Fixed Wireless Access

Fixed wireless access technology provides a wireless link to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) as an alternative to traditional wire-based local telephone service. Since calls and other information (e.g., data, images) are transmitted through the air rather than through conventional cables and wires, the cost of providing and maintaining telephone poles and cables is avoided.

Unlike cellular technologies, which provide services to mobile users, fixed wireless services require a rooftop antenna to an office building or home that is lined up with a service provider’s hub antenna. Fixed wireless access systems come in two varieties: narrowband and broadband. Anarrowband fixed wireless access service can provide bandwidth up to 128 kbps, which can support one voice conversation and a data session such as Internet access or fax transmission.

Abroadband fixed wireless access service can provide bandwidth in the multimegabit- per-second range, which is enough to support telephone calls, television programming, and broadband Internet access. Anarrowband fixed wireless service requires a wireless access unit that is installed on the exterior of a home or business to allow customers to originate and receive calls with no change to their existing analog telephones.

This transceiver is positioned to provide an unobstructed view to the nearest base station receiver. Voice and data calls are transmitted from the transceiver at the customer’s location to the base station equipment, which relays the call through the carrier’s existing network facilities to the appropriate destination. No investment in special phones or facsimile machines is required; customers use all their existing equipment.

Narrowband fixed wireless systems use the licensed 3.5- GHz radio band with 100-MHz spacing between uplink and downlink frequencies. Subscribers receive network access over a radio link within a range of 200 meters (600 feet) to 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the carrier’s hub antenna. About 2000 subscribers can be supported per cell site.

Broadband fixed wireless access systems are based on microwave technology. Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS) operates in the licensed 2- to 3-GHz frequency range, while Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS) operates in the licensed 28- to 31-GHz frequency range. Both services are used by Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) primarily to offer broadband Internet access.

These technologies are used to bring data traffic to the fiberoptic networks of Interexchange Carriers (IXCs) and nationwide CLECs, bypassing the local loops of the Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs).

Fixed wireless access technology originated out of the need to contain carriers’ operating costs in rural areas, where pole and cable installation and maintenance are more expensive than in urban and suburban areas. However, wireless access technology also can be used in urban areas to bypass the local exchange carrier for long-distance calls.

Since the IXC or CLEC avoids having to pay the ILEC’s local loop interconnection charges, the savings can be passed back to the customer. This arrangement is also referred to as a “wireless local loop.”