In almost any scenario, fixed wireless internet serves as a better option than satellite internet. It costs less, has no data limits, and has much higher network speeds. In some instances, satellite internet may serve as a better option. Keep reading to learn when.
I’m trying to find the best internet connection type for homes. That led me to create this guide comparing fixed wireless access to satellite internet.
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
Keep reading to learn more.
Should You Get Satellite or Fixed Wireless Access Internet?
Pick fixed wireless access internet over satellite for the following reasons:
- Cheaper: more money for you to enjoy
- No data limits: use data to your heart’s content
- Lower latency: better for gaming & video calls
- No equipment fees: you don’t need to pay $599 to install your equipment
There’s one instance where satellite internet serves as a better option. Other than availability. Starlink internet offers higher download speeds and close to equal latency as 4G LTE home internet plans.
If you have disposable income and no access to 5G home internet, consider Starlink. SpaceX’s satellite internet product may also work better if you live in an area with many trees, buildings, or other obstacles that may lie between your home and the ISP’s wireless antenna.
Satellite vs. Fixed Wireless Access Internet
Let’s compare cable and fiber optic internet:
|Satellite Internet||Fixed Wireless Access|
|Best For||Internet access in remote areas||Backup internet, watching videos, & general browsing|
|Max. Speed||100 Mbps||1.0 Gbps|
|Avg. Latency||469 ms||40 ms|
|Avg. Monthly Fee||$86/mo.||$50/mo.|
|Equipment Needed||Flat panel antenna & satellite modem||Network gateway|
|Installation||Requires professional installation||Self-installed|
I found the average latencies of each connection type by finding the median of all average latencies each provider offered.
Satellite vs. Fixed Wireless Access: Latency & Gaming
Fixed wireless access internet wins the latency category without question. Even when compared to lower-latency satellite providers like Starlink, FWA’s average ping works better. Don’t use satellite internet for gaming or online video calls.
Both tasks rely on decent latency to perform well.
40–60 ms of latency for gaming is ideal . And Starlink supposedly meets those numbers with their median ping (25–50 ms) . But there’s the data limit issue.
SpaceX’s satellite internet service’s 1.0 terabyte (TB) is fine for many scenarios. But not much so if you frequently download game files. Say you need to re-download World of Warcraft and Destiny 2.
That’s around 200 GB of your data gone in less than a day.
Satellite vs. Fixed Wireless Access: Speed
Fixed wireless access internet offers speeds up to 1.0 Gbps. Microwave FWA frequencies offer up to 10 Gbps, but there aren’t many microwave providers. Satellite internet usually offers up to 100 Mbps.
Satellite internet could accommodate all online tasks for households with 3 or fewer people. So long as you don’t have people frequently downloading files and watching 4K video.
But the soft data caps satellite ISPs enforce are where the issue lies. Upon using all your data, the provider will throttle your internet speeds. For example, HughesNet will reduce your speeds to 1.0–3.0 Mbps.
A single device could browse the internet or watch 720p HD videos at those speeds.
FWA internet can accommodate any online task for households with more than 7 people. So long as you don’t want to manage home media servers. Because all 4G and 5G fixed wireless packages don’t offer upload speeds more than 100 Mbps.
Satellite vs. Fixed Wireless Access: Availability
Here’s an availability comparison between cable and fiber internet :
- 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%
- Satellite internet
- 25 Mbps: 99.96%
- 100–250 Mbps: 29.54%
Satellite internet offers more high- and low-speed connectivity throughout the United States than fixed wireless access. Starlink, for instance, offers more availability throughout Alaska .
An area where licensed and unlicensed FWA doesn’t have much coverage.
Satellite vs. Fixed Wireless Access: Costs, Equipment, & Installation
Here’s why fixed wireless access internet is more affordable than satellite internet:
- No professional installation required: no technician fees
- No massive equipment fees
- No need to top-up data
- Lower overall bill cost
FWA internet will require a network gateway or modem. Then connect the modem to a router to get Wi-Fi. Satellite internet demands a satellite modem and a home dish.
Satellite vs. Fixed Wireless Access: Reliability
If your home’s receiver has a line of sight with your provider’s wireless tower, fixed wireless access is more reliable. Otherwise, satellite internet may offer more reliability.
Both connection types COULD have slower connections because of radio frequency interference, lousy weather, or dust storms.
Satellite vs. Fixed Wireless Access: For Business
Always choose fixed wireless access internet over satellite for business use. Whether as a primary or backup solution. Most FWA packages offer much higher download speeds and lower latencies.
The lower ping comes into play when you or your team needs to set up video calls. With high latency, you’ll likely experience lag(iness) during your call.
High download speeds improve productivity. Say you run a small coffee shop, and you want to run the following tasks:
- POS system: requires 6.0/2.0 Mbps (DL & UL)
- Cloud security camera: 5.0 Mbps upload speeds
- Guest Wi-Fi: at least 100 Mbps of bandwidth available
- VoIP calls: 3.0 Mbps (DL & UL)
- Online work for ordering products: 3.0 Mbps (DL)
You’d want at least 117/8.0 Mbps of bandwidth available. Satellite internet plans are less likely to accommodate the upload speeds required.
If you’re in a remote location with no fixed wireless access, that’s a different story. But expect to use your connection for basic online browsing and checking emails.
Even businesses have data limits with many satellite providers. And that could stagnate productivity if you need to download many large file sizes. Yet don’t want to pay large sums for data top-ups.
Satellite vs. Fixed Wireless Access: For Video Streaming
In almost all scenarios, fixed wireless access serves as a better option than satellite for video streaming. Almost all FWA providers don’t enforce data caps, meaning your home could watch more content without worrying about throttled speeds.
Or paying more for data top-ups.
Before proceeding, refer to this chart for reference:
|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
16 Mbps: 4K
|Peacock TV||3.0 Mbps: 1080p|
|YouTube||2.5 Mbps: 720p|
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
20 Mbps: 4K
All packages fixed wireless access and satellite internet providers could stream these services without any buffering. So long as no one else is on your network hogging bandwidth.
Depending on the task, we reconsider Viasat and HughesNet for streaming 4K video. Verizon LTE Home’s lower end speeds (25 Mbps) would also make it more unlikely to watch 4K.
What Is Satellite Internet?
Internet service providers transmit internet from network operations centers to satellites in outer space. The satellites will then relay the signal to the customer’s antenna. And once the signal reaches a home’s antenna, it will transfer to a satellite modem.
ISPs’ satellites have the following orbit types:
- Low-earth orbit (LEO):
- Best for video calls & online gaming
- Satellites hover 300 miles away from Earth
- Higher download speeds & lower latency
- Starlink & Project Kuiper use these satellites
- Geostationary orbit:
- Best for checking emails and browsing Google
- Satellites hover 22,000 miles away from Earth
- Lower download speeds & higher latency
- HughesNet & Viasat use these satellites
Low-earth orbit serves as the ideal connection type for almost all online applications. But it’s much more expensive.
Pros & Cons of Satellite Internet
Wins I’ll give satellite internet include:
Otherwise, satellite internet doesn’t do well in these areas:
- Costs a lot
- Soft data caps
- Extremely high latency
- Low download & upload speeds
- Requires professional installation
Fixed wireless access internet offers competitive pricing and doesn’t require you to liquidate your home to afford equipment installation fees. You’ll also have latency and internet speeds that allow you to function online.
And you don’t need to deal with data caps. Use all the data you want with most FWA packages.
Most Popular Satellite Internet Providers
Let’s see what satellite internet providers you could choose from:
|Plan||* Starting Price||Max. Speeds (DL)||Installation Fee||Monthly Data|
|HughesNet||$64.99–$174.99/mo.||25 Mbps||Free||15–100 GB|
|Viasat||$69.99–$299.99/mo.||30–150 Mbps||Free||40–300 GB|
|Starlink||$110–$500/mo.||50–500 Mbps||$599||1.0 TB|
* 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.
Starlink is expensive, but it provides the best download speeds among its competitors. It also has latency that won’t make you want to rip your hair out. Starlink has an average latency of 25–50 ms.
Their counterparts provide an “impressive” 400 and over milliseconds.
Unlike its counterparts, Starlink also gives you a 30-day free trial. Which is critical for satellite internet. Because why get a service like that if you don’t know whether it’ll work for your home?
Only choose HughesNet and Viasat if you need backup internet connectivity for your home. Avoid using them as your primary provider. Unless you must. Because of their low speeds, high data top-up costs, horrendous latencies, and low amount of data your home has to work with.
What Is Fixed Wireless Access Internet?
Fixed wireless internet connections are when an internet provider transmits radio frequencies to a customer’s antenna transmitter from their transmitter. And they come in the following flavors:
- Microwave: uses low latency radio links
- 3G: high-latency 3G signals
- 4G LTE: mid-band spectrum frequencies
- 5G: low-latency millimeter waves or mid-band
I’m sure you’re wondering if they’re susceptible to interference. Yes. If hills, trees, buildings, or other obstacles stand between the customer’s and ISP’s transmitters, downtime will occur.
But FWA internet isn’t all bad. Let’s check out the pros and cons.
Pros & Cons of Fixed Wireless Access Internet
Fixed wireless access internet is great because:
- Doesn’t cost much
- Providers usually offer free equipment
- No data cap (usually)
- High download speeds
FWA isn’t the best in these areas:
- Upload speeds aren’t the best
- Obstructions can’t sit between your home and the ISP’s wireless antenna
Satellite internet only beats FWA in availability.
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|
* 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.
AT&T and Rise don’t offer the most value because of the data caps on their plans. However, they’re still more viable than satellite internet plans. Since they cost less and offer decent download speeds.
Verizon LTE Home is an excellent option if you can’t get its 5G counterpart. Albeit, you don’t have the highest upload speeds.
If T-Mobile, Verizon, and Starry are available in your area, which should you choose?
Go with Verizon or T-Mobile if you have cell phone plans with either. They’ll shave 50% off your bill if you bundle their 5G home products with their mobile plans.
If you have neither, T-Mobile offers the most value. They’ll buy you out of your contract up to $500. Starry only does so up to $200. Plus, T-Mobile offers the second-highest speeds.
And if contract buyout bonuses don’t matter, you may want Starry. Though 200 Mbps is the MAXIMUM download speed you’ll get.
Other Internet Connection Types to Consider
Before considering a connection type, weigh in other options like the following:
|Internet Type||Strengths||Weaknesses||Best For|
|Satellite||Coverage||Slow, expensive, & high latency||Backup internet connection|
|Fixed Wireless||Fast download speeds & no data cap||Buildings & trees could cause network interruptions||Any online task that doesn’t require much upstream bandwidth|
|Fiber||Fast, low-latency, & reliable||Coverage||Any online task|
|Cable||Fast download speeds & can bundle with cable TV||Data caps & throttling||Watching videos (under 4K) & gaming online|
|DSL||Affordable & decent download speeds||Slower internet when you live further from ISP||Watching 1080p videos|
Here are the connection types to choose in order:
- Fiber: highest speeds, lowest latency, and competitively priced (usually)
- 5G fixed wireless access: a little slower than cable, but doesn’t come with data caps
- Cable: download speeds work best for homes with 4 or more people
- DSL: download speeds work best for homes with 3 or fewer people
- 4G fixed wireless access: affordable & decent download speeds for single-person homes
- Satellite: only viable as backup internet
Fiber internet delivers the highest speeds, lowest latencies, and most reliable. Otherwise, 5G home internet is a decent option. So long as you live in an area clear of trees between your home’s receiver and the ISP’s wireless tower.
5G is a better choice than cable because it offers similar speeds, costs less in the long run, and doesn’t enforce data caps. If it’s not a viable option for your home, cable works better than DSL. Despite throttling, that happens to many customers.
DSL usually has lower upload speeds and weaker signal if your home’s further from the ISP. This weakness could make LTE home internet a better option.
Again, that depends on whether you live in an area with many trees. If not, choose 4G internet first. Because it’s cheap and doesn’t have a weaker signal when you’re far from the provider.
And satellite internet isn’t the best internet type to go for at the moment. The high costs and low data allowances don’t give them much value.
FAQs: Satellite & Fixed Wireless Access Internet
Read on to find frequently asked questions about fixed wireless access and satellite internet.
Is Fixed Wireless Internet the Same as Satellite?
Satellite and fixed wireless internet are different. The former uses microwave, 3G, 4G, and 5G frequencies. The latter uses radio signals.
Does Fixed Wireless Access Use Satellites?
Fixed wireless internet does not use satellites.
Fixed wireless internet is usually a better option than satellite. It offers higher speeds, costs less, and has lower latency. In some scenarios, Starlink competes against 4G LTE home internet. But it costs a lot more.
If you don’t care for any of the options you’ve found, compare the various providers we’ve reviewed in other guides.