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Fixed wireless access vs. mobile broadband

Cell phone used as hotspot while establishing new internet service.

If you’re deciding between fixed wireless access (FWA) or mobile broadband, you might be wondering which one is better. As with most internet services, it depends on your needs. However, there are some differences between the two.

For example, fixed wireless access provides a more reliable service at a fixed location than mobile broadband, while mobile broadband offers more locational flexibility.

In this article, we’ll explain in-depth the differences between fixed wireless access and mobile broadband.

The FWA technology gap

You deserve better internet

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) uses radio waves which are impacted by obstacles like buildings and trees, resulting in reduced reliability.

The FWA technology gap - You deserve better internet - fixed wireless icon

What is fixed wireless internet?

Fixed wireless access, also referred to as 5G home internet, is a type of broadband internet service that uses radio signals to establish a connection between a fixed location, such as a home or business, and a communication tower.

Unlike mobile wireless services that use cellular networks to provide internet access on-the-go, fixed wireless is designed for stationary use.

How does fixed wireless internet work?

Fixed wireless internet works by establishing a wireless connection between a fixed location, such as a home or business, and a communication tower or base station.

Let’s take a look at how fixed wireless internet works.

Wired backbone connection

Most fixed wireless access providers are powered by fiber or cable infrastructure to bring internet to their base station. These connections are sent to their base station and broadcast over the base station’s communication tower to deliver wireless broadband into the home.

Subscriber equipment installation

For fixed wireless access, most fixed wireless access (FWA) providers offer equipment such as receivers. However, in some cases, wireless radios or antennas must be installed on the roof or in a high location.

Radio signal transmission

Once the equipment is installed, the receiver is aimed at the FWA provider’s base station in order to establish a connection. After a connection is established, the base station broadcasts a high-frequency radio signal and the equipment receives it.

Data transmission and reception

When the equipment begins to transmit signals, the receiver can be connected to a router to provide internet connectivity to various devices within the home or business.

Routing and internet access

Once connected and transmitting from the receiver to the router, users are able to access the internet through their router which decodes the communication tower’s signals and transmits them into accessible WiFi.

Key characteristics and considerations

When using fixed wireless access, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. We’ll review some of the most common below.


In most cases, fixed wireless access points need a clear line-of-sight to the fixed wireless transmitter in order to deliver the best possible connection. Be sure your line-of-sight is free of any obstructions, such as walls, trees or other buildings and homes.

Frequency bands

Fixed wireless access uses frequency bands in order to transmit data. These bands are typically based on pre-existing frequencies, such as 3G, 4G or 5G bands. Within these bands, the frequencies 3.5GHz, 28GHz, 37GHz and 39GHz are typically used. By using existing infrastructure, fixed wireless networks can more reliably deliver internet into the home.

Speed and capacity

When not congested, fixed wireless access can reach average speeds of 200 Mbps. If your network is overloaded or crowded with multiple users and devices, you can expect the internet to slow down as providers adjust for peak hours and fair use.

Coverage area

Depending on how the network is configured, and whether you live in a rural or urban area, fixed wireless access providers are able to cover a range of at least one-third of a mile. For a potential customer, they would need to reside within that coverage area in order to benefit from their fixed wireless access coverage.

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What’s the difference between fixed wireless and mobile wireless?

While fixed wireless and mobile wireless are both forms of wireless communications, they both serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics. Here are the key differences between fixed wireless and mobile wireless:

1. Purpose and Mobility

    • Fixed wireless is great for people who are in a set location and need location-specific internet access. Once you leave the location where you’ve set up your fixed wireless access, you’ll lose your internet connection.
    • Unlike fixed wireless or WiFi, mobile wireless is great for users on-the-go, or those who may need internet access to travel with them. As long as you stay out of areas with weak signal connectivity, you can take your mobile device and your internet with you.

2. Infrastructure

    • Fixed wireless infrastructure is static and mounted to your home or business. Typically this infrastructure looks like a panel, or a set of panels, which interpret the signals broadcast from the cell tower.
    • Mobile wireless receivers are built into many modern mobile broadband devices and run on 4G, LTE and 5G data. These devices may be standalone routers, or phones themselves. Depending on your location, these devices connect to the nearest cell tower and deliver mobile broadband to your device.

3. Speed and Capacity

    • Be aware that fixed wireless access can be susceptible to some of the same issues as 5G home internet. This includes peak hours, throttling and slowdowns.
    • Average mobile broadband speeds in the United States start at a minimum of 100 Mbps. Additionally, If you’re not a heavy on-the-go internet user, some mobile wireless plans offer the option of paying per gigabyte of data. If you’re worried about your mobile data usage, consider an unlimited option to make the most of your plan.

4. Uses

    • Fixed wireless is ideal for residential and business locations, especially in areas where laying traditional cable infrastructure is challenging or expensive. It’s commonly used in rural and underserved areas.
    • Mobile wireless is suited for individuals who need internet access on the go. It is widely utilized for smartphones, tablets and other portable devices.

Fiber-powered internet

Why Fiber Internet works better

Astound’s fiber-powered internet provides consistent speeds throughout the day versus 5G Home Internet which is prone to intermittency.

Is it worth it to get fixed wireless over fiber or cable internet?

The decision to choose fixed wireless internet over fiber or cable largely depends on your specific needs, location and available options. Here’s a breakdown of factors to consider:

Usage Requirements: If you need a lot of bandwidth, work from home, game or have multiple users streaming simultaneously, a wired internet connection will be the best choice. If you’re only a moderate internet user and are in an area with no fiber infrastructure, fixed wireless access might be your only choice.

Cost: In some cases, the cost of installing fiber may be more expensive than the cost of installing fixed wireless access points. However, the cost of fiber is largely handled by ISPs wanting to break into new markets, not the consumer. For around 200 Mbps on fixed wireless access, a household can spend up to $1,800 a year, depending on availability.

Check the current cost of fiber-powered 1 gig internet.

Reliability and Consistency: Wired connections have significant benefits over fixed wireless access in terms of speed, reliability and multi-device capacity. Fiber internet and infrastructure is established and isn’t prone to the same obstructions as fixed wireless access.

Geographic Location: If you’re in a rural or remote area where cable or wired connections are not available, fixed wireless might be your best option for high-speed internet.

Mobility Needs: Both fixed wireless access and fiber or cable internet are set in one location. If you need reliable internet access at home and on-the-go, it’s best to bundle your plan into one.

Network Speeds and Coverage: Fixed wireless access has a limited range, and clocks in at about 200 Mbps. With fiber, speeds of up to 1 gig and even 5 gig are available in some areas.

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Fixed wireless internet is one of several technologies used to deliver internet access, offering an alternative to traditional wired connections – in certain cases. Fixed wireless access is tailored for stationary locations, in rural areas or areas with limited fiber infrastructure.

Mobile wireless, on the other hand, is designed for users who need internet connection while on-the-go. Mobile wireless can be accessed through mobile data plans, which can be connected to either mobile routers or smartphones.

However, the decision depends on your individual needs. Consider your internet usage habits, reliability, and available options for your location. If you’re curious about fixed wireless internet, it’s worth consulting local ISPs to discuss the current fixed wireless plans they offer, and how they compare with their mobile broadband offerings.

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*Internet speeds may vary & are not guaranteed. Certain equipment may be required to reach advertised speeds. DOCSIS 3.1 modem with 2.5GE physical LAN port is required for 1 Gigabit speeds and higher. See for why speeds may vary. To view Astound’s FCC Network Management Disclosure see Modem required for Internet service. No contract required. Subject to availability. We substantiate that the cable modem equipment provided, and the configuration of such cable modem, meets the broadband speeds advertised when attached to a wired connection based on SamKnows testing procedures.

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