What is Fixed Wireless Access 5G and Mobile 5G?

5G, also referred to as the “fifth generation” of mobile network, is promising consumers faster, more reliable, and more accessible wireless service, guaranteeing an overall improved user experience. This enhanced wireless service that runs on radio frequencies offers two primary setups of connection: fixed wireless access 5G and mobile 5G. 

Fixed wireless internet is created by stationing a fixed antenna nearby a wireless tower, close in proximity and visible enough to establish a stable connection capable of converting radio waves into internet service. This connection is sent down a cable installed in your house that links to your router, thereby providing household access to Wi-Fi. 

Mobile internet, on the other hand, operates cellularly, meaning customers need only purchase a mobile device capable of receiving 5G radio waves in order to access internet when not on Wi-Fi. 

Collectively, while these are two distinctly different plans to access the magical world of the internet, you can still receive both services through the same wireless carrier.

Four Primary Differences

To narrow these two processes down further, there are four unique differences between 5G home internet and 5G mobile: portability, equipment, reliability, and data caps. 

Portability is easily the most simplistic of these distinctions, as home internet is tethered to a specific location whereas with mobile you can take your smart device everywhere you go and (as long as you are in range of a cellular tower) you will have consistent internet service.

Concerning equipment for each method of accessing internet service, home internet requires each household to have a fixed wireless antenna (as mentioned earlier) positioned at the top of the homes that must also be in direct line of sight to a 5G base station. 5G mobile naturally needs only a compatible 5G mobile device to connect to 5G through a cellular tower and you’re good to go.

Reliability, our third difference, is where we start to see some definitive underlying advantages and disadvantages between the two plans. Since 5G mobile is portable, it requires widespread coverage for your smart devices, since it will be jumping cell towers (and everything in between, including buildings, trees, large vehicles, etc.) in order to maintain internet access as you travel. This means the mobile method is less likely to have consistent data speeds compared to 5G home internet, which never changes location.

This brings us to our final primary difference: data caps. A data cap is a service provider-enforced limit on the amount of data that can be transferred by a user over a given time period for a specified fee; in other words, data caps are established as a maximum allowed amount of data that can be transmitted and used in a month. Ever received a text notification stating, “You’ve used xGB this month. If you exceed xGB before your service provider cycle resets, you will still receive unlimited data but may notice reduced speeds…” or something of the like? That means you’ve reached the limit of your smartphone plan’s data cap and if you surpass it, you may experience slower service and potentially be charged more. This is a sharp contrast and disadvantage 5G mobile has in comparison to 5G home internet, as home internet providers usually offer unlimited data plans.

The Pros and Cons of Fixed Wireless 5G

Now we’ll take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages that develop with each method of 5G internet access, starting with fixed wireless. One particular component to fixed wireless that makes it outperform mobile is its ability to equally sustain multiple devices at once. When you’re at home with 5G internet, every device in your house—including computers—can communicate via Wi-Fi with your router accessing the fast connection between your antennae and nearest 5G cell tower.

We’ve already addressed reliability and how home internet is more likely to provide consistent internet access compared to mobile 5G. To add to this, the lack of cables means fixed wireless is not susceptible to issues that affect cable, satellite, and fiber, therefore there is little to no maintenance required. This does not mean, however, that the antennae that forms the connection to radio signals is immune to poor weather; if there’s a nasty thunderstorm raging outside, odds are you will temporarily lose your internet connection. The fact that there’s only one fixed access point can prove to be frustrating as well, especially if there’s an obstacle (a tree or large building) between your antennae and cell tower that interrupts what would be a stable connection.

Affordability is another feature to fixed wireless access that has both positive and negative aspects to it. On one hand, once 5G is more widespread, 5G home internet will become one of the most cost-efficient internet services available; on the other hand, the special hardware and equipment necessary to enable home internet can be expensive.

Pros and Cons of Mobile 5G

It should be of no surprise that most of the advantages and disadvantages that come with fixed wireless access are opposite to those of mobile. One of the more considerable positives to mobile internet is roaming, a quality fixed wireless is incapable of supporting. Thanks to mobile roaming capabilities, a 5G smart device can maintain internet access when you leave your home by jumping 5G cell towers and radio channels as you travel, rather than be restricted to a single fixed point. However, as described earlier, despite the wide coverage mobile 5G offers, this doesn’t guarantee a stable internet connection and consistent data speeds as fixed wireless does.

Another stark contrast is installation and setup. With mobile access, there is no hardware installation necessary—at least, not on your end of the spectrum. All you have to do is purchase a mobile device and connect it to a provider with a 5G plan. As far as equipment goes, cell towers are all that’s necessary for mobile internet access, though constructing them is no inexpensive process. But it’s worth noting that 5G cell towers are smaller in size and can be installed in more discreet locations (on the side of buildings or on top of streetlights).

A final rewarding aspect to 5G mobile is decreased network latency (lagging) which grants more Internet consumption in one sitting, a positive feature worth taking advantage of whether you’re a businessperson on the go or exhausted parents on a road trip with children much in need of entertainment. The downside here is the energy on mobile devices will be depleted at a swifter pace. For instance, if video calls become more common due to 5G technology (and, perhaps, an ongoing pandemic), then the energy on our devices will only be used up more quickly because these activities and apps being utilized devour battery life.

So, which of the two is better?

In the long run, fixed wireless access 5G and mobile 5G are designed to do exactly the same thing: provide access to the internet. One simply lets you connect to the internet from your phone while away from home, whereas the other is best for when you need internet access in a fixed location. Both come with their own pros and cons, and they each are capable of providing advantages where the other would fall short and vice versa.