Fixed Wireless Internet in the USA

Written by Mar 23, 2021

Terrestrial Fixed Wireless Internet In the United States

45%
45% Fixed-Wireless COVERAGE

For a full list of providers offering fixed wireless internet service, visit the fixed wireless provider page where we list every provider in the US and the communities they serve.

Fixed Wireless Performance

As with all types of broadband services, speeds and plans of fixed wireless service vary from provider to provider.

In general, residential fixed wireless plans are comparable to DSL or cable in terms of speeds offered — in the neighborhood of 5–50 Mbps.

Business-class fixed wireless plans are often much faster, with leading companies offering 500 Mbps symmetrical plans that rival dedicated fiber in terms of reliability, security, and speed of installation.

While these speeds aren’t astounding they can be an incredibly appealing option, especially as an alternative to satellite service. Fixed Wireless is often available in areas with a low concentration of wired options due to the flexible nature of fixed wireless deployment.

Should You Get Fixed Wireless Internet Service?

For consumers who have relied on old dial-up connections, or satellite for their internet connections, the introduction of fixed wireless broadband into their area can be a game changer. If you live in a rural area and have few options for internet access, then fixed wireless can be a great choice.

Benefits

For consumers who have few other options besides satellite fixed wireless can be a great alternative.

Large Coverage Area

One of the most appealing benefits of fixed wireless broadband is its broad consumer availability.

Because service providers aren’t required to invest heavily in new cable and infrastructure, offering service to larger areas is often more cost effective.

Relatively Low Latency

One of the key benefits of fixed wireless broadband over other rural technologies is its relatively low latency making online gaming and video conferencing programs such as Skype feasible.

Limitations

Line of Sight

One of the biggest limitations of fixed wireless internet is that in most implementations the antenna at the consumer’s premises and the ground station of the provider must have a direct line of sight.

This can be problematic in different types of terrain and it also makes fixed wireless connections subject to different weather conditions.

Security Considerations

Encryption and authentication are the key considerations for network engineers implimenting fixed wireless service. While the security concerns for a wireless service are somewhat different from a wired one, the protocols for encrypting and authenticating connections are generaly equally secure between the two technology types.

Average Higher Residential Cost

Depending on your service area, residential fixed wireless is often slightly more expensive for the speed you receive. However, it’s often worth considering since fixed wireless providers tend to be smaller than “big cable” corporations and have local customer support and are usually faster to fix any outages or issues.

Rain Fade

Like any wireless service, severe storms can cause a slight reduction in download and upload speeds called “rain fade.”

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What fixed wireless looks like

Fixed wireless broadband is a method of delivering Internet connection to consumers over the airwaves.

Similar to DSL and cable Internet, fixed wireless is a “last mile” technology that bridges the relatively short gap between the mainstream Internet “backbone” and consumer residences. 

Fixed wireless is a “last mile” technology that bridges the relatively short gap between the mainstream Internet “backbone” and consumer residences.

While DSL and cable bridge this gap using wired phone and television connections, fixed wireless accomplishes the same outcome by broadcasting the connection via radio waves from an access point (usually mounted on a tower) to reception dishes at consumer residences.

Simplified fixed wireless

Misconceptions about fixed wireless

Fixed wireless is not satellite

Fixed wireless is not satellite

While fixed wireless broadcasts from terrestrial towers, satellite Internet broadcasts from earth orbit. Satellite’s “bird’s eye view” translates to wide coverage, but the extra distance creates higher latency.

Fixed wireless is not Wi-Fi

Fixed wireless is not mobile

Mobile coverage operates like a giant Wi-Fi bubble — coverage is broadcast from towers, and any device within range can connect. Fixed wireless operates more like an invisible wire connecting two locations — coverage is broadcast from towers in a straight line to a specific customer.

Fixed wireless is not Wi-Fi

Fixed wireless is not Wi-Fi

Fixed wireless provides a direct point-to-point connection, requiring line-of-sight between the access point and reception device. Unlike Wi-Fi, fixed wireless cannot pass through or around minor barriers.

Why is it called "fixed"?

Internet Backbone

When implemented properly, fixed wireless can deliver gigabit connection speeds rivaling fiber connections. 

Magic? Hardly. The technology that makes fixed wireless effective is surprisingly simple: directional broadcasting.

The Technology: How it works

Because customer locations are stationary, fixed wireless connections can be focussed — think of how a magnifying glass channels light — making the “beam” much stronger than an omnidirectional broadcast such as AM/FM radio.

Wireless Technology: How it works

Directional connections on the lower end of the radio spectrum can rival DSL and cable. Broadcasting over higher-frequency microwave and EHF (Extremely high frequency) bands boosts the signal strength even more, achieving gigabit speeds comparable to fiber when properly implemented.

It’s not just small-time Internet providers that are excited about fixed wireless. Access to EHF frequencies has led big companies like Google and Facebook to invest in developing their own fixed wireless technologies and networks. 

Ambitious startups like Starry Internet plan to actively compete with major ISPs using fixed wireless technology.

The Configuration: Connection types

  • Point-to-point: Point-to-point fixed wireless configurations connect two locations exclusively, like a bridge. Most often used for the connection between access points on a tower and the Internet “backbone,” or to connect two buildings that need to share their network. 
  • Point-to-multipoint: Point-to-multipoint fixed wireless configurations connect a set number of locations from a single access point. Most often used to bridge the gap between a tower and customer residences.
Wireless Connnection types

The Challenge: Spectrum shortage

Crowded spectrum

Like any wireless technology, fixed wireless is deployed over airwaves. This creates challenges because it has to share those airwaves with every other wireless technology.

Between radio, Wi-Fi, military communications, mobile data, talk & text, satellite broadcasts, baby monitors, microwaves, ham radios, and hundreds of other devices, spectrum is crowded — so much so that most frequencies require licenses to use. 

Fixed wireless technology can broadcast data across most of the radio and microwave spectrums  , so the frequency of a connection varies from implementation to implementation based on what is available.

Available frequency

Many WISPs (wireless internet service providers) in rural areas broadcast on unlicensed bands (think of them as “cowboy bands”), at the risk of interference from other devices. In urban areas signal congestion from competing broadcasts (3G, 4G, etc.) makes free bandwidth difficult to find. It is only recently that technological advances have circumnavigated this problem by opening up high frequency microwave bands.

If the FCC and private companies are able to coordinate themselves to share the spectrum, fixed wireless will likely become a major challenger to wired technologies like fiber, cable, and DSL. 

Pros & Cons

pros


  • Fast and affordable to install
  • Flexible for rural coverage
  • Low latency
  • Generates competition for ISPs

cons


  • Line-of-sight requirement
  • Higher average cost
  • Spectrum shortage
  • Wireless security concerns

Largest Fixed-Wireless Providers

  1. One Ring Networks
    7.85% Coverage
    > 7.85
  2. MHO Networks
    6.16% Coverage
    > 6.16
  3. Rise Broadband
    6.01% Coverage
    > 6.01
  4. AT&T
    2.67% Coverage
    > 2.67
  5. King Street Wireless
    2.46% Coverage
    > 2.46
  6. CyberNet Communications
    2.15% Coverage
    > 2.15
  7. BelWave Communications
    1.95% Coverage
    > 1.95

States with the most Fixed-Wireless coverage

  1. Nevada
    98.9% Coverage
    98.9
  2. Vermont
    98.8% Coverage
    98.8
  3. Utah
    98.5% Coverage
    98.5
  4. Nebraska
    98.0% Coverage
    98.0
  5. Idaho
    96.2% Coverage
    96.2
  6. Arizona
    95.1% Coverage
    95.1
  7. Kansas
    94.2% Coverage
    94.2

Fixed-Wireless Providers: Availability by State

Alabama 1,043,036 21.2% 47 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Alaska 496,806 66.3% 24 Fixed-Wireless Providers
American Samoa 40,764 74.8% 2 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Arizona 6,527,705 95.1% 77 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Arkansas 1,290,647 42.8% 53 Fixed-Wireless Providers
California 18,530,194 47.9% 172 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Colorado 4,837,402 90.7% 112 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Connecticut 44,664 1.2% 9 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Delaware 180,043 19.1% 5 Fixed-Wireless Providers
District of Columbia 283,238 45.4% 13 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Florida 1,824,175 9.2% 62 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Georgia 1,683,524 16.4% 44 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Hawaii 187,234 13.2% 9 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Idaho 1,607,926 96.2% 59 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Illinois 11,089,905 85.4% 168 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Indiana 5,832,970 87.8% 113 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Iowa 2,469,192 79.7% 125 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Kansas 2,752,910 94.2% 98 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Kentucky 1,970,038 44.2% 64 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Louisiana 1,138,716 24.8% 36 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Maine 393,763 29.3% 21 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Maryland 1,421,332 23.8% 38 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Massachusetts 1,384,842 20.9% 33 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Michigan 4,362,867 44.3% 115 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Minnesota 4,541,455 83.2% 99 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Mississippi 1,163,292 38.6% 28 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Missouri 5,432,925 88.5% 113 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Montana 799,798 78.0% 56 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Nebraska 1,840,096 98.0% 80 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Nevada 2,907,198 98.9% 49 Fixed-Wireless Providers
New Hampshire 100,016 7.5% 20 Fixed-Wireless Providers
New Jersey 195,630 2.2% 20 Fixed-Wireless Providers
New Mexico 1,855,635 85.9% 58 Fixed-Wireless Providers
New York 6,041,060 30.9% 49 Fixed-Wireless Providers
North Carolina 1,971,867 19.5% 49 Fixed-Wireless Providers
North Dakota 328,228 47.4% 27 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Ohio 5,474,525 47.2% 118 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Oklahoma 2,957,627 76.1% 78 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Oregon 2,408,975 60.3% 92 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Pennsylvania 1,547,945 12.0% 71 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Puerto Rico 1,254,222 34.7% 17 Fixed-Wireless Providers
South Carolina 640,311 13.2% 22 Fixed-Wireless Providers
South Dakota 606,843 72.1% 34 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Tennessee 1,686,098 25.5% 61 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Texas 19,780,768 73.4% 281 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Utah 2,938,483 98.5% 56 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Vermont 623,945 98.8% 17 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Virgin Islands 59,868 57.6% 7 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Virginia 2,009,966 24.0% 64 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Washington 2,440,859 34.5% 93 Fixed-Wireless Providers
West Virginia 1,093,046 58.4% 22 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Wisconsin 3,227,254 55.5% 80 Fixed-Wireless Providers
Wyoming 550,597 93.1% 43 Fixed-Wireless Providers