Fixed wireless access (FWA) internet transmits internet signals to homes using radio links instead of cables. It’ll transmit internet signals from the provider’s FWA tower to your home’s antenna. Then from the antenna to gateways and modems.
Fixed wireless access internet services work best for households in rural areas and as backup internet access for homes and businesses. I recommend FWA over broadband satellite internet.
I love networking and want to know everything about it. Which led me to create this guide on fixed wireless internet. It’ll also help us determine whether this internet connection type is worth getting.
The following sections will cover information like the following:
- What it is
- How it works
- Pros & cons
- Versus other connection types
- Wireless access buying guide
- Best fixed wireless access providers
Let’s rock and roll.
- Transmits radio frequency signals from towers to your home’s FWA antenna; the antenna then provides internet access to modems & routers
- Antennas must have no obstacles with towers to deliver FWA signals optimally
- Low latency (depending on radio frequency) and low internet speeds
- Works best for customers in rural areas; or for anyone who needs backup internet
What Is Fixed Wireless Internet Access?
Fixed wireless access (FWA) provides homes with internet access through radio frequencies. It doesn’t matter whether they’re licensed frequencies.
However, homes must remain within 10 miles of the fixed wireless provider’s tower to work.
Since providers can deliver internet to homes without cables, homes in rural areas will have more access. And companies don’t need to install additional infrastructure.
What Is 5G Fixed Wireless Access?
Providers will deliver wireless broadband services to your home or business using 5G New Radio (5G NR). They’ll usually transmit these signals using millimeter waves or mid-band.
What Is Wi-Fi Fixed Wireless Access?
Companies may deliver Wi-Fi 802.11 radio frequencies to businesses and homes. Baseband radios will upconvert 5 GHz spectrums into millimeter wave bands fixed wireless access networks can utilize.
What Is 4G LTE Fixed Wireless Access?
Providers deploy 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) internet mid-band spectrums to home’s FWA antennas to provide broadband services. These plans often cost less, but offer less speed and higher latency.
How Fixed Wireless Access Works
Companies will broadcast fixed wireless internet through cellular towers to antennas at homes. These antennas will intercept the signal and convert it into broadband internet.
From there, FWA antennas will send internet signals to your gateway, modem, and router. Then your devices can access the internet.
Where do the antennas go?
Technicians will install these antennas on your rooftops. To ensure no obstacles interfere with data transmission. As FWA requires direct contact between the antenna and tower.
If you’re in a large building with multiple units, these antennas will go on the roof.
Upon receiving radio frequencies from the base station, it’ll send it to a transceiver. That device will then send the internet to gateways (modem/router combo) or a modem and a router.
Fixed wireless internet will deliver broadband internet over 1 of 2 spectrum frequencies:
- Millimeter wave (mmWave): 24, 28, and 39 GHz bands
- Mid-Band: 2.5 and 3.7–4.2 GHz bands
Fixed Wireless Access Pros & Cons
Wins for fixed wireless access include:
- Provides availability in remote areas
- Low latency when using 5G
- Easy installation: no trenches or wiring required
The disadvantages of using this connection type are as follows:
- May experience lower speeds during peak hours
- Must live close to cellular towers
- Trees & buildings can impact your internet’s performance
How Fast Is Fixed Wireless Internet?
Download speeds range from 100 to 400 Mbps on average. And upload speeds of 10–50 Mbps. The average latency for mid-band services will range from 50 to 100 milliseconds (ms).
Fixed wireless access providers that utilize millimeter waves (MMWave) deliver download speeds up to 1.0 Gbps. And upload speeds up to 500 Mbps. Latency using these waves will fall under 30 ms.
Providers who deliver 4G LTE through FWA will provide 10–50 Mbps (download) and 1.0–5.0 Mbps (upload).
Many fixed wireless access providers won’t enforce hard or soft data caps. That means you won’t have slower internet after using “X” GB of data. Or you won’t have to pay data overage surcharges upon passing a bandwidth cap.
Let’s talk about the speeds first.
10–50 Mbps through 4G FWA allows 2–10 people to simultaneously stream 1080p FHD videos through platforms like Netflix . Having 25 Mbps download speeds and above would allow 1 device to stream 4K UHD video.
The upload speeds only work well for running a single Ring video doorbell. You’ll need at least 4.0 Mbps upload speeds for each home security camera you run. To record in 1080p.
Use upload speeds on the lower end for uploading attachments to emails or cloud storage. Those using millimeter waves could get away with livestreaming in 1080p with no issues.
Casual online gaming requires at least 3.0 Mbps download speeds per device. This includes console, PC, and mobile gaming. Any speeds FWA plans offer could satisfy gamers.
Until they want to PVP.
The 100+ milliseconds of ping from 4G FWA plans won’t do you any favors when you’re trying to build stuff in Fortnite. Or play arena in World of Warcraft. You’ll face lag.
Which could cost you a match. And your ranking. Consider competitive online gaming with fixed wireless access if you’re using 5G signals.
Fixed Wireless Access vs. Other Connection Types
Here’s how FWA compares to other internet connection types:
|Reliable & quick installation
|More users lead to throttled speeds
|Businesses in remote locations
|Speed & reliability
|Limited availability, expensive, & requires ONT
|Remote workers, home servers, & constant file downloads/uploads
|Accessibility & low upload speeds
|Homes who browse the internet & want to budget
|Balances affordability, speed, and reliability
|Not as accessible in rural areas & may slow during peak times
|Gaming & online video streaming
|Competitive pricing & high speeds
|Reliability & low upload speeds
|Those in suburban areas who want fast internet
|Slow & expensive
|Anyone living in rural areas
Fixed Wireless Access vs. Fiber
Fixed wireless access is best for:
- More availability in rural areas
- Backup internet connections
Fiber internet is best for:
- High-speed internet
- More reliable internet connections
Fiber optic internet offers faster and symmetric internet speeds than FWA. Due to infrastructure requirements, fiber isn’t available in rural areas. Or even many cities.
Fixed wireless has much more availability, though it won’t perform online tasks as well as fiber.
For more info, read our Fixed Wireless Access vs. Fiber Internet article.
Fixed Wireless Access vs. Wi-Fi
Fixed wireless access serves as a medium for delivering internet connections to homes. But homes and businesses cannot connect to FWA antennas with their devices. They must still have a router that’ll transmit Wi-Fi radio frequencies to your devices.
Fixed Wireless Access Internet Buying Guide
Consider these factors when shopping for a FWA internet provider:
- Data cap: limits the amount of online activities your family can do
- Internet speeds: pick speeds your family would use
- Additional costs: installation charges, equipment rentals, & cancellation fees
- Does it require a contract?
- Can you bundle it with additional services?
- Network capacity: will you experience slower internet during peak hours?
Most fixed wireless access providers won’t enforce hard data caps. Beware of the ones that do. Here’s an example of why.
AT&T Fixed Wireless enforces a 350 GB data cap . Once you pass this allowance, you must pay $10 per additional 50 GB used. Your household can watch 139 total hours of 720p HD video a month before breaching this cap.
What if you need to download large files (100+ GB)?
You’re on your way to paying data overage charges sooner than other customers. Congrats.
Since you can’t use your own devices with FWA providers, you must use theirs. Many providers will offer these devices for free, though. But may charge an activation fee.
Many fixed wireless access providers also offer cellular plans (e.g., Verizon). Because of this, they’ll want to motivate you to use more of their products. Thus, they’ll discount their home internet plan if you have a voice line.
Best Fixed Wireless Internet Providers Compared
Let’s compare fixed wireless access internet providers:
|* Starting Price
|AT&T Fixed Wireless
|25–50 Mbps (DL)4.0–5.0 Mbps (UL)
|Verizon 4G LTE Home
|25–50 Mbps (DL)4.0 Mbps (UL)
|Verizon 5G Home
|85–100 Mbps (DL)10–50 Mbps (UL)
|T-Mobile 5G Home
|33–182 Mbps (DL)6.0–23 Mbps (UL)
* 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 5G Home offer the best FWA solutions. Their products cost the same and don’t include any equipment fees. If you’re using either provider’s postpaid cellular plans, you’ll pay $25 monthly for these plans.
If you use the Affordable Connectivity Program credit (ACP), you’ll get these plans free when stacking the discounts.
Verizon offers a price lock guarantee that lasts 10 years. T-Mobile offers one for an unspecified duration. I think that’s good.
Either way, avoiding future price hikes is never a loss.
Verizon also offers 5G Home Plus for $70 a month. This gives you up to 300 Mbps download speeds and free perks. These perks will vary at the time of ordering. They offered a $200 DoorDash or Grubhub gift card when I last saw them.
What if you want to bundle fixed wireless access internet and TV?
AT&T is the only provider with that option. Bundle it with DirecTV and get 160 channels for a starting price of $134.98. But you’ll have slower internet.
Starry offers great perks with 200 Mbps download speeds, a free router, and no contracts. But they serve New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Columbus, and Denver.
Rise Broadband requires you to pay an extra $20 a month for unlimited data usage. Otherwise, you’re stuck with their bandwidth constraints.
Verizon 4G LTE home provides slower internet speeds at the same price point as their 5G counterpart. But it works best for households that Verizon’s 5G coverage doesn’t reach.
FAQs: Fixed Wireless Access Internet
The following sections will cover commonly asked questions about fixed wireless access connections.
What Is the Best Fixed Wireless Internet?
The best fixed wireless access provider is Verizon. Their 5G Home Plus package delivers low-latency download speeds up to 300 Mbps. They also have no data caps or contracts.
Is Fixed Wireless Access Good for Gaming?
Fixed wireless access is fantastic for competitive online gaming if you use 5G signals. Some providers with these radio frequencies have ping as low as 30 ms .
Does Weather Affect Fixed Wireless Access Internet?
Bad weather conditions will not affect your fixed wireless access connection.
Fixed wireless access internet delivers potentially high-speed and low latency internet to homes without requiring additional infrastructure like cables. Because of this advantage, homes in rural areas can perform most online tasks without issues.
Or it can serve as an excellent backup internet source during blackouts, network outages, and natural disasters.
Despite all my praise for this connection type, it has its flaws. Compare all your options before picking a provider. We’ve reviewed many ISPs in separate guides.