What Is Fixed Wireless Internet? How Does It Work?

Looking at the many types of internet service you can get, fixed wireless internet is one of them. If you are shopping for the best internet service, you might have come across this internet before. So, what is fixed wireless internet? 

Below, we will let you know more about this internet service, its pros and cons, and how it compares to other internet service types. 

What is fixed wireless internet service? 

Fixed wireless internet is a service that makes use of nearby radio towers for service. Because of this, it is an internet service that is best for areas with less internet infrastructure. You often see fixed wireless providers operate in rural areas. 

Similar to satellite internet providers, these fixed wireless services can go almost anywhere. Provided there is a nearby radio tower, you can get internet within about 1 mile (in most cases). 

Unlike DSL, cable, or fiber-optic internet, you require no wired connections to get started. All you need is a simple line of sight to the nearest radio tower. 

One of the best known fixed wireless providers is Rise Broadband. However, some AT&T internet plans offer fixed wireless options. 

Pros and cons of fixed wireless internet

If you want to pursue a fixed wireless connection, you’ll have to be aware of its capabilities and limitations. Below, you’ll find some pros and cons for this internet service: 


  • An internet connection that works well in areas with no infrastructure
  • Has the potential to get up to 1 Gbps 
  • Doesn’t require physical cables or a satellite dish
  • Works independently from your mobile phone
  • Some fixed wireless providers offer no data caps 


  • You can have a poor connection because of bad weather conditions.
  • Any obstructions (trees, buildings, etc.) can impact your connection quality.
  • More expensive than wired forms of internet 
  • Slower than wired internet connections 

Who is fixed wireless internet best for? 

In asking the “what is fixed wireless internet” question, you might wonder who this internet service works for. The short answer: for those who can’t get other types of internet. It covers the same problem that satellite internet does. 

You’ll find that Fixed wireless internet has a poor reputation with weather. Of course, this reputation has shifted a bit, as modern broadcast protocols help this internet style avoid most weather issues. 

Of course, because fixed wireless relies on wireless-only communications, weather is more likely to affect it than a wired connection. So if you can, a wired connection will almost always be better for you. 

Fixed wireless vs satellite internet

When you live in a rural area, you often have one of three choices: Rise Broadband (fixed), Viasat (satellite), and HughesNet (satellite). This comprises the totality of satellite and fixed wireless internet plans in most of the US. 

Regardless of what provider you pick, fixed-wireless internet providers have one distinct advantage: distance of communication. Because radio towers are closer than satellite dishes, you have fewer connection issues. 

Specifically, you’ll notice a major difference in inclement weather. Where fixed internet has fewer issues with weather, satellite internet still suffers from this issue. When you don’t have to break through the atmosphere, you have fewer issues with weather. 

You’ll also find better results for consistent speed and latency. When your connection is closer, it takes less time for connection data to transport. So overall, fixed wireless internet has much greater upload and download speed potential. 

Cost comparison - Rise Broadband vs Viasat 

The difficulty of connections reflects in pricing between fixed wireless and satellite companies. For more clarity, we will dig into a comparison of Viasat and Rise Broadband, the two most competitive internet companies for rural customers.

On average, Viasat plans cost about $100 to $300 per month (disregarding promotional pricing). These include speeds from 12 to 100 Mbps, which aren’t fast compared to Xfinity internet plans or other wired providers. Priority data caps are up to 300 GB, which are often enough for most satellite internet families.

Rise Broadband’s plans and pricing seem to focus on bare minimum speeds. Data transfer speeds for residential customers vary from 5 to 50 Mbps. The pricing differences vary from about $42 to $57 per month under their standard data caps. 

While standard data is the cheapest, you have the option of getting high data (up to 1 TB) and premium data (unlimited data). These average between $62 to $77 and $82 to $97, respectively.

You can also start your first 12 months of internet for as low as $25 per month. Introductory pricing through Viasat starts at $69 per month, only lasting for three months.

Pricing is also very different when looking at other satellite internet providers.

So, why do people bother with satellite providers at all? Typically, they have more availability (covering over 90% of the United States) and offer better customer service.

Fixed wireless vs DSL internet

DSL internet has more widespread availability than both fiber and cable. However, this internet type falls short on availability compared to fixed-wireless connections. 

DSL internet connections are in the same places where you find phone lines. Because of this, they rely on wired connections and are subject to those limitations. Companies like CenturyLink and AT&T still rely on DSL to bring the Internet to rural locations. 

Speeds for DSL typically max out at 100 Mbps. This is double the speed of Rise Broadband’s maximum of 50 Mbps. 

In addition, DSL’s reliance on a physical line means they aren’t impacted by weather. The wired option also provides much greater connection stability. 

Fixed wireless internet vs DSL internet costs 

DSL internet providers average their pricing at about $50 per month. With introductory pricing, contracts, and other deals, you can sometimes see cheaper.

AT&T internet plans, for example, have DSL internet of 100 Mbps starting at $55 per month. The data caps for this service also usually start at 1 TB, four times the amount of Rise’s standard data caps. 

Other DSL internet providers take a different approach to this. For example, CenturyLink provides speeds no faster than 100 Mbps for $55. Depending on where you live, those speeds can be much lower, making fixed wireless providers more competitive. 

More often than not, you’ll find DSL providers offer better service, faster speeds, and a better cost than fixed-wireless alternatives. However, you’ll still want to compare all the best internet providers by zip code

Fixed wireless vs cable internet

Similar to DSL, cable internet providers make use of existing lines for cable television. As a result, they have a presence wherever you can get cable television. 

Despite this, cable providers are far less common in rural areas. They are more likely than the faster fiber alternative, but still have less spread than DSL lines. 

You’ll also find that the network capabilities for cable internet blow weaker alternatives out of the water. Speeds for this type of internet average between 200 and 300 Mbps. This is over four times faster than Rise’s fastest plans. 

The only way you can come close to this is by qualifying for Rise’s business plans, which max out at 100 Mbps. So cable’s residential customers get better speeds than most fixed wireless’s business customers. 

You’ll also find the same advantages of avoiding weather issues from using cable. This is just a factor of choosing a wired connection over a wireless connection.

Cable internet costs vs fixed wireless internet costs

Being at a different speed threshold means you end up charging extra for some high-speed internet connections. You’ll see this when comparing costs between cable providers and fixed wireless providers.

Xfinity, the nation’s largest cable internet provider, starts its pricing at $30 for promotional pricing. This renews at about $50 per month, starting at 50 Mbps. Depending on where you live, you might get similar pricing for 300 Mbps. 

You also get far more generous data caps, sitting at 1.2 TB per month through Xfinity. Rise’s cap of 250 GB is much smaller.

Cable providers typically have closer pricing to fixed-wireless providers. The difference being that you pay for better network capacities through cable internet. Cable typically wins when comparing pricing and speed. 

Fixed wireless vs fiber internet 

Fixed wireless and fiber optic are extremes of the internet world. While companies often limit fiber to high population densities and major cities, fiber handles rural customers.

Fiber companies like Allo and Ziply are showing this doesn’t have to be the case. These two companies have limited their spread to Oregon and a small part of the midwest. The vast majority of people do not have access to fiber-optic internet.

This brings us to the one advantage fixed-wireless has over fiber: availability for underserved communities. Regarding everything else, fiber internet offers the better solution. 

Fiber ranges from 500 Mbps to 5 Gbps, reaching speeds that current fixed wireless companies aren’t even close to. Even though fixed wireless has the potential to reach up to 1 Gbps, the cost of doing so isn’t worth developing the technology. 

Fiber also has all the standard advantages that come with wired communications. This means more stability, less crosstalk, and no impacts from thunderstorms or hail. 

Fiber has the potential to be more expensive than fixed wireless, ranging from $80 to $200 on average. This includes pricing from known fiber companies like AT&T and Xfinity. 

If you prioritize cost-effectiveness, cable and DSL will offer the better cheap options. Fiber is a premium internet solution. 

Fixed wireless vs 5G internet 

In a world of wireless networks, 5G and fixed wireless are often in different categories. From a technical standpoint, the two are the same thing, relying on the same wireless technologies. 

The two internet types work using radio towers. The difference is that 5G only relies on high-speed cell towers. Through this system, fixed wireless internet can get speeds up to 1000 Mbps. 

Because most cell towers in rural areas haven’t reached this solution yet, they have the standard forms of fixed wireless internet. While slower for rural customers, it's only a matter of time before more locations can benefit from 5G towers. 

Companies like Verizon and T-Mobile are leading the charge with 5G internet. Both of them have download speeds that average at around 300 Mbps. 

As you might imagine, 5G internet may be faster, but suffer from the same symptoms of fixed wireless. This means they are more likely to be impacted by bad weather. Also, you’ll find that internet outages and phone outages will occur at the same time. 

Finding fixed wireless internet near you 

To find the best internet service providers near you, it helps to have a simple research tool. The best way you can start is through InternetAdvisor’s “Find a Provider” tool. 

This tool allows you to find any internet service provider by your zip code. Even if you live where internet providers aren’t available, this tool can help you find providers. 

Using our related service pages, you can compare the pricing and plans that appeal most to use. So check out our tool to ensure you get the best rural internet provider available. 

Fixed wireless internet FAQs

Is fixed wireless internet good for online gaming? 

Online gaming requires minimum speeds of 25 Mbps, so you can game on it at higher speeds. Overall, the lower upload speeds of fixed wireless aren’t ideal for gaming.

What is the difference between Wi-Fi and fixed wireless?

Wi-Fi connections rely on wired connection types to wireless gateways. As a result, they do not need a clear line to a wireless tower like fixed wireless connections do. 

What equipment do you need for fixed wireless?

Most companies require you to install an antenna and a modem. You can leave the installation of both to a professional technician.  

InternetAdvisor Team

We are passionate about aggregating large, accurate data sets and providing it all to our users in an easy-to-use format. Simply put, shopping is easier for the consumer when he/she knows all available options. We are not beholden to any single provider and therefore are dedicated to transparency and giving you unbiased information on all providers.

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