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Fixed wireless vs. fiber internet: A head-to-head matchup

In the battle for internet dominance, many contenders have risen to the challenge of bringing high-speed internet to our homes.

Some methods of internet access, like dial-up, are long gone. Similarly, DSL and satellite (Exede / Hughesnet) are the internet of last resort, lacking the speed and latency needed for streaming, gaming, and high usage from multiple devices. Cable internet is still around, despite numerous deficiencies in reliability and capacity.

Fixed wireless is often considered the next-best choice when fiber isn’t an option. Let’s compare the two on their merits and see how different they really are.

Installation and Availability
Fixed wireless internet operates on a mobile data connection to a nearby cellular tower. While this method can be easier for internet providers to set up, two things must be present for it to work: You have to live close to a cell tower equipped for sending the signal, and your home has to be within the line of sight of the tower.

Installing fiber, on the other hand, requires running miles of fiber optic cables overhead and underground, which takes time — but once a neighborhood is wired, everyone living there can tie into it. Plus, fiber internet is becoming increasingly available in many rural areas, thanks to innovative electric cooperatives.

Check your address for fiber availability.

No two forms of internet delivery are equal, and this area is particularly tough for fixed wireless internet. Because the internet signal travels through the air, speeds are typically much lower than 100 Mbps, depending on the infrastructure. That’s barely high speed in today’s numbers.

By contrast, fiber-optic cables transmit data using light signals, providing instantaneous access to the internet with little signal degradation. That’s why fiber can deliver speeds in Gigabits per second.

Internet-delivered through fixed wireless is susceptible to interference during inclement weather conditions or when obstacles such as buildings or trees block the line of sight between the receiver and the transmitter.

Fiber internet tends to be more reliable than fixed wireless because the fiber optics are very durable and can withstand some adversity. 

Latency is a commonly misunderstood and overlooked factor in your home’s internet experience. Latency measures the time it takes for information to travel from one computer to another. Lower latency means faster response times, which is important for activities such as online gaming, video conferencing, and real-time streaming.

Fiber internet typically offers much lower latency compared to fixed wireless — as low as 1 millisecond versus up to 30 milliseconds. That’s a lot.

It's no contest, really. Fiber is the future.



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