Pick cable internet over fixed wireless access (FWA) in most scenarios. It provides more reliability, lower latencies, higher upload speeds, and more available packages. However, FWA offers decent speeds at competitive pricing without throttling. Keep reading to compare both options.
I want to find the best internet connection type. To help us determine a winner, I’ve compared fixed wireless access and cable internet in various categories.
While reading, you’ll find the following:
- The winner
- Both connection types compared
- What cable internet is & popular providers
- What fixed wireless access is & popular providers
- Other internet options
Let’s get to it.
Should You Get Fixed Wireless Access or Cable Internet?
Pick cable internet over fixed wireless access (FWA) in most cases. And here’s why:
- Higher average speeds
- Much higher upload speeds for most plans
- Lower latency
- No need to worry about obstructions interfering with your signal
The downsides of cable internet make it difficult to recommend over FWA in some cases. Scenarios I’d recommend getting fixed wireless internet instead include:
- Your area doesn’t have obstructions (e.g., trees & hills) between your home and the FWA antenna
- If your home uses a lot of data: FWA plans don’t enforce data caps
- To avoid throttling: customers won’t experience throttling during peak hours
- Your home doesn’t need more than 200 Mbps download speeds
- More affordable internet: most plans don’t hike prices after a term agreement
Cable vs. Fixed Wireless Access Internet
Let’s compare cable and fiber optic internet:
|Cable||Fixed Wireless Access|
|Best For||Bundling with cable TV, online gaming, & watching videos||Backup internet, watching videos, & general browsing|
|Max. Speed||1.2 Gbps||1.0 Gbps|
|Avg. Latency||15 ms||40 ms|
|Avg. Monthly Fee||$51/mo.||$50/mo.|
|Equipment Needed||Cable modem & router||Network gateway|
Cable and fixed wireless access internet compared.
I found the average latency of each connection type by pulling together the average ping of each provider’s packages, then finding the median.
Fixed Wireless Access vs. Cable: Latency
Cable internet, on average, has much less latency than fixed wireless access internet. Making it better for online competitive and casual gaming. It’ll also help ensure you have smoother online video calls.
Because high latency in video calls can lead to disruptions like cuts and delays.
Some sources suggest you need 200 or fewer milliseconds of latency for stable video calls . Meaning, both connection types won’t cause you to run into any issues. Skype wants you to have 150 ms .
Fixed Wireless Access vs. Cable: Speed
You’ll find more cable internet plans that offer higher average speeds than fixed wireless access. Most FWA plans offer up to 200 Mbps download speeds. Whereas, almost all popular cable providers have plans with 1.2 Gbps.
200 Mbps download speeds are fantastic with homes having 4 or fewer people. So long as they don’t frequently torrent or download files or game patches.
Even 500 and 600 Mbps download speed plans many cable providers offer give you much more flexibility regarding file downloads. But not with uploads.
Both connection types offer similar upload speeds. And they aren’t symmetric. Meaning, not the same download and upload speeds.
Fixed Wireless Access vs. Cable: Availability
Here’s an availability comparison between cable and fiber internet :
- Cable: 80%
- Fixed wireless access:
- 10/1.0 Mbps: 69.54%
- 25/3.0 Mbps: 67.18%
- 100/20 Mbps: 30%
- 250/25 Mbps: 11.92%
- 1,000/100 Mbps: 9.76%
More Americans have access to high-speed cable internet than most fixed wireless access internet types. It appears Alaska is the main culprit as to why FWA doesn’t have more coverage.
Take Verizon’s 4G LTE coverage, for instance. Almost the entire U.S. (except Alaska) has coverage.
Fixed Wireless Access vs. Cable: Costs, Equipment, & Installation
Fixed wireless access costs less than cable internet in the long run. Many cable internet providers offer new customer pricing, then increase prices by up to 40% a year later.
Since most cable providers enforce data caps, a couple of additional fees surface. You’ll incur data overage surcharges when surpassing your data limit. And if you want to remove that cap, you’ll need to pay for add-ons or extra equipment.
Both connection types require a modem and router. However, fixed wireless access providers don’t allow you to use third-party modems. Meaning, you can’t save money on equipment rental fees.
All major cable ISPs allow customers to buy third-party modems and gateways to waive rental fees. You’ll need to make sure you buy approved modems or gateways, though. If you’re considering a cable provider, we’ve listed approved modems for all companies.
Both installations are plug-and-play. Connect your modem to the wall and activate it. Some cable providers require professional installations due to a lack of infrastructure.
This installation type could lead to more charges.
Fixed Wireless Access vs. Cable: Reliability
Cable internet is much more reliable than fixed wireless access. The coaxial cables ensure your cable connection won’t face interruptions because of weather or physical obstacles.
Say there’s a hill or a tree between your home’s receiver antenna and the provider’s repeater site or fixed wireless tower. That could reduce your home’s signal quality, leading to lower speeds. Or block your internet entirely.
Repeater sites can serve as a means to reduce this reliability issue, but it’s not ideal.
Fixed Wireless Access vs. Cable: For Gaming
Cable internet works better for online and competitive gaming due to having much less average latency than FWA. Even during peak usage, customers may have around 20 ms of ping. And cable is more reliable than FWA.
You’re less likely to find yourself randomly disconnected from an online match.
But that leads me to a question.
Do you frequently download large game files? Do you love installing and uninstalling Destiny 2? Each time you download Destiny 2, you’ll need to sacrifice 105 GB of your data allowance to cable ISPs .
Download file sizes around that size 12 times a month, and you’ll find yourself paying data overage fees in no time.
Almost all fixed wireless access providers don’t enforce data caps. Those of you who love sitting in front of your computer and watching the download bar move can do so in peace.
All cable and FWA packages provide more than enough speeds to game casually and competitively online. Every plan except for low-income cable internet and LTE home can support livestreaming online while gaming.
Fixed Wireless Access vs. Cable: For Business
Fixed wireless internet is viable for businesses as a backup internet connection. Or as a means to get connectivity in remote locations without access to cable.
Otherwise, cable offers the highest average download speeds. Which results in more productivity. The lower download speeds (200 Mbps and under) FWA usually offers can’t accommodate many online tasks.
An hour-long 4K video takes up about 45 GB of space . A 200 Mbps connection would require 30 minutes to download this file. 1,200 Mbps would need about 5 minutes to download the same file.
Fixed Wireless Access vs. Cable: For Video Streaming
Cable and fixed wireless access provide more than enough internet speed to stream any video resolution on any video streaming service or social media platform.
Use this for reference before we continue:
|Netflix||3.0 Mbps: 720p|
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
25 Mbps: 4K
|Disney+||5.0 Mbps: 1080p|
25 Mbps: 4K
|Hulu||3.0 Mbps: Hulu’s Streaming Library|
8.0 Mbps: livestreaming television
6 Mbps: 4K
|Peacock TV||3.0 Mbps: 1080p|
|YouTube||2.5 Mbps: 720p|
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
20 Mbps: 4K
Even low-income internet plans some cable providers offer could stream 4K video on at least a single device. The same goes for lower-end speeds on Verizon’s LTE Home internet plan.
Fixed wireless access could beat cable internet in 2 categories. Almost all FWA providers don’t enforce data caps. And they don’t throttle internet speeds.
Throttled internet speeds many cable customers suffer from could result in less bandwidth to support more devices watching online videos. Which may lead to buffering.
Data caps won’t matter for households watching 1080p FHD or lower videos. But 4K UHD will chew through a data cap quickly. And rack up data overage surcharges.
Xfinity, for instance, has a 1.2 terabyte (TB) data cap. It would take 205 hours of watching 4K UHD video to use all this allowance. If folks in your home love binging 4K Fireplace For Your Home on Netflix, your home’s out of luck.
You may have to settle for 1080p virtual fireplaces.
What Is Cable Internet?
Cable internet relies on coaxial cables to transmit internet connectivity to customers’ homes. These same wires deliver cable television.
Because of this, providers will often offer both services and the ability to bundle them for a lower price.
Before continuing, it’s important to know how cable internet works. ISPs transmit internet from headends to switch centers. Then, from there, to fiber nodes. And the fiber nodes will distribute internet to all the homes connected.
If many connected to the node use the internet simultaneously, they may experience slower speeds. Or throttled internet. Throttled internet also leads to lower latency.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s check out the advantages and disadvantages of cable.
Pros & Cons of Cable Internet
Advantages of cable internet include:
- High download speeds
- Can bundle with cable TV
- Decent download speeds
- Low latency
Disadvantages of cable internet include:
- Throttled speed & latency during peak hours
- Unequal download & upload speeds
- Hard data caps
Fixed wireless access internet doesn’t suffer from throttling during peak hours. Nor do almost all FWA providers enforce hard data caps. Meaning, your home could use data to your heart’s content.
Most Popular Cable Internet Providers
Here’s who offers cable internet services:
|Provider||* Starting Price||Max. Speed||# of States Serviced||Data Cap?||Best For|
|Spectrum||$49.99–$89.99/mo.||300–1,000 Mbps (DL)|
10–35 Mbps (UL)
|41 (Availability Map)||No||Online gaming & file downloads|
|Xfinity Cable||$20–$120/mo.||75–2,000 Mbps (DL)10–35 Mbps (UL)||48 (Availability Map)||1.20 TB||720p video streaming|
|Cox||$49.99–$79.99/mo.||100–1,000 Mbps (DL)5.0–35 Mbps (UL)||19 (Availability Map)||1.25 TB||720p video streaming|
|WOW!||$29.99–$94.99/mo.||200–1,200 Mbps (DL)5.0–50 Mbps (UL)||9||1.5–3.0 TB||1080p video streaming|
* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region. Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet), among other factors.
Spectrum doesn’t have a data cap, but they’re the only provider on this list who admits they throttle during peak hours . However, they don’t label it as so.
I’ve seen plenty of complaints on forums suggesting all the other providers throttle speeds as well. However, I have no primary sources to go off of.
If data usage is an issue for you, the higher tiers WOW! offers provide much higher data caps than Xfinity and Cox. But they don’t offer availability in many states.
Xfinity is your best bet when bundling cable TV with internet. They’re the only provider that offers bundle discounts. If you choose Xfinity and don’t want to micromanage your data, consider their xFi Complete gateway.
It’s $25 monthly. You’ll get a free upgrade every few years, increased upload speeds, and your data cap removed. The enhanced upload speeds will vary by package.
While Xfinity isn’t the most consumer-friendly company, they offer decent pricing. So long as you live in a region where they don’t charge an arm and a leg.
Cox is an option too. If you can’t, or don’t want to go with, the other 3 providers.
What Is Fixed Wireless Access Internet?
Fixed wireless access internet is when the internet provider delivers connectivity to home antennas through one of the following frequencies:
- Microwave: uses ultra-low latency high-capacity radio links
- 3G: high-latency 3G signals sent to homes
- 4G LTE: delivers mid-band spectrum frequencies
- 5G: uses low-latency mid-band or millimeter waves
This connectivity method relies on wireless signals, which brings up a question. What happens if you have obstructions like trees, hills, and buildings between your home’s antenna and the ISP’s?
You’ll encounter downtime and more frequent outages. Or even a weaker signal.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of FWA.
Pros & Cons of Fixed Wireless Access Internet
Fixed wireless access has the following pros:
- Reasonable speed & latency
- Microwave internet gives similar speeds to fiber
- Ideal for backup internet connections
- No additional infrastructure
- Easy installation
Cons FWA suffers from include:
- Obstructions between home & ISP’s wireless antenna can lead to interruptions
- 4G isn’t ideal for online gaming
Cable internet doesn’t suffer from obstruction interference. If you live in an area with many trees, hills, buildings, or whatever, you won’t have to worry about them messing up your connection.
Most Popular Fixed Wireless Access Internet Providers
Fixed wireless access providers include the following:
|Provider||* Starting Price||Speed||FWA Type||Data Cap|
|AT&T Fixed Wireless||$59.99/mo.||25/1.0 Mbps||4G LTE||350 GB|
|Rise Broadband||$35–$50/mo.||25–50 Mbps (DL)4.0–5.0 Mbps (UL)||4G LTE||250–350 GB|
|Verizon 4G LTE Home||$50/mo.||25–50 Mbps (DL)4.0 Mbps (UL)||4G LTE||No|
|Verizon 5G Home||$50/mo.||85–100 Mbps (DL)10–50 Mbps (UL)||5G||No|
|T-Mobile 5G Home||$50/mo.||33–182 Mbps (DL)6.0–23 Mbps (UL)||5G||No|
Fixed wireless access internet service providers compared.
* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region. Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet) among other factors. Pricing already accounts for discounts when enabling automatic payments.
Starry offers the highest download speeds. But what’s the downside? They’ll pay up to $200 to buy you out of your current ISP contract.
Verizon and T-Mobile offer up to $500 while providing fantastic download speeds. These conglomerates will also shave 50% off your bill if you have a line on one of their cellular plans.
Imagine paying $25 for these plans, then getting the $30/mo. Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) credit. That’s free HIGH-SPEED internet.
And they don’t have data caps. Something I can’t say the same regarding AT&T and Rise’s FWA plans.
If your household can’t get 5G, I recommend Verizon LTE Home. Though, it costs the same as their 5G products and gives you lower speeds.
Other Internet Connection Types to Consider
Don’t choose an internet type, yet. Consider one of these other options first:
|Internet Type||Strengths||Weaknesses||Best For|
|Cable||High download speeds||Throttling & hard data caps||Watching videos (under 4K) & gaming online|
|Fixed Wireless||High download speeds & no data cap||Objects like trees blocking your tower’s signal could cause interference||Any online task that doesn’t require much upstream bandwidth|
|Fiber||Most reliable & highest speeds||Coverage||Any online task|
|DSL||Reasonable download speeds||Slower speed & higher latency when further from ISP||Watching 1080p videos|
|Satellite||Most coverage||Expensive & slow||Backup internet connection|
Here are the connection types to choose in order:
- Fiber: highest speeds, equal download and upload speed, affordable, & reliable
- 5G fixed wireless access: download speeds comparable to cable & no data cap
- Cable: great download speeds for homes having over 4 people
- DSL: decent download speeds for homes with 3 or fewer people
- 4G fixed wireless access: decent downloads speeds & no data caps
- Satellite: lowest speeds & highest latency
Fiber optic internet has the lowest average latency, highest speeds (upload and download), and offers the most reliability. But it’s not available to most people.
If you’re one of the unlucky bunch who can’t get fiber, consider 5G FWA. These plans don’t have data caps or contracts. And they’ll give your household all the speeds you could need.
So long as you don’t live in an area with many trees. Otherwise, you’re better off getting cable. If available.
Cable usually has more coverage than DSL, but if you’re in a weird situation where DSL is available, and cable isn’t, choose it. Unless you have access to 4G FWA.
Only consider satellite internet as a last-resort option. Satellite internet has a high average latency (400+ ms), slow speeds, low soft data caps, and a lot of cost. Starlink’s the exception, but it’ll still cost an arm and a leg.
FAQs: Cable & Fixed Wireless Access Internet
Read on to find frequently asked questions about cable and fixed wireless access internet.
What Are the Disadvantages of Fixed Wireless Access?
The disadvantages of fixed wireless access internet stem from interruptions physical objects (like trees) can cause.
Cable internet gives you faster download speeds and lower latency. Meanwhile, it gives you the means to bundle your services with cable TV. However, FWA makes for a much better option if you want to avoid data caps and can work with the download speeds offered.
So long as you don’t live in an area with many trees to interfere with your signal.
Want more options regarding providers? Check out reviews and guides we’ve written on them. See if you find someone you like.