Pros and Cons of Fixed Wireless Broadband Internet Access

Good service, but can be more expensive than more conventional solutions

Fixed wireless broadband is high-speed internet access in which connections to service providers use radio signals rather than cables.

Fixed wireless services usually support speeds upward 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 conventional technologies such as DSL.

Fixed Wireless Internet Equipment and Setup

Long-range W-FI antenna
Wikimedia Commons

Fixed wireless broadband services use transmission towers—sometimes called ground stations—that communicate with one another and with the subscriber's location. These ground stations are maintained by internet providers, similar to cell phone towers.

Subscribers install transceiver equipment in their home or 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 in 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 typcally involves several 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 unit of bandwidth for subscribers tends to be higher than other forms of broadband.
  • Unlike mobile internet services such as cellular and 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 suffer from network latency problems that cause poor performance. While high latency is a problem 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 several internet service providers that offer fixed wireless internet to U.S. customers including AT&T, PEAK Internet, King Street Wireless, and Rise Broadband

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