Fixed Wireless Broadband


Mobile vs Fixed Wireless Broadband With WiFi in most homes and businesses, 3G data use now affordable for most, and 4G/ LTE/mobile WiMax on the horizon, there are now a huge number of options available for getting broadband on the move. Devices taking advantage include smartphones, tablets, USB dongles, laptops and even 3G-enabled routers.

All of these devices use wireless broadband technology to connect you to the Internet. Each device (referred to by telecommunications companies as a Subscriber Unit) connects to your provider’s Base Station using microwave radio. In all wireless networks, base stations do not move – ie they are in a fixed location – but in a mobile broadband network, the SU can move, even to a location covered by a different base station.

In a fixed wireless broadband network, the SU is installed by the provider at a fixed location and cannot be moved by the subscriber.

So why does it make a difference? Whether the network is designed for mobile or fixed wireless broadband, the technologies are essentially the same. Microwave radio signals pass between the base station and the subscriber unit. Each base station has a total maximum speed for all subscribers combined and also generally has a maximum number of subscriber units it can serve. Just to complicate matters, the signal level of each subscriber and the capability of the subscriber device can affect the total performance of the base station.


Consider the following illustrative example:

  • A provider sets up its network for mobile broadband. Each base station has a maximum capacity of 100Mbs.
  • If 10 SUs of similar type connect to the base station at the same time, are located within 5kms and have good signal levels, they can each achieve 10Mbs.
  • If one of those SUs turns off, and another is turned on, but has a lower capability, the overall throughput of the base station may need to be reduced, say by 20%, to compensate. So each subscriber can now only achieve 8Mbs.
  • If one of those SUs moves into a basement and its signal level drops, the base station may need to adjust its total speed down by a further 25% to compensate for the extra range it needs. So each subscriber can now only achieve 6Mbs.
  • Now, what if the total number of subscribers doubles? Then each can now only achieve 3Mbs.

In effect, mobile wireless broadband provider networks are designed to allow the performance of an individual subscriber to vary (degrade) in order to facilitate changes to the location of and to the total number of subscribers at any particular moment in time. This is why many providers quote ‘maximum’ and ‘typical’ speeds for their mobile services. Guarantees on performance or bandwidth are almost impossible.

In a fixed wireless broadband network, the provider knows exactly how many and where its subscribers are. The signal levels are also known because the customer antenna does not move and has constant line-of-sight to the tower. The provider can then accurately calculate how much bandwidth the base station can deliver and how that bandwidth will be allocated. Guarantees on performance and bandwidth are therefore possible.