What Is Fixed Wireless Internet?

Catherine McNally
Editorial Lead, Internet & Gaming
Read More
February 17, 2022
2 min read

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Fixed wireless internet is a rural internet option that connects one location, like a farm or a house, to the internet via radio waves. That means you don’t need a phone or cable line for fixed wireless internet, but you will need an antenna.

But compared to other rural internet options like satellite internet and DSL, how does fixed wireless work? Let’s take a look.

What is a WISP?
Light Bulb

"WISP" stands for "Wireless Internet Service Provider," and it includes fixed wireless providers like Rise Broadband and AT&T. But even though the name mentions "wireless," WISPs don't include satellite or cell phone service providers.

Do you need a satellite dish or antenna for fixed wireless internet?

Fixed wireless internet uses antennas that are attached to your home (or near your home). These antennas beam your internet signal from your computer to a fixed location: usually a fixed wireless hub attached to a tower.

A man installs a fixed wireless antenna on a roof

Image source: Mimosa Networks

But you won’t need a large dish to get a fixed wireless signal, only an antenna.

Still, you’ll want to make sure your antenna has a clear line of sight to the tower. Any hills, trees, buildings, or other objects can cause problems with your signal.

The antennas that fixed wireless internet uses can be a lot cheaper than the cables other types of internet use. Especially in rural areas, where a company would need to build the infrastructure for a DSL or cable service from scratch.

How does weather affect fixed wireless internet?

The towers that fixed wireless antennas are attached to are land-based—you might even confuse one with a cell tower. And because they’re much closer to the ground than a satellite, fixed wireless users experience fewer issues with weather than satellite internet users might.

That said, rain and fog can still play havoc on a fixed wireless connection. But don’t worry if there’s a storm in the next county over. Because the fixed wireless signal is short ranged, there’s a smaller area that could be affected by bad weather.

Does fixed wireless internet have a lot of latency?

Because fixed wireless internet antennas are attached to land-based towers that are typically about 10 miles from your home, you’ll get a lot less lag, or latency, with this kind of connection than with satellite internet.

That short distance between your fixed wireless antenna and the tower means you’ll probably see latency that matches what you’d get with DSL internet.

You see, a satellite internet signal has to travel thousands of miles between your computer and the satellite hanging out in Earth’s orbit. That massive distance causes your online games to lag and your videos to buffer while your computer waits for a signal.

Find the best Internet Providers in your area.
Now that you know about fixed wireless internet, check this out next.

Find out more about fixed wireless internet.

Or find out more about your satellite internet options.

Catherine McNally
Written by
Catherine McNally
Catherine has a degree in journalism and an MBA, and has spent the last 10+ years writing everything from Okinawa travel guides to stories on Medium. She’s been online since AOL CDs were a thing and is an unapologetic PC gamer. She believes the internet is a necessity, not a luxury, and writes reviews and guides to help everyone stay connected. You can also find her on Twitter: @CMReviewsIt.

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