What Is Fixed Wireless Broadband Internet Access?

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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.

Why Use Fixed Wireless Internet?

Areas that lack fiber optic cable, DSL or cable television lines can still enjoy broadband Internet access via a fixed wireless service.

Although they tend to offer lower speeds than other types of broadband Internet, fixed wireless services generally support between one and 10 Mbps of network bandwidth.

Fixed Wireless Internet Equipment and Setup

Fixed wireless broadband utilizes transmission towers (sometimes called ground stations) that communicate with each other and with the subscriber's location (sometimes 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 and 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 traditionally involves these limitations:

  • The service often requires line of sight access between the subscriber and a ground station. Obstructions from hills or trees prohibit it 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 such as 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 causing 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 latencies.