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Fixed Wireless Internet Access: Benefits & Misconceptions.

The world is seeing an acceleration in the adoption of Internet access services to support the growth of SD-WAN networks. Quality and reliability are at the forefront of consideration and, when talking about business continuity with our customers, the discussion often turns to how to ensure diversity to prevent downtime.

A thorough conversation is needed here as there are many elements to diversity – building entrance diversity, conduit diversity, carrier diversity, metro infrastructure diversity, pop diversity, gateway div… you name it. It is a complex topic and without a good review, customers may not achieve the diversity they believe they are buying. Regardless, when diversity is on the table, Fixed Wireless should be part of the discussion as it offers true physical diversity over the last mile to terrestrial networks.

Fixed Wireless uses microwave radio to send and receive high-speed data between two fixed locations (point-to-point).This is not to be confused with mobile-based technologies such as 4G/LTE. With Fixed Wireless, one can achieve high speeds (1M to 1G) and more reliability (99.99%). You can think of Fixed Wireless as a cable in the sky, rather than a connection you can move around.

Fixed Wireless: Diversity, yes. But there’s more.

Sometimes, a truly diverse terrestrial infrastructure is simply not available. Fixed Wireless, often overlooked (and misunderstood), can be a diverse, secure and reliable part of your Enterprise Wide Area Network.

That’s right. Aside from offering diversity, Fixed Wireless can also be as reliable as fiber-based networks – not to mention rapid installation, low capital costs (no fiber builds) and scalable bandwidth.

Even with all these benefits, some Network Managers still have doubts and concerns about relying on this technology. In this post, we gather the most common misunderstandings about Fixed Wireless Internet Access:

Questions & misconceptions about Fixed Wireless internet.

“I heard these connections are unreliable.”

Not true. A large driver for unreliability in wireless networks is interference (i.e multiple wireless services competing for the same frequency space). This is why your Wi-Fi gets worse at home when more Wi-Fi networks are turned on within range.

Fixed wireless operates over a licensed or unlicensed wireless spectrum. Licensed wireless services are more reliable than unlicensed ones, but both provide a comparable experience to terrestrial services:

Licensed microwave links guarantee security against interference from other wireless systems. Licensed spectrum is purchased by the provider from the local regulator (such as the FCC in the US or OFCOM in the UK). Only the provider that has purchased the spectrum can use it, meaning interference from other services is not possible.

Licensed links are effective for businesses that require high bandwidth and consistency of service over the long term. However licensed services are typically more expensive than unlicensed services, as the provider must purchase the licensed spectrum, often at a significant cost.

Unlicensed links mean that the spectrum is not reserved, and anyone can set up and operate within the unlicensed spectrum band at any time (unlicensed spectrum is what Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and even your microwave oven use to operate). However, significant interference remains unlikely as wireless ISPs configure their network to minimise the chance of clashing with other wireless systems.

Interference within a point-to-point system is also much less frequent due to the directional nature of the wireless equipment being used. Wireless systems can now handle interference intelligently to reduce performance degradation and downtime by relatively changing how they are connected to each other in light of the current electromagnetic environment.

“Installation time frames are too long.”

Quite the opposite. Because there is no physical intervention required outside the customer premises, Fixed Wireless internet can often be installed within a few weeks.

Once a clear line of sight between supplier and end-location has been confirmed, and after receiving building owner approval to install the receiver (antennas) on the roof, expect your service to be up and running as soon as an engineer can visit the premises.

“In fact, Wireless connections are often used as “quick deployment” solutions by ISPs facing long lead times for terrestrial infrastructure upstream. Typically, a wireless network is entirely within the ISPs control.”

“Is Fixed Wireless similar to 4G?”

Not at all. 4G/LTE is a very different solution. While both options provide secure internet access, Fixed Wireless requires a fixed address, and it can provide and guarantee high maximum speeds and generally does not restrict data usage. 4G/LTE is portable, relies on cellular connectivity, and often carries usage charges or other restrictions. Also, when it comes to mobile, achievable bandwidth speeds are variable and never guaranteed.

“Weather will take my service offline.”

Unlikely. Technically, certain types of weather (such as bad rain) can impact wireless frequencies. However, when the antenna system and selected frequency are configured correctly (i.e. coding schemes adapting to lower speeds in periods of poor weather) you can count on your service not going offline (this is also why so many wireless ISPs can guarantee high uptimes as standard with their Service Level Agreement).

Severe wind can also indirectly impact Fixed Wireless. Although it does not actually impact the microwave radio signal, very strong winds can knock the antenna out of alignment. To counter this, wireless ISPs account for potential high winds when installing the Fixed Wireless antennas.

“Can I run VoIP or other latency/jitter sensitive applications over fixed wireless?

Yes. Fixed Wireless is a low latency solution that supports latency and jitter sensitive applications such as VoIP services, remote desktop and videoconferencing. By layering VoIP over a reliable fixed wireless connection, customers will benefit from a similar or the same user experience as with a terrestrial connection.

“Fixed wireless means Satellite, right?”

Try again. Fixed wireless and satellite are two very different technologies. Satellite involves transmitting signals to an orbiting satellite and back. In contrast, fixed wireless uses microwave radio frequency to connect two fixed points, both located on Earth.

So, while higher latency is unavoidable with traditional Satellite technology (due to the ~72,000KM a signal travels), Fixed Wireless can offer similar quality and performance as services with a physical terrestrial cable.

Considering Fixed Wireless for your Enterprise WAN.

Understanding all the different methods of delivering internet access can be a daunting concept, and it's tempting to stick to what we know and trust. But to get the most out of your internet deployment, with the right balance of performance and cost, it’s key to first know and understand the options that the market can provide (do you really need 2 diverse fiber services even if the build cost is 6 figures? – isn’t one wireless and one fiber actually more than enough?).

Luckily, that’s where Globalinternet can help. We know the internet and our local markets, and we can advise when/where to use different technologies based on your use case – and just as critically, when not to!

Would you like to learn more? Download our free white paper: “Understanding the internet underlay for your SD-WAN & Cloud”, which outlines all you need to know to make the right connectivity choices for your business.