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Does Fixed Wireless Require Line of Sight?

Fixed wireless broadband is a brilliant broadband option for businesses and homes in rural areas. However, one of the drawbacks of this type of broadband is the supposed need for a line of sight between the base station and the antenna on your property. I decided to get to the bottom of whether a fixed wireless connection can be created without a clear line of sight and if one can, how severe the impact on the service is.

Does fixed wireless require line of sight? Fixed wireless broadband requires line of sight between the receiver on your property and the base station.

While fixed wireless does require line of sight, sometimes clear line of sight isn’t enough to establish a connection. Keep reading to find out why.

Clear Line of Sight Isn’t Always Enough To Create A Reliable Connection

The vast majority of the time, a clear line of sight is a big enough determiner to say that reliable fixed wireless can be set up for your property. However, a clear line of sight isn’t always enough for a reliable connection to be set up. Why? Because of obstructions in the Fresnel zone.

If there are obstructions in the Fresnel zone, it can severely impact whether or not a provider can set up a fixed wireless connection for you. What is a Fresnel zone and how do obstructions within it cause issues?

What Is A Fresnel Zone?

A Fresnel zone is a 3D elliptical region between the antenna on the base station and the antenna on your building. Fixed wireless uses microwaves, which can follow different paths before reaching a receiver. If there are any obstructions or reflecting objects in the Fresnel zone, microwaves can be out of time and out of phase because of the differing path lengths.

An image showing a Fresnel zone. Image: EverythingRF

While there might be a clear line of sight in a basic sense between your property and the base station, there may be objects or obstructions in the Fresnel zone that waves might reflect off. If the deflected wave then arrives out of phase, it can cause constructive or destructive interference.

It’s crucial to consider Fresnel zones when setting up fixed wireless connections. Because of the way that microwaves work, any obstructions within the primary Fresnel zone (the zone marked 1st in the image above) can cause a significant signal weakness.

Essentially, even if it looks like there is a clear line of sight between the base station and your property, Fresnel zones must be considered. If waves reflect off objects or are blocked by objects, you could end up with slow, unreliable broadband with intermittent connectivity.

In most cases, a reliable connection is possible if the primary Fresnel zone is 80% clear of obstacles. It is essential that the 1st Fresnel zone is at least 60% clear, however.

Which Objects/Obstructions In The Fresnel Zone Will Cause Problems?

Any objects and obstructions in the Fresnel zone will cause connectivity issues. If the path between the transmitter and receiver is completely unobstructed, microwaves will travel in a relatively straight line. However, any reflective surfaces that interact with a stray wave can cause signals to reach the receiver out-of-phase. Similarly, obstructions can block stray waves from reaching the receiver altogether.

Image showing objects that can interrupt Fresnel zone. Image: Wikipedia

If stray signals don’t encounter any obstacles, they won’t cause issues for your connection. They will simply dissipate. The problems arise when there are reflective surfaces for the signals to ‘bounce’ off.

Here are some examples of objects that can cause stray waves to reflect:

  • Bodies of water
  • Building roofs
  • Sides of buildings
  • Vehicles
  • Flat ground
  • Trees

This is one of the reasons that microwaves can only be reliably transmitted a limited distance. The greater the distance between the transmitter and the receiver, the greater the radius of the Fresnel zones. Over longer distance connections, the curvature of the Earth can become an obstruction and cause interference and signal loss.

How To Overcome Obstacles/Obstructions To Ensure Reliable Fixed Wireless and a Clear Line of Sight

There are several ways that clear line of sight can be achieved while also ensuring no objects interrupt the Fresnel zone. I spoke to several fixed wireless providers to find out how they deal with the issue of ensuring no objects interrupt a Fresnel zone when installing a connection. Here are some of the suggestions that came out of those conversations.

Remove Obstructing Objects

There are many ways that you can avoid issues with objects interrupting the Fresnel zone. Sometimes the easiest and cheapest way to overcome the issue is to remove the objects that are interrupting the Fresnel zone.

Understandably, removing the objects that interrupt the Fresnel zone might be easier said than done as it depends on what’s causing the obstruction. If it’s a building, you obviously cannot remove the building. However, if the object causing interference is something such as a tree, you can potentially remove the tree or trim its branches.

While trimming trees may resolve your problem now, it’s important that you continue to trim the trees in the future to avoid signal interference. I have worked with a business in the past where their fixed wireless connection had gradually worsened to the point where it was continuously dropping and causing them issues. It turned out a tree had grown and now caused interference as it obstructed the primary Fresnel zone. That’s why it’s important to regularly check and ensure the Fresnel zone isn’t interrupted.

Mount To Existing Pole/Mast

If you have an existing pole or mast fitted to or near your building, it may be possible to mount your receiver to this to ensure no obstacles in the Fresnel zone. Providing that the pole is in a position where a cable can be run from the receiver into your property, your provider should be able to use it.

A pole attached to a building can have a receiver fitted to it.

Attaching the receiver directly to the building will suffice on most occasions. However, if the receiver isn’t high enough to guarantee little to no interference, attaching it to a further elevated position can help assure a good connection.

Installing A Small Pole/Mast

Similar to the previous point, a provider can install a small pole onto the roof or the side of your building that the receiver can be fitted onto. This is generally the best way to ensure that there are no obstructions in the Fresnel zone.

Installing a small pole onto your property will usually be factored into your installation costs. It doesn’t typically increase the installation costs a great deal but that does depend on the circumstances, such as the type of pole you need, the size of it, and how long it will take to install.

How To Connect Internet From One Building To Another

There are many reasons that you might want to connect two buildings to share the internet connection between the two. Fortunately, there are also many ways that you can connect the two to use your broadband connection in both.

How can you connect internet from one building to another? There are several ways to share an internet connection between two buildings:

  • Wi-Fi Extenders/Repeaters
  • Cable
  • Wireless Bridge

As you can see, there are multiple options to look at when deciding how you can extend your internet connection to another building. Some will be suitable for your set, while others won’t. In this blog post, I’m going to explain how all of these solutions work, giving you the information you need to decide what technology will meet your needs best.

wifi-extenders5G


neweggWifi extenders from $10.99 

Sharing A Connection Between Two Buildings

Whether you want to extend your internet connection to your garden shed or you want to share internet as part of a big commercial operation, there is a variety of options when it comes to sharing a connection.

I’ll explain the technologies that can be used and the situations in which these technologies would be the best options.

Wi-Fi Repeaters

A wi-fi repeater is a piece of equipment that you can use to extend your existing signal. In most cases, wi-fi repeaters are used to boost the signal strength in other areas of your building. However, depending on the distance between the buildings you’re wanting to connect, wi-fi repeaters might do the job.

A wi-fi repeater is a simple piece of equipment. It simply bounces the connection from the router and extends the range. You plug the repeater into a plug socket in your home and configure it, which then extends the range of the signal. If you’re wanting to extend your connection to a small office in your back garden, a wi-fi repeater may suffice. If you only need a basic connection in your garden office, a wi-fi repeater is a cost-effective way to boost your wi-fi’s signal.

Example of a WiFi range extender available from Netgear. Image: Netgear

Wi-Fi repeaters can be very hit or miss, so this wouldn’t be my recommendation if you’re wanting to have a reliable internet connection in your other building. Repeaters need to be strategically positioned to work effectively. They have to be used in a position still close enough to your main router but also close enough to your garden office to make a difference. The further the signal has to reach, the worse the deterioration of the signal. If your building is greater than 25 – 30 meters from where you’d plug in this device, you’ll have to look at other options.

Another downside of a repeater is that you’ll never get the speeds you’d get by being connected to the source (the router in your main building). Every extra device in the chain between the user and the source slows the connection down. If you are connected to your main router, your device and the router have to ‘talk’. If you are connected to a wi-fi repeater, the repeater is essentially a middle man ‘talking’ to both your device and the router. This results in a slower connection that might not meet your requirements if your main internet connection isn’t the best anyway.

Cable

In some cases, your other building will be too far away from your main building for a repeater to work. Or perhaps you want something more reliable than a wi-fi repeater. If you’re running a business and you need to supply internet to a building where you’ll have people working, something such as a repeater won’t suffice. If you find yourself in this position, installing your own physical connection is one way to get around the issue.

Installing cable between your two buildings is one of the most reliable ways to share an internet connection. With ethernet cable, you’ll also enjoy superfast speeds in your second building if your main building already has a fast internet connection installed.

There are several types of cable you can use to connect two buildings and share an internet connection:

  • Cat5e
  • Cat6
  • Cat6a
  • Cat7

The type of ethernet cable that will suit your needs best depends on your particular requirements. Who will be working in the other building, and how much will they be using the internet? Most of the time, a Cat5e cable will be suitable. Cat5e is suitable for 1Gbps internet over a short distance and 100Mbps internet over a longer distance. For larger commercial operations, where superfast and ultra-reliable internet is required, Cat6a or Cat7 cabling is a better option as they provide greater reliability and much higher data transfer rates.

Cat6 external cable. Available here on Amazon.

You might presume that creating a physical connection will be expensive. That may very well be the case depending on how you install the physical connection and the cable that you use. For example, running the cable along an outdoor surface will be cheaper than installing it underground. If you need a connection for a big commercial operation, you’ll have to buy the more expensive types of cable that will further impact the price. If you want your connection installed professionally, it will cost anywhere from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand pounds depending on the type of cable used, how far the cable has to travel, and where the cable is installed.

A big downside to ethernet cable is that the distance you can run them is limited. If the distance between your two buildings is too great, you won’t be able to use network cables. While fibre optic cables are an option, the installation costs will be substantial. So if cable won’t work and nor will a WiFi repeater, what other options do you have? This takes me onto my next point.

Wireless Bridge

In my opinion, the best way to share an internet connection between two buildings is a wireless bridge – also known as a point-to-point wireless link. A point-to-point wireless link really offers the best of both worlds; the reliability and high speeds of the cable with the flexibility and cost-effectiveness you’d associate with the repeaters.

A wireless point-to-point link is a dedicated link between your main building and your second building. The link provides high data-throughput with no frustrating drop outs. A wireless point-to-point link, set up correctly, provides fibre optic cable-level reliability. On top of that, you’ll have superfast speeds at both buildings whilst only paying for the one internet connection.

airFiber 24 HD antenna. This technology supports the dense modulation rates that are required for high data rates. Image: Ubiquiti

A wireless point-to-point link is made up of two outdoor antennas. Over this line of sight link, data rates of up to 2Gbps are possible. If your main building already has superfast internet, you can share the bandwidth thanks to a PtP link.

Since a point-to-point link is completely wireless, installation can be completed quickly and the expense of installation will be lower than installing cabling. As long as there is clear line of sight between the two antennas, high data rates are possible providing you use capable technology.

Creating a point-to-point link and installing the technology is fairly easy if you have a rough idea of what you’re doing. You must mount antennas onto both of the buildings. Generally speaking, the higher the better. As long as these antennas have an uninterrupted line of sight, it doesn’t really matter. The antenna on your main building will have to be connected via ethernet to your network. On the second building, the connection will be carried into the building via ethernet. This ethernet can either go into a wireless access point or an ethernet switch that you can connect wired devices to. If this is sounding complicated, you can outsource the installation. It will cost a little more, but at least you’ll know it’s done right!

Which Option Is Best To Connect Internet From One Building To Another?

In most cases, I would say that a wireless point-to-point link is by far the best option for connecting two buildings and sharing an internet connection. Cable and Wi-Fi repeaters are both limited in several ways, whereas a point-to-point link offers the best of both worlds.

If you’re not running a business and you just need a basic connection for your garden office, cable or a wi-fi repeater might suffice. However, if you need a reliable yet cost-effective solution, as well as high data rates, the very best option is a point-to-point link.

What Is The Difference Between Fixed Wireless And Mobile Broadband?

For businesses based in areas where physical superfast connections are unavailable, there’s not a lot of choices when it comes to internet service. Alongside DSL, there are two more popular options: mobile broadband and fixed wireless. The two technologies differ greatly, but many businesses don’t have the information they need to decide between the two. In fact, some presume mobile broadband is just a synonym of fixed wireless.

There are in fact several differences between fixed wireless and mobile broadband. In this blog post, I’ll explain what both technologies are and how they differ.

What Is Mobile Broadband?

Mobile broadband is internet access delivered through cellular towers to computers, smartphones and other internet-enabled devices using portable modems. In some cases, a wireless modem can be built into the device. However, wireless modems can be external. For example, a USB wireless modem (which is often referred to as a wireless dongle). You can also get cellular routers that contain modems or allow modems to be put into them.

A USB dongle. You slide a SIM card into this device, which acts as a modem. Plug this into any device you want to use the internet on. See here on Amazon.

One big advantage of mobile broadband is the mobility it enables. If you have a USB wireless mobile or a device with a modem built in to it, you can access the internet anywhere that you have a 3G or 4G connection. 5G began deploying worldwide in 2019 and is the planned successor to 4G. 5G networks will have greater bandwidth, meaning significantly better speeds for wireless internet access users in areas where a 5G network exists.

What Is Fixed Wireless?

Fixed wireless is a connection between two fixed locations using radio or an alternate wireless link. In the context of this blog post, this point-to-point link would be used to provide broadband services. A fixed wireless data link is also a cost-effective way of sharing a connection with another building, instead of installing cables between the two properties.

Fixed wireless connections can be set up anywhere. However, one of the big advantages of fixed wireless is the ability to offer superfast broadband to users in remote areas without the need for extensive cable installation. A fixed wireless connection can offer data transfer rates comparable to a superfast fibre connection without the need for a physical connection of any kind. The transmissions occur through the air instead, over a terrestrial microwave platform.

Mobile Broadband Versus Fixed Wireless: How Do They Compare?

We’ve had a look at what mobile broadband and fixed wireless are, as well as how they differ, but how do they compare? Before we compare fixed wireless and mobile broadband in more depth, I’ll start off by saying that fixed wireless internet access is far superior to mobile broadband if you’re wanting a broadband connection for your property. I’ll explain why that’s the case throughout this comparison and emphasise points that particularly highlight why this is the case.

I’ll compare mobile broadband and fixed wireless on the following:

  • Reliability
  • Speeds
  • Price
  • Setup Time

By comparing the two on these points, we’ll get a clear picture of why fixed wireless is so much better for a user needing broadband for their home or business.

Reliability

If you’re choosing an internet connection for your business, one of the most important things to consider is the reliability of the broadband. You need a connection that you can rely on and that promises consistently good speeds. So how reliable are fixed wireless and mobile broadband?

Generally, it is believed that fixed wireless is more reliable than mobile broadband. In a fixed wireless deployment, each customer has a high-gain antenna fitted to the highest point on their building. The signal is focused towards the base station, which means the connection is less likely to suffer from interference from other sources. Fixed wireless maintains a high SNR; A high SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) means fast upload speeds and lower latency.

Of course, the reliability of fixed wireless does depend on several important factors. First and foremost, the distance between your property and the base location will impact how reliable your connection is. Secondly, any objects interrupting the line of sight can impact how fast and reliable your connection is. In the ideal setup, however, fixed wireless will be much more reliable than mobile broadband.

Mobile broadband is highly unlikely to be as reliable as fixed wireless because of the trade-offs needed to ensure the flexibility of this type of connection. With mobile broadband, your signal strength can vary significantly depending on the number of people also using mobile broadband as well as your location. A cellular base station’s capacity could be divided between thousands of users, whereas a fixed wireless base station’s capacity is likely to be shared between 100 at most. With some much competition for bandwidth with mobile broadband, reliability cannot be assured.

Speeds

If you’re going to be downloading and uploading regularly, a fast connection is crucial. Let’s take a look at the speeds available with fixed wireless and mobile broadband connections.

With fixed wireless broadband, you can expect speeds of at least 40Mbps. A contended fixed wireless connection will offer speeds similar to those you’d get with fibre to the cabinet. There are providers offering speeds of up 1,000Mbps, an uncontended leased line-like solution offering guaranteed speeds. If superfast speeds are a must, an uncontended fixed wireless connection is perhaps the best option for businesses in rural areas.

The key fact to take away from this is you get what you pay for with fixed wireless. The same cannot be said for mobile broadband, where you’ll pay for high ‘up to’ speeds that you’ll seldom actually enjoy.

According to an Ofcom report, the average mobile broadband download speed on 4G was 15.1Mbps. However, the speeds available to you will differ based on the operator you choose, your location, and the number of other people in the area using mobile broadband at the same time. These speeds simply aren’t enough for a business. They might be enough for a small household with light internet usage, but they certainly won’t suffice for a business reliant on its broadband. Mobile broadband might suffice for visiting websites like Twitter or checking your emails, but it won’t be good enough if you are streaming or using VoIP.

Price

You need to make sure you can afford the broadband you choose, so price is an important consideration when comparing fixed wireless and mobile broadband.

Fixed wireless will usually start at around £65 per month. For £65 per month, your connection will be contended but you can expect speeds similar to those you would get with FTTC. Of course, the price of fixed wireless will differ based on factors such as the bandwidth you need and whether or not you need guaranteed speeds.

Mobile broadband is usually much cheaper than fixed wireless. At the time of writing, most unlimited data-only SIMs (some bundled with routers) fell into the £15 – £40 price bracket. The price of mobile broadband will also differ based on numerous factors. For example, the length of contract you choose and whether or not you want to pay for the router as part of your contract.

While mobile broadband is much cheaper than fixed wireless, it’s important to remember how much more reliable fixed wireless is likely to be. While a mobile broadband provider might sell good speeds, that doesn’t mean those speeds will actually be available to you. Particularly in rural and remote areas that won’t be as well-served as big towns and cities.

Setup Time

Some types of broadband have really long lead times, so you could be waiting months for your connection to be installed and active. So how long does it take to set up a fixed wireless connection when compared with mobile broadband?

In theory, a fixed wireless connection can be set up in as little as a week. This is much faster than most types of broadband, but this is primarily because fixed wireless is completely wireless and therefore no lines need to be installed. While an antenna must be installed at a customer’s property, this can be done within a couple of hours. The time to set up a connection will differ from provider to provider, however, as surveys and configuration will be required to ensure your connection is reliable.

With mobile broadband, setup is immediate. As soon as your SIM card and router are with you from the provider, you’re ready to go. Once you put your SIM card into the router, your connection is live and you can begin connecting your devices and configuring your network. For the most part, this will mean that mobile broadband can be set up quicker than a fixed wireless connection.

So, Which Is Best?

In my opinion, fixed wireless is much better than mobile broadband. The difference in reliability alone is enough to convince me that fixed wireless is the much better connection for households and businesses in rural and remote areas.

While mobile broadband tends to be cheaper, you pay for what you get when it comes to broadband. Mobile broadband will frequently drop out and you never know what speeds you’ll get on any given day. If you need a connection that you can really rely on, fixed wireless always comes out on top here.

Is Fixed Wireless Internet Reliable?

If your business is based in a rural area, there are few fast and reliable internet technologies available to you. Fixed wireless is increasingly popular in rural areas, but some say it’s reliable while others say otherwise. I decided to create this blog post to give you a definitive, unbiased answer that looks closely at each variable impacting the reliability of fixed wireless internet.

Is fixed wireless internet reliable? Fixed wireless internet can be reliable, but the reliability of this technology depends on multiple factors. A fixed wireless connection’s reliability cannot be judged by looking at the technology alone. Several variables can affect whether fixed wireless will be reliable for your business or not.

In this blog post, I’m going to explain some of the variables that impact how reliable fixed wireless is and how you can overcome them to ensure your connection is dependable.

Variables That Affect Fixed Wireless Reliability

To truly answer whether fixed wireless is reliable, we need to consider the several variables that affect the reliability of this type of broadband.

  • The distance between each part of the link
  • Congestion in your area
  • Objects interrupting the line of sight
  • Severe weather conditions

How important are these variables and how badly will they affect fixed wireless reliability?

Our video above gives you a brief look at why we need to consider each of these variables when discussing whether or not fixed wireless broadband is reliable. I’ll explain each point individually throughout this post so you know everything there is to know about the reliability of fixed wireless internet.

The Distance Between Each Part Of The Link

The lack of physical connection is one of the biggest advantages of fixed wireless broadband. However, it’s also a drawback in some respects as microwaves can only travel a limited distance and line of sight must be maintained for a reliable connection to exist. With fixed wireless broadband, the greater the distance between your property and the mast, the greater the effect on reliability.

Fixed wireless connections are established using microwave-based technology. Microwaves are used for fixed wireless because their small wavelength can be directed in narrow beams by antennas to a receiver. However, because microwaves travel by line of sight, the two antennas (the one on your property and the one on the mast) need to ‘see’ each other. Because an unobstructed line of sight is needed to transmit data between the two points, the maximum distance data can be sent is around 40 miles (64km).

Even if your property is within 40 miles of the nearest antenna, it may be impossible to establish a reliable connection. As I said above, microwaves are directed in narrow beams from one antenna to a receiver installed elsewhere. If the narrow beam is directed even slightly incorrectly, the signal won’t reach your property. For example, wind could shake the antenna slightly and mean the microwaves don’t travel to the receiver on your property correctly. Or if a tree shakes because of high winds, it might block the beam. As you can tell, it’s much harder for providers to guarantee a reliable connection if your property is a great distance from the nearest mast. On the other hand, if your property is only 5 miles from the mast, it’s much easier to direct the beams correctly and maintain a stable connection.

Congestion In Your Area

Congestion is a notable drawback of fixed wireless if you are based in a highly-populated, built-up area, therefore won’t be a problem for most people looking into fixed wireless (people based in rural and remote locations). However, if you do happen to live in a built-up area, congestion’s something to be worried about. But what is congestion and why’s it such a big issue?

Congestion with fixed wireless is similar to congestion on the roads. The more cars on the road, the more difficult it is to get to your location. With fixed wireless, the more devices using the same unlicensed frequencies in the area, the more difficult it is to establish a reliable connection. If you live in a built-up area, there’s a greater chance that there will be more technologies using the same frequencies you’re using for your point-to-point connection. This means more competition for access to the same channel spectrum and thus your broadband has an increased chance of dropping and will be slower.

Unlicensed frequencies are free for anybody to use; everyone has access to the spectrum. This means properties near you could be using technologies on the exact same channel as your fixed wireless connection, resulting in congestion and co-channel interference. Simply put, reliability cannot be guaranteed when using an unlicensed frequency.

As I said, congestion and co-channel interference might not be problems you even need to consider. However, there are ways around congestion and co-channel interference, even if you are based in a built-up area. For some commercial installations of fixed wireless, licensed frequencies are used to ensure QoL (Quality of Service). If you rent a licensed frequency, only your fixed wireless connection will be using that frequency. This can be costly but as I said, it ensures Quality of Service and ultimately means you’ll have a guaranteed reliable connection.

Objects Interrupting The Line of Sight

A fixed wireless connection relies on a point-to-point connection with uninterrupted line of sight. If anything blocks the line of sight between the two antennas, the connection will be unstable or drop altogether.

Microwaves will not diffract or go through objects, so line of sight is a necessity for reliable fixed wireless connections.

While radio waves with wavelengths of kilometres will diffract around objects, for example, trees or hills, microwave wavelengths are much smaller. Microwaves will only travel in the exact direction they are pointed. So because microwaves are used to establish fixed wireless connections, any object interrupting the line of sight will prevent the signal from reaching the antenna on your building.

Before beginning to set up a fixed wireless connection for you, all good providers will conduct a survey to ensure line of sight can be achieved. If line of sight between your property and the provider’s antenna can be achieved, a reliable fixed wireless connection will be possible. However, if an object, such as a building or a growing tree, interrupts the line of sight in the future, the reliability of your connection will immediately drop.

This isn’t something you really have to worry about once a provider has set up your connection. The antenna on your property will be set up at the highest possible point on your building; if there aren’t objects in the way when your connection is set up, it’s unlikely there ever will be!

Severe Weather Conditions

For the most part, a fixed wireless connection will remain stable and reliable through rain and storms. A fixed wireless tower will usually be well below the clouds. As a result, the line of sight shouldn’t be interrupted the vast majority of the time. However, some weather conditions, such as heavy rain and fog, can reduce the strength of the signal and slow down your broadband.

The antennas used to establish a fixed wireless connection are not very susceptible to weather interference. Antennas are designed with the outdoors in mind and will be IP rated, so your broadband should remain reliable regardless of the weather. I say should, because severe storms can result in a degradation of service. That means it’s something we have to consider because it might impact reliability.

Most fixed wireless providers I’ve spoken to sell their fixed wireless service with an advertised 99.9% uptime. This isn’t a false advertisement, so that really tells you all you need to know about how the weather can affect a fixed wireless connection. Only the most severe weather will have any impact.

Fixed Wireless Will Be Reliable In Most Cases

After assessing the variables that can impact fixed wireless reliability, it’s suffice to say that fixed wireless connections will be reliable in most cases. Providing you choose a reputable provider that uses high-quality equipment and takes the time to conduct surveys before setting up your connection, you’ll seldom have any concerns about reliability.

However, if you do have concerns about reliability, there are several ways you can make sure your connection to the internet is as robust as possible. For example, you can:

  • Install a physical backup connection (DSL might be an option in most rural and remote areas)
  • Use multiple dishes

Most of the reliability concerns discussed here will not be a problem with a reputable provider. If a good provider can’t set up a reliable fixed wireless connection for you, they’ll tell you; they won’t set up a poor connection for you that won’t meet your needs. Just remember to do your research, as not all providers are made equal!

How Much Does Fixed Wireless Cost?

There are more internet technologies available to businesses than ever before. Unless, of course, your business is based in a rural area where your options are severely limited. One of the few good options available to businesses in rural areas is fixed wireless. Fixed wireless promises superfast speeds, even if you’re in the middle of nowhere. But does this incur significant costs?

How much does fixed wireless cost? Fixed wireless usually costs £65 – £145+ depending on the bandwidth you need and whether the connection is contended.

As part of researching this blog post, I’ve spoken to numerous microwave-based fixed wireless providers in the UK. Thanks to these discussions, I’ve determined several factors that influence how much fixed wireless will cost your business. Throughout the rest of this post, I’ll explain these factors and why the cost of fixed wireless fluctuates because of them.

Factors That Impact The Price Of Fixed Wireless

As I said above, several factors will influence how much fixed wireless will cost your business. For example, these variables can impact the price of fixed wireless:

  • Bandwidth Needed
  • Contention
  • Frequencies Used
  • Your Setup

I’m going to explain these variables in more detail. I’ll also try to give you a bit of background on how big an influence each factor has on the price of a fixed wireless connection.

Bandwidth Needed

Fixed wireless broadband speeds can differ greatly, with several providers offering speeds from 40Mbps to 1,000Mbps. With such a wide range of speeds available, the price of a fixed wireless connection will differ greatly depending on your bandwidth requirements.

After speaking to several UK-based fixed wireless providers, I was able to gather some ballpark figures that give us a clue as to what you’ll pay for certain speeds.

A price comparison looking at the prices of 5 providers.

The above estimations are based on information from 5 UK-based providers. The data give us a rough idea of how much fixed wireless will cost your business. For guaranteed speeds of 40Mbps, you can expect to pay around £145 per month minimum. For speeds of 100Mbps, expect to pay around £245 minimum. If you’re looking at 200Mbps, the price will be approximately £350 at least. The most you’ll pay for 40Mbps is around £200 per month with most providers. For 200Mbps per month, the majority of providers charge less than £500.

These prices are based on the presumption that you choose an uncontended fixed wireless package offering speed guarantees. They’re also subject to survey, as location can affect the price of a fixed wireless service. A contended connection will be much cheaper (around the £65 – £100 mark), but speed and reliability guarantees are necessary for the vast majority of companies.

Contention

The vast majority of internet services are contended, which is why providers only offer ‘up to’ speeds on the majority of their products. With fixed wireless you have a choice: your connection can be contended or uncontended. As with most things, choosing between a contended and uncontended connection really comes down to how much you are willing to pay.

Graphic showing how contended and uncontended connections differ.

An uncontended fixed wireless connection will cost your business much more than a contended one. To find out how great the price difference is, I asked several providers that offer both types. Contended fixed wireless connections with no speed guarantees will usually cost around £65 per month. With most providers, you’ll get speeds similar to what you would get with FTTC (up to 80Mbps downstream and 20Mbps upstream).

On the other hand, uncontended fixed wireless internet is typically priced around £145 per month for guaranteed speeds. The price will vary considerably depending on the speeds you require. Uncontended fixed wireless internet is essentially a wireless leased line. You can choose speeds ranging from 40Mbps to 1,000Mbps and these speeds will be assured.

So how important is it to choose contended broadband? Well, it really depends on the contention ratio. The contention ratio tells us how many other properties are using the same data capacity on a provider’s line. So if the contention ratio is 20:1, this means 20 other properties are also using the same line from the provider. If that’s a 100Mbps line, you might only get speeds of around 5Mbps downstream at peak times even if you’re paying for much higher ‘up to’ speeds. If your business needs consistent speeds, only an uncontended connection will suffice.

Frequencies Used

Fixed wireless broadband services use radio antennas to establish a connection. The mast transmitting to your building will have an antenna on or in it, and your provider will fit a receiver to your property to establish the connection. These radio antennas are generally designed to be used in the unlicensed ISM band radio frequency bands (900 MHz, 1.8GHz, 2.4GHz and 5 GHz). However, this can affect the reliability of fixed wireless internet due to congestion in highly populated areas or at peak times.

A workaround for problems with congestion is using licensed frequencies rather than unlicensed frequencies. Licensed frequencies are often used for commercial installations as they help providers to ensure QoS (Quality of Service). Licensed frequencies can be highly beneficial to large businesses, as a provider can offer higher connection speeds over a licensed frequency.

As you may have guessed, using a licensed frequency for fixed wireless will incur an extra cost. The price of a licensed frequency can be anything from £100 to £20,000 depending on your location and the band popularity. This is a substantial amount of money for some businesses and unaffordable for many. However, for businesses needing an ultra-reliable fixed wireless connection, it’s essential in some areas.

Your Setup

As I’ve written about in the past, fixed wireless broadband can be very reliable. However, it can be equally unreliable if it isn’t set up correctly. With all types of broadband, it’s important to remember that not all providers are made equal, with some providers putting more effort into ensuring your connection is reliable than others.

How necessary is it for your business to have reliable internet? Some businesses can cope with intermittent connectivity and slower speeds at peak times. However, if always-reliable internet is necessary for your business, a robust network is essential. As you may expect, the more robust your network, the greater the cost.

So, the way that your fixed wireless connection is set up can impact how much you’ll pay for your connection. If you have numerous dishes and backup connections, your business will obviously pay more than a business just needing one dish and no fail-over connection.

When setting up fixed wireless for big commercial operations, providers will ensure robustness in several ways. Ensuring a robust and reliable fixed wireless connection really comes down to using licensed frequencies, having backup connections and using the best technology. But, these things cost money and are variables to consider when working out how much a fixed wireless connection will cost your business.

So, How Much Will Fixed Wireless Cost Your Business?

Without knowing the particular requirements of your business, it’s difficult to say how much fixed wireless will cost your business. It all comes down to the provider you choose, how fast your connection needs to be, and how reliant you are on your internet access. I’ve worked with many providers in the past, and here are some of the questions that a provider will normally ask to determine what type of service is best for your business:

  • “How many employees do you have?”
  • “What do you use the internet for on a day to day basis?”
  • “Do you use cloud services, or other essential services reliant on a stable connection?”

If you do rely on your broadband and your business cannot function without it, or you are running a large business with lots of employees, a fixed wireless connection is likely to cost in excess of £145 per month. The exact amount you pay will depend on the way the network is set up. It’s likely you’ll end up paying substantially more as you’ll likely need backup connections, assured speeds and guaranteed fix times should something go wrong.

If you are working from home, or you run a small business with light internet usage, you should expect to pay around £65 per month for fixed wireless broadband. For £65 per month, you can expect speeds on par with fibre to the cabinet broadband. Although everything depends on your distance for the mast, congestion in the area and the contention ratio of the connection, fixed wireless internet may still be more reliable and fast than other connections available in your area.

Is Fixed Wireless Better Than DSL?

If you live in a rural area, you’re very lucky in some respects. Unfortunately, you’re unlucky when it comes to your broadband options and choice of internet service providers.

Rural areas have always been left behind when it comes to broadband technology advancements. However, there are an increasing number of broadband options available to people living in rural areas. One such option is fixed wireless. But is fixed wireless better than the DSL connection already available to you?

Is fixed wireless better than DSL? Yes, fixed wireless is better than DSL. Fixed wireless connections are faster and are more reliable. You also don’t require a physical line so the cost could be lower.

DSL and fixed wireless are very different. While fixed wireless is better than DSL, I’m going to explain why by comparing the two on several important points. And while fixed wireless is better, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you and your business. I’ll explain why.

Fixed Wireless Internet & DSL: Which Best Suits Your Needs?

If you’re living outside of a major city in America, Canada or the UK, fixed wireless internet and DSL may be the only two broadband technologies available to your business or home. Which of these broadband technologies best meets your needs? I’m going to compare the two technologies here, which should help you to decide which will meet your requirements.

To decide which type of broadband will better suit your requirements, there are multiple factors that we need to take a look at:

  • Price
  • Availability
  • Speeds
  • Reliability

Price

As with any service for your business or household, price is an important consideration when choosing broadband. Here’s a look at not only how much DSL and fixed wireless cost monthly, but how much they cost to set up.

A receiver dish being set up to establish a fixed wireless connection. Image: © Optionbox

The upfront cost of a fixed wireless connection is usually more than the upfront cost of a DSL connection. Fixed wireless technology can be expensive. Furthermore, a telecommunications technician will need to install the technology at your property and configure it. That’s not to mention the time taken up by the surveying necessary to ensure a reliable connection can be established.

With DSL connections, pretty much all of the technology is already installed. To create a DSL connection, broadband runs over your existing copper telephone line. Therefore if you already have a telephone line, nothing needs to be installed. You may still have to purchase a router and a switch, but the setup cost will be significantly lower than setting up a fixed wireless connection.

So, fixed wireless is usually more expensive to set up. How does the monthly cost of the two broadband products compare?

The monthly cost of a fixed wireless connection will differ primarily based on the speeds that you want. While you don’t pick your speeds with a DSL connection, you do with a fixed wireless broadband product. In general, fixed wireless will cost more monthly than DSL. Why does fixed wireless cost more than DSL?

Fixed wireless is much faster and more reliable than DSL. When it comes to broadband, you really pay for what you get. If you want poor speeds with questionable reliability, go for the cheaper solution. If you need good speeds and reliability guarantees, you end up paying a little more. And that’s why fixed wireless normally costs more monthly than DSL does.

There are several types of fixed wireless. You can have a contended option without any kind of speed guarantees. Providers usually offer this for around £65 per month. With this contended option, you would have speeds equivalent to FTTC. There are many providers out there that will provide guaranteed speeds more akin to a leased line. For guaranteed superfast speeds, you’ll pay around £145 per month upwards depending on the bandwidth that you need.

Availability

As you’re undoubtedly aware, there’s a limited number of broadband solutions available to businesses and homes in rural areas. DSL and fixed wireless are two broadband technologies available in rural areas, but how does availability compare?

According to High Speed Internet, DSL internet is available to 84% of the US population. DSL internet tends to be available in the majority of rural US locations, so the likelihood is this product is available to you. ADSL, the most common form of DSL in the UK, is available to approximately 99% of the UK’s population. Again, this suggests that ADSL is a broadband option available to the vast majority of people living in rural areas.

Moving onto the availability of fixed wireless, it’s hard to say how widely available fixed wireless actually is in the UK and America. There are differing figures for both countries, so it’s difficult to say how much coverage providers offer. We can safely presume that fixed wireless availability is lower than DSL/ADSL availability. However, it’s hard to give a percentage that gives us a really good idea of how limited availability is.

There are many more DSL/ADSL providers than there are businesses providing fixed wireless connections. However, there are several ISPs that focus on fixed wireless alone and have the infrastructure providing good coverage. For example, Optionbox is a UK-based broadband provider offering fixed wireless connections in West Yorkshire, primarily in Leeds and surrounding areas. If you search ‘fixed wireless providers near me’ on Google, there’s sure to be a local business offering fixed wireless connections in your area.

Speeds

So we’ve had a look at the price and availability of fixed wireless and DSL. However, another important factor when choosing your internet connection is how fast it is. While most of us can cope with a bit of buffering on Netflix, the problems associated with slow broadband are more pronounced when you’re using the connection for business activities. If your business is reliant on the internet to operate effectively, fast broadband is a must. So how do DSL and fixed wireless compare?

DSL speeds will differ greatly depending on the broadband package you have. However, DSL internet normally offers download speeds of 2Mbps – 24Mbps. While 24Mbps might not sound so bad, it’s worth noting that’s the maximum speed you’ll ever get with DSL. The speeds you get with a DSL connection are highly dependent on your distance from the exchange. The further you are from the exchange, the slower your connection.

Graph demonstrating how much of an impact distance from the exchange has on the speeds available with DSL broadband. © Speedchecker Ltd.

The above graph from Broadband Speedchecker perfectly demonstrates how slow your broadband could be if the exchange is far from your property. So while providers may sell DSL packages as ‘up to 24Mbps’, this by no means ensures your connection will offer those speeds.

Fixed wireless broadband connections are much faster than DSL connections. Fixed wireless can offer you speeds ranging from 20Mbps – 1,000Mbps. These aren’t ‘up to’ speeds either; fixed wireless connections usually have guaranteed speeds. Fixed wireless is the perfect solution for any business reliant on its internet connection. You get superfast speeds as well as a service level agreement. With DSL packages, you get neither.

Reliability

According to Wired Score, 72% of leading decision-makers feel it is extremely critical to have a reliable internet connection in their office. Wired Score also details that 75% of tenants state poor connectivity impacts company profitability. The takeaway from these two statistics is that a reliable internet connection is a must for the vast majority of businesses. So how does the reliability of DSL and fixed wireless compare?

DSL products usually offer acceptable reliability. A DSL connection is a physical line between the exchange and your property. Physical connections are inherently reliable in a respect as the wires and cables are installed underground. However, DSL connections use the old telephone infrastructure, which can be impacted by construction works as well as electromagnetic interference. Essentially, no broadband service is infallible and using a DSL connection means dealing with the same risks you’d have with any physical connection. It’s also worth noting that DSL connections are usually contended, meaning your line is shared among several properties in an area. If one of the users sharing your the line is downloading a massive file, it might slow down your internet.

Fixed wireless broadband can be reliable. However, the reliability of fixed wireless connections depends on numerous factors. With this type of connection, data travels through the air as microwaves. Therefore there’s no physical connection to worry about like there is with DSL. On the other hand, extreme weather conditions can impact the reliability of a fixed wireless connection. Some fixed wireless providers will offer service level agreements with their packages, which should offset any concerns about reliability.

The greater the distance between your property and the mast transmitting to your receiver, the lower the reliability of a fixed wireless connection. Additionally, if you are using a free, unlicensed frequency, there can be congestion in built up areas that impacts fixed wireless reliability. Licensed frequencies offer much greater reliability because nobody else can use that frequency. However, a licensed frequency will also incur a much larger cost per month.

The reliability of fixed wireless can be boosted by using multiple dishes and backup connections. If your business is reliant on its internet connection, extra dishes and backup connections are just some of the ways you can ensure you always have a connection.