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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Fixed Wireless ISPs Hit the Streets

Wireless Internet service providers (WISPs), from small, local operations to nationwide giants, are beginning to attract customers to one of the latest forms of broadband Internet connectivity. WISPs use high-powered transmitters and transceivers that send data over radio waves along the 2.4GHz spectrum. All data is delivered wirelessly from an access point to a transceiver located on your roof and then routed to a stationary computer in your home.

Pros and Cons of Fixed Wireless Internet Connection

Fixed wireless is still in its infancy, but it offers some real advantages. But before you decide to retire your cable or DSL modem, you need to consider the option from both sides.

Here are the pros of going with a WISP:

  • The cost is reasonable. Rates vary, of course, but in most cases monthly rates are equal to or less than those of a DSL or cable modem connection. Colorado River Internet, as an example of a small local WISP, charges $20 a month; Sprint charges $49 a month for similar service.

  • The download speeds are good. Advertised speeds vary among WISPs, but most are comparable to that of a DSL provider. In most cases, upload and download speeds fall between 500 and 1,000 Kbps.

Now for the cons:

  • The hardware isn't easily transferable. If you decide to move, your hardware might not be compatible with the service provider you have in your new location. No dominant fixed wireless standard is in place.

  • You get shared access. As with other connection services, as the total number of users accessing the network increases, expect throughput speeds to diminish.

  • You might get line-of-sight interference. This might or might not be a problem for you, depending on your locale and proximity to the first available access point. If you live in a flat location, then chances are good that you'll have little interference. But in a hilly city such as San Francisco, you'll need a bigger antenna with increased signal amplification to send and receive data without any problems.

What You Need for a Fixed Wireless Connection

A typical fixed wireless installation requires an antenna or transceiver, cabling, and either a modem or a special wireless PC card. Because there's no hardware standard among WISPs yet, hardware setups will vary among providers.

For the service to work right for you, your setup must have a clear line-of-sight between transmitter and transceiver. The more man-made structures, trees, and hills between the transmitter and transceiver, the more interruptions and slowdowns your service will suffer. Most providers station access points every few miles.

You can learn more about fixed wireless at http://www.isp-planet.com/fixed_wireless/ and at http://www.epinions.com.

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