Pros and Cons of Fixed Wireless Broadband Internet Access

Joyful businesswoman using digital tablet in city
d3sign / Getty Images

Fixed wireless broadband is a type of high-speed internet access where connections to service providers use radio signals rather than cables. Several different forms of fixed wireless broadband are available to residential and business customers.

Internet users who might prefer fixed wireless include people in areas that lack fiber optic cable, DSL or cable television lines. They can still enjoy broadband internet access via a wireless service that can beam the connection straight to where it needs to go.

Fixed wireless services usually support speeds upwards of 30 Mbps. Like most other internet access technologies available for home users, fixed wireless internet providers usually do not enforce data caps. However, due to the technology involved, fixed wireless internet service is often more expensive than traditional technologies like DSL.

Fixed Wireless Internet Equipment and Setup

Fixed wireless utilizes transmission towers (sometimes called ground stations) that communicate with each other and with the subscriber's location (often called customer premises). These ground stations are maintained by internet providers, similar to cell phone towers.

Subscribers install transceiver equipment on their building to communicate with the fixed wireless ground stations. Transceivers consist of a small dish or rectangular shaped antenna with attached radio transmitters.

Unlike satellite internet systems that communicate into outer space, fixed wireless dishes and radios communicate only with ground stations.

Limitations of Fixed Wireless

Compared to other forms of broadband internet, fixed wireless internet traditionally involves these limitations:

  • The service often requires line of sight access between the subscriber and a ground station. Obstructions from hills or trees prevent it from being installed in some locations. Rain or fog can sometimes adversely affect the quality of the service.
  • The cost per Mbps of bandwidth for subscribers tends to be relatively higher than other forms of broadband.
  • Unlike mobile internet services like cellular or WiMax, fixed wireless service is tied to one physical access point per subscriber, and does not support roaming.

Many people mistakenly believe fixed wireless connections always suffer from network latency problems that cause poor performance. While high latency is an issue for satellite internet, fixed wireless systems do not have this limitation. Customers routinely use fixed wireless for online gaming, VoIP, and other applications that require low network delays.

Fixed Wireless Providers in the US

There are a number of internet service providers that offer fixed wireless internet to US customers, such as AT&T, PEAK Internet, King Street Wireless, and Rise Broadband. Visit those pages for more information about their coverage areas and pricing options.

Check the BroadbandNow website to see if there's a provider near you who supports fixed wireless service.

Was this page helpful?