Fixed Wireless Access vs. Fiber Internet: Which Should You Get?

Choose fiber over fixed wireless access (FWA) as your primary internet connection type. It offers higher speeds, lower latency, and isn’t vulnerable to physical obstacles like trees. Choose FWA as a backup internet connection source.

Before picking a provider, I want to know what internet connection type to pick. That’s why I pitted fixed wireless access and fiber against one another.

As you read on, I’ll cover the following:

Let’s get a move on.

Should You Get Fiber Internet or Fixed Wireless Access?

Go with fiber over fixed wireless access (FWA) if it’s available for the following reasons:

  • Lower average latency: ideal for online gaming & video chats
  • Higher maximum speeds: anything more than 1.0 Gbps works best for managing home servers
  • Use your own device: saves you from paying equipment rental fees

FWA internet comes out ahead in ease of installation, pricing, and availability. Because of these factors, it makes for a better backup internet source. 

Meaning businesses (big and small), freelancers, internet addicts, and hyper-competitive gamers will benefit the most.

Fixed Wireless Access vs. Fiber Internet

Let’s compare fixed wireless access and fiber optic internet:

Fixed Wireless AccessFiber
Best ForBackup internet, watching videos, & general browsing8K streaming, competitive online gaming, & file transfers
Max. Speed1.0 Gbps10 Gbps
Avg. Latency40 ms8.1 ms
Avg. Monthly Fee$50/mo.$64/mo.
Equipment NeededNetwork gatewayONT & router
InstallationSelf-installedRequires professional installation
Fixed wireless access and fiber internet compared.

Don’t assume all providers will have the listed latencies I listed. I compiled many popular ISPs’ average ping and found the median for those numbers. The latency you’ll get will vary by provider.

Almost all fixed wireless access providers offer up to 100 Mbps download speeds. I haven’t seen any providers who offer up to 1.0 Gbps. But that’s what 5G frequencies are capable of.

Fiber vs. Various Fixed Wireless Access Frequencies

Fixed wireless access offers various frequencies. Making it harder to determine how it does overall against fiber connections.

The following sections will compare fiber optic internet to different fixed wireless frequencies.

5G Internet vs. Fiber

Choose 5G internet if:

  • Fiber isn’t available
  • You need high-speed backup internet

Choose fiber if:

  • You want more bandwidth & less latency
  • Higher upload speed
  • You live in an area with physical obstacles that could interfere with your FWA signal

Fiber beats 5G internet in every category. However, 5G internet serves a couple of purposes. 1: as a backup internet connection. 2: an internet option for people who can’t access cable or fiber.

Since 5G is vulnerable to interference from physical objects, it’s hard to recommend it over fiber. What’s the point of comparing if your internet won’t work because a tree sits between your FWA tower and home?

Microwave Internet vs. Fiber

Choose microwave internet if:

  • You need a high-speed backup internet connection
  • You don’t want additional infrastructure installed

Choose fiber if:

  • You’re in an area with many physical obstacles (e.g., buildings)

Both connection types offer ultra-low latency, have uptimes more than 99%, and offer speeds up to 10 Gbps [1]. But microwave offers coverage to less than 10% of the United States.

What is microwave internet?

I’ll cover that in a bit. For now, you must endure more of my ramblings.

LTE Internet vs. Fiber

Choose 4G LTE home internet if:

  • You need backup internet
  • Fiber isn’t available

Choose fiber if:

  • You play online games or make video calls
  • Higher speeds
  • Lower latency
  • You want a more reliable connection

It’s clear why fiber’s better. 4G can’t beat fiber in any category other than availability. And serving as backup internet.

Fiber vs. Fixed Wireless Access: Latency

Fiber optic internet works better for lag-free competitive online gaming and video conferencing. Some suggest 40–60 ms of latency is ideal for online gaming [2]. But why not go for less ping?

Because ping will make the biggest difference in your online gaming experience. Not internet speed. Since online gaming doesn’t require much speed in general. Except for file downloads.

Yes, you could use fixed wireless access for online PVP. But if you’re, for instance, a hyper-competitive Overwatch 2 player, you want the most reliable connection.

You want to choose fiber.

Again with the tree example. You don’t want it blocking your connection to an FWA tower and screwing up your internet connection.

Are you video-calling family, friends, or people from work? Average latency from both connection types will result in less lag during your calls.

Fiber vs. Fixed Wireless Access: Speed

Fiber internet offers much higher upload speeds than FWA internet. Except possibly microwave frequencies. That makes fiber optic connections better for uploading files, livestreaming, and managing smart devices.

Here’s an example. T-Mobile 5G Home offers 6.0–23 Mbps upload speeds. Whereas, the lowest tier fiber plans all providers offer 300 Mbps.

Imagine you want to upload a 1.0 GB 4K photo to Google Drive. With T-Mobile’s 6.0 Mbps upload speeds, it would take 22 minutes. It would take 26 seconds for a 300 Mbps fiber plan.

While I’m on T-Mobile, let’s consider livestreaming. To livestream on Twitch, you’ll need at least 7.5 Mbps upload speeds to stream in 720p 30 FPS. 6.0 Mbps isn’t going to cut it.

Regarding download speeds. Both connection types will accommodate any online activity. Fiber will take the crown in this category if you want quicker file downloads, though.

Unless you choose microwave FWA.

Fiber vs. Fixed Wireless Access: Availability

Here’s an availability comparison between FWA and fiber [3]:

  • Fiber: 38%
  • 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%

The source I gathered these numbers from doesn’t specify the frequencies available for FWA (e.g., 5G).

Fiber availability, when correlated with their provided speeds, remains around 38%. Making it provide more high-speed internet than fixed wireless access. However, actual availability will vary by provider.

Check an availability map before jumping the gun and getting either connection type.

Fiber vs. Fixed Wireless Access: Costs, Installation, & Equipment

Most providers for either connection type doesn’t charge ridiculous data overage surcharges or charge for additional data.

Since fiber internet requires professional installation, customers, on average, will pay $99. FWA customers usually receive a self-installation kit and plop their gateway somewhere in a house.

Fiber doesn’t often charge for router rentals to entice customers. But fixed wireless access customers may have to pay equipment fees. Plus, with FWA, you can’t use a third-party modem/gateway.

Fiber vs. Fixed Wireless Access: Reliability

Physical objects between fixed wireless access towers and home’s FWA antennas could result in slower or internet signal loss. Fiber optic internet doesn’t suffer from such a weakness.

Lousy weather conditions won’t affect either connection type. But fiber optic internet is immune to radio frequency and electromagnetic interference because of the glass inside fiber optic cables.

Fiber vs. Fixed Wireless Access: For Business

Office-based businesses shouldn’t rely on fixed wireless access for connectivity. The gamble you have with physical obstacle interference could cause interruptions to POS devices and video conferences.

Fiber optic internet will provide the most reliability. Unless there’s an internet outage. In that scenario, FWA is an excellent backup option that temporarily accommodates your business’ online needs.

Fiber vs. Fixed Wireless Access: For Video Streaming

Fiber gains an edge over FWA regarding online streaming in terms of reliability. Since physical obstacles could interfere with fixed wireless access connectivity, that could result in video buffering.

Otherwise, both connection types offer more than enough speed to handle more than 5 devices streaming 4K UHD video simultaneously.

Here are the speeds you’ll need to stream on every major platform:

TaskDownload Speed
Netflix3.0 Mbps: 720p
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
25 Mbps: 4K
Disney+5.0 Mbps: 1080p
25 Mbps: 4K
Hulu3.0 Mbps: Hulu’s Streaming Library
8.0 Mbps: livestreaming television
16 Mbps: 4K
Peacock TV3.0 Mbps: 1080p
Spotify2.0 Mbps
YouTube2.5 Mbps: 720p
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
20 Mbps: 4K

What Is Fiber Internet?

Internet services providers use glass fiber optic cables to deliver internet at the speed of light to home’s optical network terminals (ONTs). ONTs serve as your home’s fiber modem. As it converts optical frequencies to digital signals your devices can read.

There are different fiber connection types. And they’re the following:

  • Fiber to the cabinet (FTTC): fiber cables run to nodes, then nodes deliver internet to homes through copper cables
  • Fiber to the premises (FTTP): ISPs run fiber cables directly to customers

FTTP will provide the fastest internet connections. As it’s 100% fiber. Whereas, you could think of FTTC as DSL.

Pros & Cons of Fiber Internet

Areas where fiber internet wins include:

  • Low latency
  • High speeds
  • More reliable

Here’s why fiber isn’t the best for everyone:

  • Availability
  • Requires adding infrastructure

Fixed wireless access internet only makes up for fiber’s cons with more availability. While you won’t need to lay fiber cables or install ONTs, satellite internet requires home satellite dishes.

Most Popular Fiber Internet Providers

Here are your options for fiber optic internet providers:

Provider* Starting PriceMax. Speed# of States ServicedBest For
Verizon Fios$49.99–$89.99/mo.300–940 Mbps9 (Availability map)Remote work & discounts
AT&T Fiber$55–$180/mo.300–5,000 Mbps21 (Availability map)Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Frontier Fiber$39.99–$149.99/mo.500–2,000 Mbps25 (Availability map)Online gaming & home server management
Ziply Fiber$20–$300/mo.50–5,000 Mbps4Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Optimum Fiber$40–$180/mo.300–5,000 Mbps17Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
CenturyLink$30–$70/mo.200–940 Mbps16 (Availability map)Remote work
Xfinity Gigabit Pro$300/mo.6.0 Gbps40 (Availability map)Managing Home servers
Google Fiber$70–$100/mo.1.0–2.0 Gbps9Livestreaming
Windstream$39.99–$69.99/mo.500–1,000 Mbps18Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Fiber 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.

Verizon’s the best option on this list due to the various discounts they offer. For instance, bundle it with an existing mobile line, and you’ll shave $25 off your monthly Fios bill. And there’s the 10-year price lock.

I’m sure you don’t want to worry about price increases for your bill. This perk will remove that stress for a while.

Google Fiber’s my next favorite option. Since it offers 1 terabyte (TB) of free Google Drive storage. Useful for anyone who works remotely, small business owners, and freelancers.

But these 2 providers leave much desired in a couple areas. Higher speeds and availability.

All the 5,000 Mbps plans I listed work better for anyone who manages home servers. Since you’ll need to continually back up your files.

If those speeds are unnecessary, and you can’t get Verizon Fios or Google Fiber, consider one of the other options. Or look for niche internet providers who provide services in your state.

What Is Fixed Wireless Access?

Fixed wireless access (FWA) is an internet connection type where ISPs will deliver internet connectivity through one of many radio frequencies.

Different frequencies fixed wireless access internet offers include:

  • 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

Let’s discuss where FWA shines and falls.

Pros & Cons of Fixed Wireless Access

Here’s why I love fixed wireless access:

  • Speeds can reach as high as 10 Gbps: with microwave internet
  • Vast availability
  • Ideal for backup internet connections
  • Doesn’t require infrastructure installation
  • Simple to install internet equipment

FWA doesn’t do so well in these areas:

  • May have weak signals in areas with many physical obstacles
  • 4G & 3G frequencies offer don’t have the best ping

Fiber users don’t need to worry about trees interfering with their internet connectivity. And fiber offers much higher speeds and lower latency than most FWA frequencies.

Though microwave internet matches fiber in every area, it suffers from a major flaw.

Availability. No major providers offer microwave fixed wireless access products. You’d need to seek local or niche providers to get it.

Most Popular Fixed Wireless Access Providers

Fixed wireless access providers include the following:

Provider* Starting PriceSpeedFWA TypeData Cap
AT&T Fixed Wireless$59.99/mo.25/1.0 Mbps4G LTE350 GB
Starry$50/mo.200/100 Mbps5GNo
Rise Broadband$35–$50/mo.25–50 Mbps (DL)
4.0–5.0 Mbps (UL)
4G LTE250–350 GB
Verizon 4G LTE Home$50/mo.25–50 Mbps (DL)
4.0 Mbps (UL)
Verizon 5G Home$50/mo.85–100 Mbps (DL)
10–50 Mbps (UL)
T-Mobile 5G Home$50/mo.33–182 Mbps (DL)
6.0–23 Mbps (UL)
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.

Verizon 5G Home and T-Mobile’s identical service offers the best value among the listed companies. Both offer price locks to protect you from price hikes. And provide free equipment without needing to lock yourself into a contract.

Starry is the next best option. So long as it’s available in your area. I’m impressed by a post I found that had a user who posted their speeds (connected via Ethernet). 11 ms ping [4].

Verizon LTE Home is the next best option if 5G isn’t available in your area. However, it’s not the best for online gaming because of having ping between 40–50 ms.

AT&T and Rise are difficult to recommend because of their LOW data caps. With 350 GB of data, your home could stream 139 hours of 1080p FHD video a month.

Let’s check out other internet connection types.

Other Internet Connection Options to Consider

Before choosing between FWA and fiber, consider the following other internet types:

Internet TypeStrengthsWeaknessesBest For
Fixed WirelessQuick installation & accessibleSusceptible to physical object interruptionsFolks in rural areas & backup internet
FiberLow-latency & fastLimited availabilityRemote workers, home servers, & constant file downloads/uploads
DSLSpeeds don’t throttle during peak hoursWeakened signal when further from ISPVideo streaming (under 1080p)
CableCan bundle with cable TV products & high DL speedsThrottlingGaming & online video streaming (under 4K res.)
SatelliteMost accessibleLow bandwidth, data caps, & expensiveBackup internet connection
Internet connection types compared.

Here are the connection types to choose in order:

  1. Fiber: reliable, affordable, and high speeds
  2. Microwave FWA: as fast as fiber
  3. 5G FWA: high speeds & no contracts
  4. Cable: fantastic download speeds, but usually has data cap
  5. DSL: no data caps & download speeds will accommodate most tasks
  6. 4G FWA: accessible & high download speeds
  7. Satellite: pick this last

Fiber optic internet is always the best connection type for homes and businesses. It’s faster, somewhat affordable, and more reliable. Even if you don’t utilize all the speed your plan offers.

Microwave internet’s the next best option. It provides speeds and an average latency that mirrors fiber. Without the infrastructure requirements.

But it’s more susceptible to interference from physical obstacles like trees and buildings. The same goes for 5G and 4G LTE FWA.

In that case, cable’s your next best option. If you can’t get cable, consider DSL. Worst case scenario, choose satellite.

You can’t use it for competitive online gaming and video streaming due to lower average latency and soft data caps.

FAQs: Fiber & Fixed Wireless Access Internet

We’re not done, yet. We still need to cover frequently asked questions.

Is Fiber Faster Than 5G?

Fiber to the home offers faster maximum speeds (up to 10 GB) than 5G’s maximum 1.0 Gbps.

Is Fixed Wireless Better Than Fiber Internet?

Fiber optic internet is better than fixed wireless in every category other than availability.


Choose fiber optic over fixed wireless access if it’s available in your area. Otherwise, 5G FWA offers higher download speeds than most other connection types.

However, fixed wireless access serves as an ideal backup connection source for homes and businesses. If you have the budget, and must maintain constant connectivity, consider getting FWA as well.

Once you find the best connection type for your home, check out all the internet service providers we’ve compared.

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