Houstonians have plenty of choice when they search for high-speed internet because the largest city in Texas is covered by a total of 23 internet service providers. Three companies range from the national giants of the internet industry, including AT&T, Xfinity, and EarthLink to local providers that are unheard of elsewhere in the country: enTouch, Skynet, and GHz Wireless.
The city is densely packed and so it is surprising to find so many internet service providers (ISPs) operating in the fixed wireless category. Fixed wireless internet is carried over a wired network to within a close distance of the customer. At that point, an exchange carries the signal through a wireless transceiver to the customer’s property. Fixed wireless is suitable in rural areas to properties that aren’t connected to the telephone network. There aren’t many homes like that within the city limits of Houston. However, the city is a regional commercial center and serves surrounding rural areas, which are great markets for ERF Wireless, GHz Wireless, and Rise Broadband, which sell fixed wireless services.
Some properties aren’t even reached by fixed wireless internet. These locations can only get internet access through satellite. The USA’s two major satellite internet providers, Viasat and HughesNet serve customers in Houston and the surrounding areas.
Within the Houston area, shoppers for high speed internet plans are more likely to opt for wired systems: DSL internet, cable internet, and fiber internet. ISPs offering DSL internet connections include AT&T, EarthLink, CenturyLink, Windstream, and Frontier. Cable internet options are provided by Comcast’s Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Grande Communications, and enTouch. Fiber internet is available in Houston from AT&T Fiber, Frontier Fios, and EarthLink Fiber.
According to a definition created by the telecommunications industry’s governing authority, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), an internet service must have a download speed of at least 25 Mbps to be categorized as “broadband.” All of the ISPs in the Houston area advertise speeds much higher than that threshold. However, not all of them manage to deliver such high speeds in every part of the city.
DSL internet is the slowest of all internet connection types. Frontier, CenturyLink, and EarthLink all have internet speeds below 25 Mbps is some areas of Houston. EarthLink and Frontier, like AT&T have reduced their reliance on DSL internet by branching out into fiber internet services.
Fiber is the fastest internet connection type available. This internet service type is capable of delivering download speeds of 1 gigabits per second (Gbps), which is 1000 megabits per second (Mbps). The leading players in fiber internet are AT&T Fiber, Frontier Fios, and EarthLink Fiber.
Cable TV companies have a lot of money invested in their networks, they have been able to distribute the cost of their fixed assets by diversifying into internet services, running internet connections over their cables while also transmitting video simultaneously. Cable TV networks are composed of very high-quality cables. These are high-capacity fiber optic networks for the “trunk,” which runs from the internet access point, through the city out to neighborhood branch exchanges. From the exchange, a coaxial cable runs to the home of each customer.
Researching available internet options in any city in the United States can be difficult. This is because few ISPs have complete coverage in the cities where they operate. In Houston, the three biggest providers have near-total coverage of the city. However, that still isn’t complete coverage. In some areas, these providers might be available in one city block, but not in the next. The smaller players in the internet market have very low coverage. For example, enTouch only serves 4.6% of the Houston city area.
Xfinity offers a cable internet service that is largely carried on fiber optics. The company is able to provide Gigabit internet, which is the fastest service available in the USA. Xfinity is not the only Gigabit internet service available in the Houston area – AT&T Fiber, Frontier Fios, EarthLink Fiber, and Charter Spectrum all have fiber-optics laid in the city area and offer fast speeds.
An advantage of Gigabit internet services is that they offer the same upload speed as download speed. Plans with lower bandwidth always offer lower upload capacity than Mbps download speed. Other technological advantages with the Xfinity internet service is the xFi hub. Not only does this create a wi-fi network within the home, but it also coordinates home automation and personal area network systems, including Bluetooth, Zigbee, and thread. Outside the home, Xfinity home internet subscribers are allowed to access a network of wi-fi hotspots around the city for free.
The Houston area is served by some very good cable TV networks that all offer cable internet. Xfinity is the largest of these and offers the best service with reliable internet. When examining cable internet options, it can be seen that there are many similarities between the services of Xfinity and Charter Spectrum. Spectrum internet also gives subscribers access to a wi-fi hotspot network around Houston. However, the Xfinity city wi-fi network has more hotspots than the Charter Spectrum service.
Cable internet providers are not in direct competition in all of Houston. Each household doesn’t have access to the cable network of every TV service. So, you might not have the choice of cable internet service. Two smaller cable internet and TV systems operating in the Houston area are Grande Communications and enTouch.
Small businesses are more likely to need a larger capacity for upload than for download. So, those who work from home would be better off applying for a residential Gigabit internet plan. Residential internet plans are cheaper than business internet prices.
Home-based businesses have an extra advantage in that they can bundle telephone and or TV in with their internet service and make savings. Although Xfinity is also a good choice for telecommuters, AT&T Fiber offers a better deal. The phone service bundling offered by Xfinity costs $20 per month extra, but AT&T’s home landline addition to an internet plan costs an extra $10 per month.
One consideration that might tip the scales in favor of Xfinity for home-based workers is the company’s city-wide wi-fi network, which is free to use for residential internet subscribers. Those freelancers who are based from home but are out around the city every day, such as realtors, artisans, and salespeople, would get more use out of the city-wide wi-fi network of Xfinity than they would from their household internet service.
Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, and AT&T Fiber all offer great service and good deals on their internet and TV bundles. Charter Spectrum offers a city-wide wi-fi network similar to that of Xfinity, which is a nice free extra benefit. However, Xfinity’s roaming wi-fi system is better and its home wireless hub has more capabilities than the Charter Spectrum wi-fi router. The xFi gives family members more opportunities to stream video all over the house without the requirement for a TV package.
AT&T offers the widest range of TV service options of these three market leaders. DirecTV is a division of AT&T and the company gives its internet customers the option of adding a TV package with that system, or a more traditional streaming service, which transmits over the fiber optic cable system.
Generally, AT&T Fiber offers the cheapest internet and TV bundle. However, the price factor changes from area to area and from month to month. Any householder looking to combine a TV package in with an internet plan should first look at which company is available at the address and then look at the current deals offered by each of the services that are available.
Many apartment complexes include an internet service on site. There are many advantages to this situation for all concerned. The prospect of a large pool of customers with one responsible payer can entice an internet service provider to run its cable through to a property that it might not otherwise consider connecting. Also, a bulk sale has lower cost overheads and helps the ISP expand rapidly.
For the apartment complex owners, allowing a single ISP to run its cables through the complex is less disruptive and enables trunking, which can be embedded and interred around the property more discretely, then bundles of cables from competing providers. New builds can even coordinate with the ISP to get the cables installed during construction.
Apartment complex building managers can use the internet service either as an incentive to attract renters, by offering the internet for “free” – included in with the rent or by charging on the service at full price while paying a wholesale price to the ISP and making a profit.
If you live in an apartment complex that has an authorized onsite internet plan, check your rental contract before shopping around for an internet service. It might be that you are not allowed to take an internet connection from any provider other than the ISP that has done a deal with the apartment management company.
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