Understanding Fixed Wireless vs. Satellite

Understanding Fixed Wireless vs. Satellite

Fixed wireless is not the same thing as satellite internet service.   Both satellite and fixed wireless require a dish or antenna, and both provide a high speed internet connection without using phone or cable lines, but there are some important differences that make fixed wireless the more attractive option.

The most obvious difference is that fixed wireless is not affected by weather as satellite is.  A satellite connection can be interrupted by weather conditions in your area, or at the central server location, or anything going on in the atmosphere.  Fixed wireless, however, is usually no higher than 500 feet or so, and the signal never travels up through the atmosphere, so storms or other weather conditions won’t interfere with the signal.  Another important difference is latency, or lag time.  Because the signal has a shorter distance to travel, latency is significantly less when using fixed wireless than with satellite internet.  This means that all your streaming and real-time applications will function at maximum efficiency.

Have a look at this diagram, for a quick breakdown of how a fixed wireless connection works:


  1. The tower, which is about as tall as the average cell phone tower, is usually within 10 miles of your home.  The tower sends out the wireless signal which carries your internet connection.


  1. The antenna is usually on the roof of your house, or sometimes it might be on a pole or in the attic. It picks up the signal sent by the tower, and brings it to your home.


  1. A cable carries your internet signal from the antenna, through the walls, into the house. Where this cable goes depends on where your router is, and it can be run to any room you choose.


  1. Your router converts the signal into a form that your computer can use, and allows you to connect multiple devices to a single internet source.  You can plug devices directly into the Ethernet ports on the back of the router, or connect to its wireless signal with laptops, phones, tablets, etc.


  1. Your computer (or phone or tablet) sends information to the router, which sends it back through the wiring to the antenna, and from there to the tower. Information you download travels the same path in reverse: from the tower to the antenna, through the wiring to the router, to your computer.