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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to allocate funds for expansion of broadband in rural America, and an estimated $22 billion has been invested over the past 5 years. But, according to the FCC 2020 Broadband Development Report approximately 18 million residents, primarily in rural regions, are still without access to a broadband network.

To help bridge the digital divide in rural regions, fixed wireless access is being looked upon as a saviour of sorts by the policy-makers, and is increasingly becoming a part of the solution. About $750 million of the Connect America Fund Phase II was awarded to ISPs that planned expansion of their infrastructures by utilizing fixed wireless access technology. Currently fixed wireless access is available in 45% of the US, and there are over 1700 big and small fixed wireless service providers in the market, but these numbers are anticipated to increase as more and more expansion programs materialize.

Today, we will take you through the various aspects of fixed wireless internet, so if you have been contemplating a subscription to a fixed wireless service in your area, this may help you make a more informed decision. 

What is Fixed Wireless Internet?

In urban and suburban areas wired broadband networks utilize copper phone lines, coaxial cable TV lines or fiber optic lines, to deliver data services. But sparsely populated rural America, is more often than not outside the reach of these wireline services, making fixed wireless a worthy option if available.    

So, how does fixed wireless internet work?

Well, while the tech used to deliver fixed wireless access may differ somewhat, from one service provider to another, the essentials remain the same. Meaning, data travels over a pre-existing wired network (usually fiber optic), and from the backhaul tower onwards, the signal transmits via the air over a terrestrial microwave platform. Quite like how cellular services operate, a series of towers makes wireless signal transmission possible. Your connection to the network is established via the provider’s access point located in your vicinity. And, the antenna, installed at your house, acts as a go-between in the 2-way communication with the provider’s access point, as data travels back and forth. 

Fixed wireless access links are cheaper and quicker to deploy for ISPs relative to wired infrastructures. Also, no hard installation of wires or cables is involved when you subscribe to a fixed wireless service. As long as you are in the line of sight of the provider’s access point you are good to go, unless you are located in a densely populated area and the provider is using LTE tech to broadcast the signal in a general direction.

Who Should Use Fixed Wireless Internet?

For rural communities that are removed from the reach of wireline services, fixed wireless is fast becoming popular as a cost effective way of accessing the internet. It obviously makes sense to pick a decently fast fixed wireless option when the only alternative is pricey satellite internet or slow DSL.

Here, take a look at some key points which tell why fixed wireless is the most viable option for residents of rural regions when compared to the other 2 commonly available types. 

Fixed Wireless Internet VS DSL

  • Compared to a DSL connection, fixed wireless is hassle free in terms of installation. You don’t require any wiring at your place, no copper phone lines or coaxial cables running to your premises. Albeit you will have to be within 10 miles or so of the access point, as well as in its line of sight to be able to connect seamlessly; and you will also have to have the necessary equipment installed at your premises.
  • DSL maybe wired but when you are living in areas removed from urbanization, you are not likely to be covered by an upgraded DSL network which can deliver download speeds up to 100 Mbps. As a result you may find yourself stuck with a traditionally slow DSL connection. Whereas fixed wireless internet can get you up to 50 Mbps fast downloads.

Fixed Wireless Internet VS Satellite Internet 

  • When compared to satellite internet fixed wireless internet is able to deliver higher speeds and better bandwidth. Fixed wireless tech is independent of a far-away satellite, or the physical distance between the subscriber and the provider’s hub. Instead, it relies on establishing a point-to-point connection with the provider’s access point within the vicinity. And is able to transfer data much faster. For higher speeds, fixed wireless internet is the way to go.
  • Satellite signals are transmitted via radio waves, and therefore weaken when traveling through rain, snow and dust storms. Even trees and foliage, high in water content, can weaken a satellite signal. Considering the thousands of miles data travels to the space and back, satellite internet is bound to be more prone to outages or interruptions relative to fixed wireless during severe weather conditions. On the other hand, fixed wireless tech, when configured correctly, can sustain through extreme weather, quite like your cellular phone service.
  • Latency is a downside of satellite internet, albeit it becomes apparent more so during online activities such as gaming and streaming. Satellite internet is almost infamous for its high latency level. The signal has to travel thousands of miles back and forth between space and earth. But, there is little that can be done about the delay which thus occurs. On the other hand, with fixed wireless the signal does not have much distance to travel. Usually the subscriber and the nearest provider access point are not more than 10 miles apart. So as opposed to 500-800 ms with satellite internet, the latency level for fixed wireless is typically 30-50 ms.
  • Fixed wireless internet is both cheaper and faster than satellite broadband. Which is perhaps one of the factors that are likely to impact your choice the most.

Top Fixed Wireless Internet Providers

Rise Broadband

Rise Broadband is the largest fixed wireless service provider in the US with a footprint in 16 states, and it is in the process of expanding services to more rural communities in order to help bridge the digital divide caused by the sheer lack of internet access.

  • Rise Broadband Internet offers a variety of speed tiers, but the 25 Mbps and 50 Mbps plans are the most popular.
  • You can download music & HD movies, stream HD video content, play light-weight online games, chat on video etc.
  • Rise Broadband plans are able to support multiple users.
  • You get the option to pick a no contract plan or one with a 1 or 2 year agreement which come with additional perks and benefits such as discount on installation.
Check Offer Availability In Your Area by Contacting Rise Broadband Customer Service

 

AT&T

For many rural communities across America which are still not able to access high-speed wired internet options, AT&T Fixed Wireless is a lifesaver. AT&T Fixed Wireless uses advanced LTE technology to deliver internet access in select rural regions where the AT&T wireline service is not available. With an indoor wireless gateway and an outdoor antenna installed at your home, AT&T pledges to deliver no less than 10 Mbps fast download speeds. Albeit, customers typically experience download speeds of 25 Mbps. 

  • Speeds fast enough to connect multiple devices via wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi
  • Supports standard internet activities including streaming HD video and music, light online gaming, social media, web surfing, and email
  • 350 GB data allowance
  • Option to bundle up with DIRECTV and earn a promo discount

The EndNote

Now that you have the essential information regarding fixed wireless internet covered, we hope you’ll be able to better assess the value of offers available to your rural community, and compare the value for money you are likely to get from each.

As we said earlier, fixed wireless internet is the most viable option for rural America in the absence of high-speed wireline services. While currently not as widely available across the US as one would like, with focused attention upon making fixed wireless a go-to source of affordable high-speed internet for rural communities, it is anticipated to play a significant role in closing the digital chasm.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How is fixed wireless different from satellite internet?

Satellite internet is delivered via an orbiting satellite which is about 22,000 miles out in space. The satellite modem and the dish installed at your premises send and receive information from the satellite. On the other hand a fixed wireless internet access point through which you establish a connection, is usually located within 10 miles of your location. For this reason alone, fixed wireless internet is able to deliver faster speeds with lower latency relative to satellite internet.

What speeds can I expect with fixed wireless internet?

Largely speaking you can expect up to 50 Mbps download speeds with a fixed wireless internet connection. However, experienced speeds are affected by a number of factors such as the external environment around your home, especially if the provider is using line of sight technology. Rise Broadband delivers up to 50 Mbps download speeds in its service locations. While typically experienced download speed with the fixed wireless service from AT&T is as high as 25 Mbps.

Can I get unlimited data with fixed wireless internet?

Yes. Rise Broadband Internet plans give you the option to pick a speed with capped or uncapped data. Meaning you can subscribe to the 50 Mbps plan with 250 GB data allowance or unlimited. AT&T Fixed Wireless however offers capped plans only, with 350 GB data per month.