The Internet used to only come to our homes or business via a wired connection using a phone jack or cable outlet, but nowadays, you’ll find more options than that to get WiFi into a building. Still, those who don’t even have coaxial cables might wonder if there’s still a way to plug into the world wide web.
WIFI does not need to be plugged into a cable or coaxial outlet to work. You can use Fixed-Wireless Internet, a Satellite Internet Provider, or a WIFI Hotspot instead of a wired connection to get WIFI or internet connectivity.
This article will discuss how internet service providers supply people with a wired and wireless internet connection, looking at how each outlet works. It will also provide internet access without a cable, satellite, or phone jack connection. So, let’s get into it and talk about the world of internet connectivity.
Will I Need a Coaxial Cable for WiFi?
Most people are familiar with coaxial cables, even if they don’t recognize the name. Coaxial cables are those threaded outlets with a small pin in the center, and you’ve likely used one to get cable TV or an internet connection.
However, while these cables are standard in most households, you don’t necessarily need one to get a WiFi connection.
You won’t need a coaxial cable for WiFi, although these cables are the most common way internet service providers give households and businesses a centralized way to broadcast WiFi. Instead, you can get a wireless connection with a phone line, hotspot, or fiber optic connection.
Types of Internet Connection Outlets
So, now you know there are more ways to connect to the Internet than one, let’s take a tour of the internet outlets you can use and how each one works.
RJ11 and DSL
An RJ11 outlet is a small outlet that you can use to connect phone lines to your service provider. If your home is older than the cell phone, you likely have a few of these on your walls.
These RJ11 connections provide landline phones with service. However, when you plug a computer or router into this outlet, you can get internet connectivity via a DSL (Digital Subscriber Line).
Digital Subscriber Lines use thin, insulated copper wires that transmit the Internet to you by sending a signal to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) every time you connect, hence the name “dial-up.”
Since DSL must send many signals back and forth between your device and your ISP, and since distance affects your internet speeds, DSL is slow. These internet connections have average download speeds of 3 Mbps.
This speed can get even slower if you connect the RJ11 outlet to a router for WiFi access.
DSL internet, by most accounts, is outdated, but it’s still the only form of Internet available in many locations, particularly in rural areas.
If you want a quick summary of how DSL and RJ11 outlets work, you might find this YouTube video by Linus at TechQuickie helpful:
Cable internet connects an internet service provider’s internet terminal to a modem via a coaxial cable line, sending electrical wavelengths along the cable’s internal copper wire to give you an internet connection.
Thus, when you get Internet via cable, the internet service provider will add your line as a stop on their termination system, where the connection goes out.
From this terminal, hubs connect entire regions of users and dole out internet connection evenly. So, you and all your neighbors who use your internet service provider share a cable internet connection.
Once the Internet makes it to your home from the ISP, it runs from your coaxial cable line to the modem, where it either goes to your computer via an ethernet cable or a wireless router.
Since this connection is shared, the more people that use the Internet, the slower it will be. This feature is one of the most significant drawbacks of cable internet, as busy areas experience high internet latency.
However, the speed of a cable internet connection is almost always greater than DSL. On average, cable connections in the USA have download speeds of 21.353 Mbps with much higher maximum rates.
Coaxial cables are also the go-to outlet for satellite internet, which performs similarly to cable internet with a bit more variability in speed. Obstructions, such as trees, mountains, or even bad weather, can interrupt the satellite dish signal and wireless connection.
Interestingly, your internet speed seems most affected by your area, with low-income and rural regions receiving the slowest cable internet connections.
We discuss the topic of rural and remote area reception in our article “How To Get Reception On Your Cell Phone In Remote Areas?”
As the name suggests, fiber optic connections consist of glass fibers and use visible light to transmit information – at the speed of light.
Fiber optic outlets come in several shapes and sizes depending on your ISP. These plug-ins will be ST, SC, FC, or LC in design. Fiber optic outlets usually have a bulky box that comes with them, but these boxes are easy to hide inside a wall.
A fiber optic internet connection requires a particular modem and router to transmit the light waves traveling down the cable into usable Internet. So, if you upgrade to fiber, you’ll also need a whole new set of other devices.
A fiber optic connection generally operates between 250 to 1,000 Mbps download speeds. This speed, even at its slowest, is eleven times faster than cable.
These ultra-fast internet connections are on the rise, although replacing the cable internet infrastructure has proven an expensive challenge for most Internet Service Providers.
For a quick intro to fiber optic internet and how it works, check out this YouTube video by Shortcut Team:
How To Connect to the Internet Without a Cable Outlet
If you don’t have a coaxial cable, RJ11 outlet, or fiber optic connection, you may still be able to get Internet.
Wireless internet receivers such as fixed-wireless receivers and hotspots are great options for people who do not have a wired internet connection or cannot install one.
So, let’s talk about them:
Fixed-wireless internet is similar to cable but uses a wireless receiver, like a small satellite, to receive internet signals from radio towers. A fixed wireless internet connection requires a nearby transmission tower and a fixed line of sight to that tower.
Most major internet service providers offer this Fixed-Wireless type of connection. From the ISP, connections usually transmit via fiber optic cables to radio towers, where the signal emanates via radio waves that your receiver will pick up.
These ISP-provided receivers usually include a coaxial cable, which you will connect to a modem to receive Internet. From there, you can use a router to broadcast a WiFi connection.
This internet service is ideal for people in rural areas who do not have access to cable or fiber internet.
Still, installing a fixed-wireless receiver is also an easy way to get an internet connection in any building that does not have a cable or fiber outlet.
Satellite Internet Provider
A broadband satellite internet service provider lets you access fast speeds (50–500 Mbps) and unlimited data, typically through a satellite dish connected to your home, business, or vehicle, depending on whether you want residential, business, or RV.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink internet is an example of a satellite internet service provider and provides broadband satellite internet for $110–$500 a month. Starlink can be more expensive, with its up-front equipment costs.
Starlink internet works well for rural or remote areas without landline internet options like cable, fiber, or DSL. Starlink is a growing company and presence as it launches hundreds of new satellites to create 4,000 satellites in a low Earth orbit grid around the planet in space.
You can also buy many Starlink accessories on Amazon’s link.
A WiFi hotspot is a device that turns cellular data networks, such as 4G or 5G, into an accessible WiFi signal.
These devices use the already expansive cellular network to give you access to WiFi on devices that don’t use data, such as laptops or computers.
Since these Wi-Fi-conversion devices are wireless, you do not need a router or modem to use them. Instead, you only need a battery charge or electricity to power them up. Still, some WiFi hotspots come with an ethernet outlet, so you can use a wired connection to provide Internet to your devices.
With a hotspot, your internet speed will vary drastically depending on where you are. Generally, hotspot connections will be slower than cable and fiber optic Internet.
When connecting via a hotspot, your phone uses your mobile data, which can be expensive in the US. But why? Read our complete guide to learn more about the reasons and factors affecting data plan costs and “Why is Mobile Data So Expensive in the US?”
Does WiFi Need To Be Plugged Into a Cable Outlet? Final Thoughts
There are many ways that internet service providers can transmit internet connections to our homes and businesses.
While cable outlets are the most common way to connect to the Internet, other options, such as phone jacks for DSL, fiber optic outlets, fixed-wireless receivers, and hotspots, are viable alternatives.
- GCF Global: Computer Basics: Connecting to the Internet
- Florida Center For Instructional Technology: Teacher’s Guide To Distance Learning: Connectivity Issues and Alternatives
- DePaul University: DSL Speed – How Fast Is DSL Internet Service
- Federal Communications Commission: Getting Broadband Q&A
- Purdue University Center for Regional Development: The Real Digital Divide? Advertised Vs. Actual Internet Speeds
- The University of Texas at Dallas: Atlas Service Portal: Fiber Optic Communications
- Cleerline Fiber: Choosing Fiber Connectors
- Forbes: DSL vs. Cable vs. Fiber Internet: Major Differences, Pros, and Cons
- University of Missouri Extension: Broadband Technologies: A Primer on Access and Solutions