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What is fixed wireless internet — and could it be right for you?

Maria LeLaurin
Maria LeLaurin

May 22, 2019 — 3 min read

Fixed wireless internet is becoming more common in rural areas. Learn how it works and get all the pros and cons.

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There are tons of internet service providers (ISPs) these days, so choosing the right one can be a challenge. But for some of us, these many options — including cutting the cord — may not apply simply because of what’s available in our area.

So, what’s an alternative? Fixed wireless internet is an option that’s growing in popularity across the country. You don’t need a phone, cable or fiber line, and it’s a smart solution if you live in a rural area or own a small business.

How fixed internet works

Fixed wireless internet uses radio waves transmitted by a cell tower to bring you your internet connection. This is different from cable, DSL and fiber, all of which use cables or wires. It’s also different from satellite internet which, as the name implies, communicates with satellites in space.

The beauty of fixed internet is that it doesn’t require any hard wires. Instead, it uses an antenna located on the exterior of your house. The antenna picks up radio signals from the closest cell tower, and your provider is then able to give you access to the internet via a cable carrying the signal from the antenna to the router in your home.

Opening doors to connectivity in rural areas

Many rural areas still don’t have access to broadband internet. This impacts local economies as well as America’s economic picture as a whole. Fortunately, there are now a number of rural internet options with fixed internet being one of the most common.

Purely from a cost standpoint, fixed internet is often used in rural locations because the infrastructure for DSL can be cost-prohibitive due to transportation, burying cables and getting permits. For internet service providers, these costs outweigh the benefits of getting a limited number of subscribers, so fixed internet becomes advantageous not only for them but for the consumer.

At-a-glance advantages of fixed internet

  1. It’s easier to set up than broadband simply because there are no cables involved.
  2. Because there are no cables, there’s no chance of wires getting cut and disrupting connectivity.
  3. Unlike cellular internet services, data caps don’t come into play because fixed internet is a dedicated service.
  4. Bandwidth is flexible so speeds can fluctuate based on need. The number of users can fluctuate as well, which is ideal for small businesses.
  5. Security has been dramatically improved over time to address encryption, data privacy and authentication.

Be aware of these disadvantages

  1. The receiver and the transmitter require a line of sight in order to communicate. Trees, hills or large buildings make this communication challenging if not impossible in some areas.
  2. For the end-user, fixed wireless costs more than cable, DSL and satellite because it’s a dedicated service and not a shared access option.
  3. Fixed wireless internet requires a fixed access point, which means you don’t get the freedom of roaming via a cellular network and a broadband connection.
  4. The connection isn’t always reliable due to weather conditions like rain and fog, which can interfere. However, the weather is a factor more often with satellite internet.

A key takeaway for small businesses

Are you a small business owner currently exploring internet service options? Here’s a key consideration: If you have lower bandwidth and don’t think that reliability will be a problem, then cable or DSL might be the way to go; if the internet is critical to the daily operation and success of your business, then a dedicated solution is your best option.

Shop around for what’s right for you

Fixed internet is just one of many options available should you want high-speed internet without cable or a phone line. We can help you navigate through the choices and arrive at the best solution for your needs.