wi-Fi, you might need a more powerful router and / or a range extender for better connectivity on the 2nd (or 3rd) floor (and in spaces that are further away from the main Wi-Fi access-point).

Comparison site can make difficult choices, like choosing your internet subscription, a little easier. Every day, its team makes sure you find the best prices and deals when it comes to complex products like internet and phone subscriptions.



Coen Jonker

Product manager at

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