Can Weather Affect a Fixed Wireless Internet Connection?
The majority of businesses today have become intrinsically reliant on the Internet. From serving as an accessible means to communicate globally, to hosting e-commerce stores, to conducting online credit transactions and transfers, it has become paramount for businesses to have a reliable, high-speed Internet connection. From DSL, to Copper, to Fiber, to Fixed Wireless, there are a variety of broadband technologies to consider when shopping in today’s business marketplace.
When exploring fixed wireless connections, there may be a variety of questions that come to mind. For example, Is fixed wireless reliable? Is fixed wireless affected by weather? Does fixed wireless perform just as well as a wired connection? To answer these questions, let’s first take a step back and ask the foundational question, what is fixed wireless?
What is Fixed Wireless?
Fixed wireless provides high-speed broadband Internet access to a single location via radio waves. By utilizing antennas, towers, and an express line of sight (LoS) to transmit point-to-point and point-to-multi-point signals, fixed wireless technology can be deployed in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the cost of terrestrial fiber. Unlike a standard WiFi connection, fixed wireless networks can be directionally focused to produce dedicated speeds of up to 10 Gbps. With the ability to operate over licensed or unlicensed wireless spectrum, when configured correctly the technology can withstand extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain, high winds, and severe temperatures, both hot and cold.
Why has Fixed Wireless Developed a Bad Reputation?
Although trusted and utilized by global militaries and law enforcement for upwards of a century, over the years of perfecting fixed wireless for commercial use, many small carriers deployed inexpensive equipment operating across only one frequency. This caused a multitude of problems, including interference from other links in the surrounding area. The result? A deceiving reputation for being slow, unreliable, and inferior to wired networks.
Another common misconception that has been tagged to the technology is that it is equivalent to satellite Internet. Notoriously known for its high latency, it’s important to note that satellite Internet operates by transmitting signals from a dish to a satellite orbiting more than 20,000 miles above sea level. This is drastically different than a 20 mile point-to-point fixed wireless link.
Today’s Commercial High-Speed Fixed Wireless Technology
As with all types of broadband connections, speeds and service will vary from provider to provider. From technical equipment upgrades, to improved and simplified network management through software, commercial fixed wireless networks have advanced over the years. Top that off with the ability to combine and switch between more diversified spectrum links, both licensed and unlicensed, when deployed properly, modern fixed wireless networks can deliver gigabit connection speeds rivaling fiber connections.
Fixed Wireless and the Weather
When we think of our Internet connection transmitting data wirelessly, the effects of weather can be a natural concern. Thus, it’s no surprise why fixed wireless providers are often asked, “Does weather affect fixed wireless?”
The answer? Yes, it can – and that is one of the primary reasons the technology gets overlooked. However, with informed engineering and experience, fixed wireless networks can be unaffected by weather. For example, before building out any wireless network, GeoLinks’ in-house engineering team first looks at an area’s terrain, historic weather patterns, rain fade, and thermal ducting. Then, based on the data collected, and considering the distance of the shot and required bandwidth, they choose the best frequency or frequencies and carrier-grade equipment for that specific region and build. Creating multiple failover paths, every GeoLinks network eventually connects to a fiber optic backbone to ensure true network redundancy. The result? A stable high-speed fixed wireless network designed to withstand the elements.
GeoLinks Case Studies – Proof of Concept
A great case study to prove the potential of a well-constructed fixed wireless network is GeoLinks’ project with a global coffee distributor. In 2016, the distributor was slated to open a series of new locations in Southern California in just 20 days and needed more than 30 circuits to support both their public Wi-Fi and POS systems. The company initially contracted to provide a terrestrial connection was projecting massive delays and restrictions of available bandwidth. In order to meet their quickly approaching deadlines, the company looked to contract an outside local provider to administer a temporary solution–enter GeoLinks.
GeoLinks successfully delivered more than 30 redundant circuits to all of the new store locations in just 14 days, enabling the stores to open as planned.
Although originally hired to serve as a temporary backup solution until their copper network could be installed, with the promise of further delays and all locations running seamlessly on GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network, the distributor canceled their copper installations all together and made GeoLinks their primary provider.
Furthermore, Southern California was hit with a massive storm in the Spring of 2017 causing outages across the state. California’s poor irrigation caused underground reservoirs to flood for nearly two weeks straight. As terrestrial cables live underground, many of the client’s pre-existing locations operating on copper experienced ample outages and downtime. All of their ClearFiber™ locations, on the other hand, remained unaffected and avoided any outages or downtime.
Santa Catalina Island:
Santa Catalina Island is located more than 20 miles off the coast of California, consequently making it an ongoing problem to secure reliable high speed Internet access. Before 2016, the majority of island residents were forced to live with either using an unreliable satellite or cellular connection or simply having no access whatsoever. At one point in time, the island commissioned an outside network builder to try and deliver a fixed wireless connection that would solve this problem. Unfortunately, however, the design was dramatically impacted by weather and atmospheric ducting causing consistent drops, outages, packet loss, and high latency. All in all, island residents and businesses were still left with an unsustainable network.
In 2016, GeoLinks was brought in by an affiliate partner to design a custom solution that would deliver Catalina its first ever reliable and redundant multi-gigabit network. By understanding the inherent issues of thermal ducting and rain fade, and by examining weather 50 years of weather patterns, the GeoLinks team, lead by CTO, Ryan Hauf and CEO Skyler Ditchfield, were able to conceptualize an innovative network design in under two weeks’ time.
Having ample tower coverage supported by fiberoptic backbones throughout Southern California, GeoLinks’ team of expert engineers were able to construct a fully redundant network in just 60 days. By using multiple paths over various frequencies to deliver long-haul middle mile, the network was built to seamlessly failover when rain or packet loss was detected, preventing the island from ever experiencing a perceived outage.
GeoLinks – The Best Fixed Wireless Internet Provider
So, let’s answer our initial questions. When engineered properly, fixed wireless is a reliable technology that can withstand extreme weather conditions and perform equal, if not better than, a wired connection. With innovative companies like GeoLinks building businesses and anchor institutions multi-gigabit networks that guarantee ultra-low latency, virtually no jitter, 99.999% uptime, fixed wireless may very well be the best Internet solution for your business.
Not sure if you’re within the GeoLinks coverage area? Inquire here.