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- Speed: 25Mbps
- Price: $59.99/mo.
- Speed: 25–50Mbps
- Price: $25.00–$65.00/mo.
- Speed: 72-245Mbps
- Price: $50.00/mo.
- Speed: Up to 1000Mbps
- Price: $60.00–$80.00/mo.
About fixed wireless internet
Fixed wireless internet service is delivered using radio transmitters to send information directly from one point to another. These transmitters are attached to stationary (fixed) objects—like poles, buildings, or towers—at strategic locations, combining to create a wireless network. These internet service providers (ISPs) often fill the gaps between larger providers’ service areas and extend high-speed connections into more rural areas.
Popular fixed wireless internet providers
|Provider||Fixed wireless speeds up to||Prices starting at||Order online|
|Up to 1000Mbps||$50.00–$70.00/mo.‡|
Data as of 5/26/2023. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*Plus taxes w/qualifying AT&T wireless svc. Incl 350GB data/mo., overage chrgs apply. Ltd. avail/areas in U.S.
†w/ Auto Pay. Internet provider not available in all areas; customers ineligible for 5G Home Internet may be eligible for 4G LTE or other fixed wireless options. Regulatory fees included in monthly price for qualified accounts. See full terms.
‡ w/ Auto Pay and select 5G mobile plans. Available in select areas.
Fixed wireless internet is very location dependent, so even plans offered by nationwide providers are typically available only in small pockets across the country. This means you can often find smaller, local companies providing fixed wireless connections to their surrounding community, filling in the gaps overlooked by nationwide networks.
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Pros and Cons
- Quality signal
- Simple infrastructure
- Local ownership
- Signal obstruction
- Limited availability
Pros of fixed wireless
Quality signal—Fixed wireless delivers a higher-quality signal than other types of wireless internet because its transmissions are focused directly toward the receiver on your home and not scattered in multiple directions. It also uses a much higher frequency than many other wireless technologies, which allows more information to be transmitted, resulting in higher bandwidth.1
Simple infrastructure—Because sending signals wirelessly is more cost-effective than building the infrastructure to send a signal via a wired connection, ISPs can expand their service areas quickly without a lot of up-front costs. This business advantage is particularly helpful for smaller ISPs or ISPs just entering the market. Fixed wireless generally works well in mountainous areas where transmitters can be placed at high elevations to reach a wider range.
Local ownership—Many fixed wireless providers were started by local entrepreneurs.1 Although some large, nationwide corporations offer fixed wireless services, they generally make little use of this technology. Most fixed wireless providers are small, local businesses with ties to the surrounding community.2
Cons of fixed wireless
Signal obstruction—Fixed wireless internet transmitters require a clear line of sight from one transmitter to another in order to function. Ensuring that lines of sight remain clear can be problematic because an ISP can’t always control what happens between one transmitter and another. A tree could grow taller, another company could construct a tall building, a pole could get knocked over by adverse weather—all of which could potentially disrupt a fixed wireless transmission.
While low frequency transmissions like radio and television can easily pass through small obstructions and even walls, the short wavelength used by fixed wireless can be more easily deflected by foliage and similarly sized objects.
Limited availability—Although fixed wireless networks offer some of the fastest, most reliable connections available in rural areas, there just aren’t many fixed wireless networks in operation. Only around a third of the rural population has access to fixed wireless internet.3
How fixed wireless internet works
Fixed wireless networks—also known as fixed wireless access (FWA), broadband wireless access (BWA), wireless internet service providers (WISPs), and several other terms—work by sending a wireless signal directly from a remote transmitter to a receiver on your home. While cell towers transmit in all directions within a given radius to serve mobile customers, fixed wireless transmitters send signals directly to other fixed wireless transmitters.
Fixed wireless signals
Fixed wireless providers use a variety of technologies in their networks, ranging from microwave-band connections like WiMAX to millimeter-band connections similar to those used in 5G technologies. The main distinction between fixed wireless connections and cellular technologies is that fixed wireless connections cannot be moved and require line of sight (or near line of sight) to the transmitter.
Another difference between fixed wireless and cellular connections is the equipment involved. Cellular equipment usually consists of a single device within the home, which may have a separate antenna that is placed in a window. Fixed wireless connections usually have an external antenna or dish mounted on the outside of the house to maximize signal strength. This is then connected to the customer premises equipment (CPE) where you plug in your router (or the CPE might have a router built in). In multifamily buildings like apartments, the entire building might be connected to the network with a single antenna and CPE, which is then connected to routers in each individual household.
With the development of 4G LTE home internet and 5G home internet, which both sacrifice mobility to provide a stronger signal, the distinction between fixed wireless and cellular providers is becoming even more blurred.
Fixed wireless infrastructure
Fixed wireless providers work similarly to most landline networks, but they use wireless transmitters instead of running cables underground. Not only does this configuration save on the up-front costs of building a network, but it also allows for a strong and fast internet connection within that network.
These wireless transmitters connect in two different ways, point-to-point (PtP) and point-to-multiple-point (PtMP). The antennas that connect to all the residential customers in a given area use PtMP, with one tower providing a signal to multiple homes. These antennas then use direct PtP connections to send the signal toward the backbone of the provider’s network (a high-bandwidth fiber connection), which then connects to the rest of the internet.
Fixed wireless antennas can also be much smaller (and cheaper to build) than cell towers. However, to get the most out of their range, they need to be mounted someplace high. Tall buildings and mountains make excellent spots to mount antennas. But, in flatter areas, providers might have to build towers just to keep the signals from being blocked by the curvature of the earth.
The expansion of fixed wireless
Fixed wireless technology has been around for a long time, but it’s seen more growth as more frequencies of the spectrum are opened up for commercial use. For example, another chunk of the spectrum was opened in 2015, allowing fixed wireless providers to use frequencies that were previously reserved for government uses like radar.1
Also, since fixed wireless networks can make use of unlicensed spectrum bands (where equipment has to be able to function while causing minimal interference to other users), new fixed wireless networks can be deployed rapidly while dealing with fewer regulations.2
One of the biggest challenges for fixed wireless networks is their asymmetric speeds. Like many other connection types, fixed wireless networks often deliver much higher download speeds than upload speeds. This is ideal for many high-bandwidth activities, like streaming movies and downloading files; however, as online habits shift toward things like video chat, telehealth, and livestreaming, upload speed is becoming more important.
This shift is reflected in government programs like the USDA’s ReConnect Program, which requires providers to offer symmetrical speeds of at least 100Mbps in order to qualify for funding.4 This could make it difficult for fixed wireless providers, many of whom are small local companies, to keep up with other technologies.5
Bridging the Digital Divide
Although fixed wireless isn’t as fast as fiber or as exciting as cutting-edge satellite technology, it might be one of the fastest and easiest ways to address the digital divide. It might even get better as wireless technologies like 5G inspire new solutions to the challenges that come with wireless internet.
One example of this potential can be found in Amarillo, Texas, where the city is building a fixed wireless network to bring internet access to school children. Motivated by the urgent need for online education during the pandemic, this new wireless network will cover 50 square miles and, notably, provide symmetrical upload and download speeds, which are important for online education.6 Fixed wireless is an ideal technology for this kind of application because it covers an entire area, filling in the gaps where homes fall between other providers’ coverage areas.
This project is one of many being funded through the new federal broadband infrastructure programs. The planners of this project also intend to expand its reach in the future, bringing wireless internet access to underserved communities throughout the Texas panhandle.6
Fixed wireless vs. other wireless connections
There are a lot of kinds of wireless internet, and fixed wireless is just one specific kind. Fixed wireless internet is different from satellite internet, Wi-Fi, 4G, and 5G.
Fixed wireless vs. satellite internet
Satellite internet works using transmitters orbiting Earth. This technology allows for high availability but also results in high latency. Because fixed wireless is based on the Earth’s surface, it always has lower latency than satellite, but can often provide higher speeds and lower prices, as well.
Fixed wireless vs. WiFi
Wi-Fi is the technology used to connect small wireless Local Area Networks (LANs). For example, your home Wi-Fi network or the Wi-Fi at your favorite coffee shop both manage the internet connections for all the devices on their respective networks.
Wi-Fi is a set of wireless network protocols based on the on the IEEE 802.11 standards (which is why you might see Wi-Fi 6 listed as 802.11ax). Its radio signals work well even in crowded areas where the airwaves are filled with other Wi-Fi signals, though it can be blocked by walls, pillars, and other solid obstructions.
Most people use Wi-Fi for their home networks, but they still need a way to connect their home network to the internet. This connection could be a wired connection like cable or fiber, or you could connect to the internet wirelessly over a connection like fixed wireless.
Fixed wireless vs. Mobile Broadband
Mobile broadband is a catch-all term for internet connections used on mobile devices like your phone, tablet, or a wireless hotspot. Fixed wireless, as you might expect, is designed with the expectation that both the transmitter and receiver are in fixed locations, so even if you could take the antenna off your house and stick it to a car, it probably wouldn’t work.
Fixed and mobile wireless internet plans tend to have different use cases. Although many people rely on their phones as their only connection to the internet, it’s more common for people to have both. There are, however, ways to use these same cellular networks to make connections designed for home internet, which is where 4G and 5G home internet connections come in.
Fixed wireless vs. 4G home internet and 5G home internet
Fixed wireless is different from cellular technologies like 4G and 5G, though there is considerable overlap in the technologies they use. These wireless technologies are the same used in mobile phones that have internet connectivity, but they can also be used for home internet connections.
Although the technologies are similar to fixed wireless, the cellular towers used for 4G and 5G home internet require more infrastructure, because they’re also used to provide mobile coverage. Since these networks pull double duty, their top speeds are often a bit lower. Fixed wireless towers, on the other hand, are built with home internet in mind, so they are often able to deliver higher speeds using just a few well-placed towers.
- Interisle Consulting Group, “The Essential Role of Fixed Wireless in Universal Broadband Coverage,” August 2015, Accessed June 30, 2021.
- The Carmel Group, “Broadband Wireless Access Industry Report 2017,” Accessed June 30, 2021.
- Federal Communications Commission, “Fixed Broadband Deployment,” Accessed June 29, 2021.
- US Department of Agriculture, “USDA to Make Up to $1.15 Billion Available to Help People Living in Rural Communities Access High-Speed Internet,” October 22, 2021. Accessed October 26, 2021.
- Diana Goovaerts, Fierce Telecom, “WISPA worries new ReConnect rules will hurt FWA broadband providers,” October 25, 2021. Accessed October 26, 2021.
- Linda Hardesty, Fierce Wireless, “Amarillo, Texas Deploys $4M Fixed Wireless Access Network for School Kids,” January 18, 2022. Accessed January 20, 2022.