What is Fixed Wireless Internet?

April 14, 2020

Fixed wireless internet uses radio waves to establish an internet connection instead of cable or phone lines. Fixed wireless internet is mainly used by those in more rural areas  because the infrastructure for DSL, cable and fiber internet services are often not available. 

Fixed wireless internet requires the internet provider to install a small receiver somewhere on the exterior of your home, similar to satellite internet. The outdoor receiver collects the signal sent from the company’s closest land-based wireless internet tower. The technician will wire your home with a cable that runs from the outdoor receiver to your home’s router to carry the signal inside. Unlike satellite internet, which has to travel through the atmosphere, a fixed wireless signal only has to travel to the nearest tower making it less susceptible to weather conditions.

Who uses fixed wireless internet?

Residents who live in rural or remote areas often use fixed wireless internet because there aren’t many other options such as DSL or cable internet. Internet providers may find it too expensive to install a DSL or fiber-optic cable infrastructure for a small number of homes. Fixed wireless internet is easier to offer because all that’s needed is the installation of a receiver outside the home that captures the company’s broadband waves.

The FCC reports that roughly 98% of the U.S. has access to fixed wireless internet service at speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. The number drops in rural areas to 89.7%. These speeds are sufficient for most internet users for casual browsing, streaming and gaming, though if you have a larger household using the internet simultaneously, you may find the speeds insufficient.

Which companies offer fixed wireless internet?

AT&T

  • Data: Up to 25 Mbps speeds, 250 GB data allowance. 
  • Installation: Requires installation of an AT&T outdoor antenna and indoor residential gateway.
  • Features: Can be bundled with DirecTV service.

Frontier Fios

  • Data: Up to 25 Mbps speeds, no internet data caps. 
  • Installation: Frontier provides you with equipment for a monthly rental fee backed by 24/7 tech support.
  • Features: Can be bundled with TV and home phone service. 

GHz Wireless

  • Data: Up to 50 Mbps speeds, no data allowance caps. 
  • Installation: Comes with free wireless equipment.

Rise Broadband

  • Data: Up to 50 Mbps speeds, 150 to 500 GB data allowance.
  • Installation: Free equipment provided and installed by a technician on your home’s roof clear from trees.
  • Features: Can be bundled with phone service.

Pros and cons of fixed wireless internet

Pros

  • Availability: Fixed wireless internet provides access to rural areas where few options exist.
  • No phone line needed: Fixed wireless internet is transmitted to your home in radio waves captured by a receiver installed in your home. You won’t need a telephone connection for internet service.
  • Affordability: Compared to the alternative of satellite internet, fixed wireless internet is often less expensive.
  • Low latency and service interruptions: Your internet speeds should be fairly stable and have low latency (delays in internet response time) due to the relatively short distances between your internet provider’s wireless towers and your home’s receiver.

Cons

  • Cost: Fixed wireless internet service is sometimes more expensive than other options such as cable and DSL.
  • Equipment: Your internet provider will need to install a small dish onto your home to receive the wireless signal.
  • Weather interruptions: Just like satellite internet and TV, bad weather due to fog, rain or snow could affect your internet connection, though it’s less likely due to using land-based towers instead of orbiting satellites.

How does fixed wireless internet compare to other internet types?

Rural homeowners have limited options when it comes to internet service. Besides fixed wireless, the main alternative is satellite internet service. Here’s how the two compare:

Fixed wireless internet vs. satellite internet

Satellite internet and fixed wireless internet both require a dish that needs to be installed on your rooftop with a clear sightline to the closest tower for fixed wireless, or to the sky for satellite. Both types of internet are affected by bad weather, although satellite internet is affected more frequently. 

Fixed wireless internet has better latency (the time it takes for data to be sent from the provider to your devices) than satellite internet because of the distance the broadband needs to travel. Wireless towers may be just a few miles away compared to a satellite. The lower the latency, the faster and more reliable the connection is for streaming and online video games. 

Frequently Asked Questions


What is fixed wireless internet?


Fixed wireless internet doesn’t use underground cables to deliver internet service to your home. Instead, connectivity is delivered by radio waves from your internet provider’s closest wireless tower directly to a dish-like receiver mounted on your home’s rooftop.


Who should use fixed wireless internet?


Homeowners and renters who live in rural areas outside of cities and don’t have access to cable, DSL or fiber-optic internet are the best candidates for fixed wireless internet. No cable infrastructure is required — your connection is delivered wirelessly from the internet service provider’s nearest tower straight to your home’s receiver.


What equipment and installation is needed for fixed wireless internet?


A technician will need to install a dish-like receiver outside of your home with a clear sightline to the nearest wireless tower. The dish is usually mounted on the rooftop away from trees and other obstructions. The technician will also wire your receiver into your home and connect a router to deliver wireless internet to all users in the home.


Does fixed wireless internet use a phone line?


Fixed wireless internet service is delivered wirelessly. No cables are required, nor is a telephone line necessary.


How much does fixed wireless internet cost?


Depending on the provider and speed, fixed wireless internet can range in cost between $27.99 and $50 per month.


How fast is fixed wireless internet?


Fixed wireless speeds run between 25 Mbps and 50 Mbps on average. The connection is usually stable with low latency because the signal doesn’t have to travel too far to reach your home in most cases.