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Fixed Wireless Internet vs. Satellite Internet – Which is best for rural areas?

Date Published:  March 2nd, 2023Date Updated:  May 01, 2024

When it comes to getting internet in rural or remote areas, fixed wireless internet and satellite internet come in handy. If you live in “the sticks,” “out yonder,” “the boondocks,” “the country,” or even “the middle of nowhere,” chances are you’ve heard of both or even use one.

Both fixed wireless internet and satellite internet are widely available across the United States and considered excellent alternatives to cable internet and DSL.

Though they’re popular throughout rural and remote areas, they’re also well-used in the suburbs and cities. While they have some similarities in terms of use, make no mistake, these internet options have their differences.

Let’s dive into what sets them apart and what might be the best option for you.

What is fixed wireless internet?

Fixed wireless internet is basically internet from dedicated towers and buildings – or “fixed” points of presence (PoPs) delivered by microwave technology.

A signal from a local tower or building within a ten-mile radius will travel to receivers located at nearby homes and buildings. The signal will travel from the antenna through a cable to a modem, at which point devices can be connected via WiFi or ethernet.

Is fixed wireless internet the same as wireless home internet?

Chances are if you’ve heard of fixed wireless internet, you’ve heard it used interchangeably with “wireless home internet.” While fixed wireless and wireless home internet share some similarities, such as both relying on signals from local towers, they are not one in the same.

The most notable difference between these two internet options is the method in which the internet signal gets into your home. With fixed wireless internet, a receiver is installed on or near your home to receive the internet from your provider. These receivers require professional installation and hardware that can create overhead costs.

EarthLink’s Wireless Home Internet requires no professional installation, instead relying on a modem that you can plug in, set up on your own, and start surfing quickly. The modem, rather than a receiver, broadcasts internet throughout your home via WiFi.

Wireless Home Internet requires less hassle, costs, and technical support, which is why we highly recommend it for those considering a fixed wireless solution.

Think Wireless Home Internet is the right choice for you? Get started today.
Just choose your data plan, we’ll send you equipment that’s easy to install, and you’ll get connected in no time!

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What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet is internet received from a satellite orbiting around the Earth. A satellite dish installed on or near a residence will beam up to a satellite in the atmosphere. The satellite will then send a signal to an internet service provider’s Network Operations Center, where it will connect to the internet.

The signal then travels all the way back to the dish on the home to a modem, where the internet can be accessed via WiFi or ethernet.

What’s the difference between fixed wireless and satellite internet?

When we talk about fixed wireless and satellite internet, the biggest difference is the distribution points (think where the internet signal is coming from) and the distance between the distribution point from the access point (how the signal gets to your home).

For satellite internet, the distribution point is a satellite orbiting the Earth, and the access point is the satellite dish on your home. The distance between the two is roughly 22,000 miles.

For fixed wireless, the signal is localized; The distribution point is a nearby cell tower, most likely within ten miles of your home.

This distance can impact several aspects of your internet connection. Most notably, there’s a difference in latency between satellite and fixed internet – or how long it takes data to travel from the transmission point (where the signal originated) to the distribution point to the access point.

Satellite internet is notorious for high latency, which causes lags or delays in connection. This will dampen your streaming, video-calling and online gaming experience. Even with low-orbit satellite internet, the signal will have to travel farther than if you were using fixed wireless.

Thanks to that distance, your satellite connection is highly influenced by weather. Severe storms, strong winds and even high humidity can disrupt your internet. You’ll have to wait for conditions to improve before the connection will resume as normal. Fixed wireless on the other hand, is not affected by weather.

Check out the other differences between fixed internet and satellite internet in the chart below:

Fixed Wireless Internet Satellite
Speed 5G & 4G LTE (based on cellular networks near you) Up to 100 MBPS
Availability Widely available Widely available
Equipment Receiver Satellite dish
Installation Professional installation Professional installation
Data Data caps Data caps

Is fixed wireless internet better than satellite?

You might be asking yourself this question if you’re comparing the two modes of connection, but the answer all depends on you and your circumstances. There are several things to take account of when you’re comparing fixed wireless vs. satellite internet.

First, consider your location. While both fixed wireless and satellite internet are widely available and great options for those in rural areas, your local environment can determine which option will serve you better.

Are there several cell towers around you? Fixed Wireless is a better option. Do you struggle to get cell phone service? Satellite is the right choice.

Do you frequently experience bad weather in your neck of the woods? Satellite might not be right for you.

What types of internet connections do local ISPs offer you? This can determine what options you have. (Good news: EarthLink is the largest provider of rural internet in the continental United States, so chances are, we’re in your area! Check your availability and see what internet options we can offer you.)

Next, consider your internet habits. Are you someone who prioritizes speed? Because of satellite internet’s high latency, fixed wireless is a better choice.

Considering fixed wireless internet for gaming or streaming? Keep in mind that both satellite and fixed wireless internet typically have data limits; Streaming and gaming require large amounts of data and may place you over your monthly allowance, resulting in slowed service or hefty overcharges.

If you’re a heavy streamer or gamer, fiber internet is a better option for you.

Again, if you’ve been considering fixed wireless, we highly recommend you check out EarthLink Wireless Home Internet as an alternative. You’ll enjoy all the benefits of fixed wireless (the availability and speeds of 5G and 4G LTE networks), without the hassle of professional installation, high startup costs, and technical support.

Looking for a wireless internet provider in your area? Ready to get started with satellite internet service? EarthLink will connect you to what matters most.

Call 866-383-3080

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Fixed Wireless vs. Satellite Internet Infographic



Maddy Hogan

Maddy Hogan

Maddy Hogan, a copywriter for EarthLink, is a New Englander by birth, raised in the South, and a Hoosier at heart. A graduate of Indiana University-Bloomington's Media School, she brings her unique voice and insights to publications like The Island Packet, The Cherokee Tribune, The Atlanta Business Chronicle, and The Marietta Daily Journal. When she's not writing, Maddy is passionate about traveling, art, reading, movies, well-timed memes, and her two kitties.

See all posts from Maddy Hogan.