What is fixed wireless internet technology?
Fixed wireless isn’t new, but its fast download speeds, low latency, and reliable connectivity—even in rural areas—are quickly making it one of the most popular options for delivering high-speed internet to people who may not have had access to it before.
Fixed wireless technology relies on a network of wireless devices, receivers, and towers to deliver internet over the airwaves, similar to a radio signal.
A fixed wireless internet network consists of:
- A wireless tower with an access point, which connects to the internet and transmits the signal
- A reception device (or devices), such as a rooftop antenna, with ethernet or coaxial cables
- A router, for receiving and distributing the signal throughout your home or business
- Wireless devices like computers, phones, or Smart TVs to connect to the router
Because it doesn’t need the same type of infrastructure as other types of internet systems—such as fiber, cables, or satellites—fixed wireless technology can transmit internet signals directly from one point to another, without interference or interruption. The term “fixed wireless” is derived from this fixed point to fixed point connection.
Fixed wireless technology is considered “last mile” technology, connecting individual consumers with the larger Internet architecture using directional broadcasting instead of fiber or cable. Directional broadcasting shares signals between two fixed points (or multiple points) within a line of sight, making for an exceptionally powerful signal with greatly reduced interference. This is especially true when broadcasted over frequencies higher on the radio spectrum like microwaves, the frequency used by fixed wireless broadband internet.
Fixed wireless is different from other types of internet. It cannot pass through or around barriers like Wi-Fi, nor can it cover a broad range like mobile or satellite. However, the direct transmission of a signal between an access point and reception device allows fixed wireless to bypass other more crowded networks to deliver lower latency and faster speeds, almost like a private network.
How fixed wireless internet works
Fixed wireless internet works by delivering an internet signal directly from an access point to a reception device via higher-frequency microwaves. The frequencies are transmitted wirelessly from a fixed base station tower or access point to fixed individual receivers. Because it uses higher-frequency microwaves than other types of internet, fixed wireless can circumvent telephone, satellite, and fiber systems to deliver fast and reliable connectivity, a lot like driving in the fast lane of a freeway. Additionally, because all components in the system are stationary and within a direct line of sight, the fixed wireless connections can be more focused and concentrated, offering a stronger, more consistent signal strength that is less affected by factors like weather.
To ensure the best connections and service, receivers should be within a 10-mile radius of a service provider’s tower and maintain a line-of-sight connection.
Here’s how the experts at Airosurf deliver fixed wireless internet right to your door:
- An experienced Airosurf technician will visit your home or business, conduct an initial assessment to determine what service options will fit you best, and identify the ideal location for a wireless antenna. This antenna is how your home or business will “communicate” with the network via a centralized access tower and receive internet connectivity.
- A wireless antenna is installed and adjusted to receive a strong signal from our network of towers. Your internet connection will be transmitted using airwaves, without the need for cables, infrastructure, satellites, or even existing phone lines.
- The antenna will be connected to a router with CAT 5 cable. The router receives the signal from the antenna and distributes it to the devices throughout your home or business.
This direct signal transmission allows fixed wireless internet to work where others can’t, with faster speeds, lower latency (lag time), less infrastructure requirement, and increased reliability.
Fixed wireless internet vs satellite internet
Satellite internet has long been the preferred method for delivering high-speed internet to rural locations, and it has some similarities to fixed wireless. They both deliver internet services by transmitting a signal via airwaves from a distribution point to an access point. And, like fixed wireless, satellite internet requires an antenna, dish, or other receiver to receive signal, but no phone or cable lines.
However, that is about where the similarities end. The primary difference between satellite and fixed wireless internet—which then leads to a long list of other differences—is in the network design, specifically the distance between distribution points and access points.
While fixed wireless internet transmits a signal from a local tower directly to an access point within 10 miles or so, satellite internet distributes signal from a satellite orbiting the Earth, a moving distribution point more than 20,000 miles away. Moreover, with satellite internet, this signal is spread over a wide coverage area, while a signal from a fixed wireless distribution point is only going to receivers within a small radius. This impacts everything else about these two services, from data speeds and thresholds to signal strength and cost, and can be a determining factor in whether or not rural customers have access to reliable broadband internet.
Here’s how fixed wireless and satellite internet compare:
Interference with signal strength and connectivity. Satellite internet signals have to travel through miles of atmosphere to get to a receiver, increasing the chance that even mild weather conditions can impede your connectivity. Because it’s traveling a much shorter distance and through stable atmospheric conditions, a fixed wireless internet signal is less likely to be affected by weather.
Cost. Neither satellite nor fixed wireless internet requires an extensive network of cables, fiber, or phone lines to operate, but satellite internet’s overhead costs make it considerably more expensive. Maintaining a satellite network is expensive, and those costs often get passed down to consumers as higher fees and additional charges. Fixed wireless internet is much less expensive to set up and operate,
Data speeds and limits. The distance a satellite internet signal has to travel can severely impair connection speed—or latency—and data capacity on the receiving end. In general, the further a signal has to travel, the longer the delay in connection and the higher the latency. High latency can drag everything down, from streaming and gaming to video calls and web page downloading. Latency can also be affected by a high volume of users, so many satellite internet companies must place data caps on users to ensure the network continues to operate efficiently. This can mean overage charges if you exceed the cap or even slower download speeds during peak times. “Unlimited” plans may even incur slower internet speeds if users go over a certain cap. The shorter signal travel of fixed wireless internet, however, allows for exponentially faster download speeds and virtually no data caps.
Satellite and fixed wireless internet are both good options for providing broadband service to rural locations, but fixed wireless can offer more benefits for customers in rural areas where satellite has not been effective or available at all.
Contact Airosurf today to find out more about fixed wireless internet in your rural location and see if fixed wireless internet is your best option for broadband connectivity.
Fixed wireless vs other options
With fixed wireless internet, more people than ever can have access to reliable, affordable broadband internet, even in rural areas. While other internet options have their advantages, fixed wireless internet’s low overhead and direct signal can provide a level of service and quality that DSL, cable, and fiber simply can’t match.
Compared to other internet options, fixed wireless internet offers:
- Easier and faster set up without cables or wires for lower environmental impact and fewer terrain restrictions than fiber, cable, or DSL.
- High data caps (often 100GB+) or no caps at all. Even “unlimited” data plans with other internet options may impose a slower connection once users exceed a set data amount. Fixed wireless internet has a higher bandwidth than even mobile broadband, so you can download as much as you want for as long as you want with no fees or overages for going over a fine-print data limit.
- Higher download speeds (up to 1,000 Mbps or 1 Gbps) than the typical 25-50 Mbps available with other options. This allows for seamless streaming and gaming without lagging or buffering, even for multiple connected devices. Plus, its symmetrical internet connection means your upload speeds will be just as fast as your download speeds; cable, DSL, and satellite all use asymmetrical connections, with upload speeds generally slower than download.
- Scalability, since more users can be added or moved (within the prescribed radius) without augmenting or modifying the network infrastructure. And, as the number of users or subscribers goes up, the connection cost per user tends to go down.
- Availability, delivering reliable internet connectivity to more places, especially where installing the infrastructure for other broadband options is prohibitively expensive.
Like other internet options, fixed wireless internet isn’t perfect, and it isn’t the right solution for everyone. For starters, it can be slightly more expensive to operate than fiber with less scalability, and it isn’t as widely available as satellite internet. It also requires a line of sight between the receiver and base station; obstructions can affect the quality and strength of a signal, and may even make a fixed wireless connection impossible. Finally, it doesn’t cover as wide of an area as mobile broadband, satellite, or Wi-Fi, and it doesn’t support roaming. (It is “fixed,” after all.)
With all this said, however, each of these technologies has a place in a broader comprehensive solution to delivering high-quality broadband internet even to ultra-rural areas. To find out if fixed wireless internet is right for you and your rural location, contact Airosurf today.
Fixed wireless internet equipment and set up
Fixed wireless internet is high-speed broadband internet without all the cables and wires.
To set up fixed wireless internet at your home or business, you’ll need:
- An antenna. Modern wireless internet antennas—which are needed to receive the wireless signal from the local access tower—aren’t the spindly, leggy, wiry receivers you typically think of. Most look more like a small satellite dish and are only about the size of a shoebox. It will be installed securely on the roof or a pole in direct line of sight of the tower, in a location without any obstructions like trees, hills, or other buildings.
Most service providers will supply the antenna, though the cost will vary by provider. At Airosurf, the cost and installation of the antenna are included in the installation fee.
- A router. The router distributes the internet signal to devices in your home or business. You’ll need a specific router for ideal connectivity, which means the router you may have purchased for satellite or cable internet may not work for fixed wireless. Your router will typically need to be plugged into the wall for power.
With Airosurf, you can either buy or rent a router from us (when renting, a router management fee is simply added into your monthly bill), or purchase one from our list of approved routers. All of our approved routers are equipped to provide Wifi to connected devices with no additional equipment required.
- CAT 5 cable. CAT 5 cable connects the antenna to the router in order to transfer the internet signal. This is the only cable you’ll need for your fixed wireless internet and can be installed discreetly, keeping them neat, safe, and out of the way.
With just three simple components and an experienced team of professionals, Airosurf makes getting high-speed broadband connectivity in your home or business easier than ever. We provide all the equipment and handle all of your installation and setup needs, so the only thing you’ll need to worry about is what you’ll do first with your wireless internet. Get started today by calling us at 405-413-7002 to schedule your consultation and installation appointment. You can also use our convenient online contact form at airosurf.com/contact.