How does Fixed Wireless make sense?

Fixed Wireless

How does Fixed Wireless make sense?

Fixed Wireless technology first made an appearance back in the '70s, and since then it’s been quietly forging ahead in leaps and bounds as other – often more contentious – technologies have hogged the limelight.

But of course, the concept can sound confusing at first glance. How can you have both a network that is both fixed AND wireless?

Well, when you think about it, all ‘wireless’ communications (4G, 5G, Wi-Fi, satellite) will at some stage connect with fixed infrastructure somewhere. For instance, around 98 per cent of all international internet traffic travels along deep-sea telecommunications cables.

How does Fixed Wireless technology work?

Fixed Wireless networks transmit data over radio waves via small antennas acting as connectors, typically placed on the roofs of buildings.

Fixed Wireless networks have traditionally required large antennas to deliver slow and sub-par performance. By contrast, today the technology has advanced in range and performance by several orders of magnitude. In fact, recent improvements to Fixed Wireless have massively outpaced some residential NBN capabilities, including new mmWave technology that has the capacity to deliver residential customers with symmetrical upload and download speeds for the first time.

Antennas have also reduced in size from 1-2 metres to today’s average of around 30cm. This pivotal achievement means that gaining the necessary government planning approvals and physically installing antennas is much more straight-forward than it used to be.

What is Fixed Wireless capable of?

For the past several years Fixed Wireless has used mmWave (millimetre wave) technology, now supporting speeds in the realm of 20 gbit/sec. That’s 20-times faster than the 100mbit/sec some people are able to achieve over 4G today.

Millimetre wave sits between microwave and infrared waves, which is the band of spectrum between 30 GHz and 300 GHz. This spectrum can be used for high-speed wireless communications as seen with the latest 802.11ad Wi-Fi standard (operating at 60 GHz).

But what’s really interesting, and something many people don’t know, is that mmWave is precisely the same technology underpinning 5G.

A lot has been said about Australia's potential for 5G mobile services to provide enterprise-grade network connectivity and eventually remove the need for physical lines and cables. Yet as we all know, the roll-out has been slow and fraught with challenges.

And Fixed Wireless has been using the all-important capabilities of mmWave for several years.  

Doesn’t actual fibre infrastructure perform better?

In a word, no.

Fixed Wireless is actually much faster than physical fibre. For instance, Fixed Wireless transmits data at almost the speed of light (99%), while fibre clocks at about 30 per cent less than the speed of light.

And Fixed Wireless networks can also be deployed quickly and relatively cheaply; certainly compared with having to dig up the earth and roads like a certain national network currently courting controversy across the country...  

What about radiation?

Over the past decade or more, public concerns have been raised about the risk of humans being exposed to high levels of radiation through extensive use of mobile phones. The presence of mobile phone towers has similarly fuelled anxieties in communities.

While long-term data isn’t available at this early stage of mobile adoption, it’s a topic that people should be remain aware of.

With Fixed Wireless, however, the levels of radiation emitted are surprisingly low, producing a fraction of those which have been recorded with mobile phones and towers.

Fixed Wireless emits what’s known as ‘non-ionising’ radiation, as opposed to the ‘ionising’ kind associated with x-rays. This level of radiation isn’t powerful enough to impact human cells, although it can heat them, for instance, if you were to stand within inches of an antenna for an extended period of time.  

Beyond the NBN

Naturally, Australia's NBN network is extensive. But like anything, customers need an alternative - particularly those living outside of NBN Co's reach, like many rural and remote communities.

One great advantage of Fixed Wireless is that it provides a much simpler way to connect homes and businesses to the internet in more remote areas.

In partnership with the Western Australian government, Superloop have built 12 Fixed Wireless towers in the rural farming regions of Great Southern and the Wheatbelt.

Offering a non-NBN Fixed Wireless alternative is also advancing Adelaide's homes and businesses. Now, many residential and enterprise customers can access advanced Fixed Wireless Wave technologies that give the NBN a run for their money.

What to read next:
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Is it possible for a network to be both 'fixed' and 'wireless'?
Are you feeling the bandwidth strain? A Fixed Wireless network could be the answer