The Rural Web User's Guide to Line of Sight Internet Services
It may come as a surprise to all the city-dwellers in Canada, but a full 63% of rural households do not have access to speeds that are considered standard to high-speed internet. That being... 50 Mbs down / 10 Mbs up.
This lack of rural internet access is a real issue as the world has moved online; however, there is a solution you might not have heard of before: line of sight Internet services also known as fixed wireless.
The following is a guide to what you should know about this Internet option that shows great potential to level the playing field for rural Internet users.
What Is Line of Sight Internet?
As people look for options for internet services in rural areas, they should consider line of sight internet.
Line of sight internet is a wireless internet network. Instead of relying on underground infrastructure with cables delivering the signal, a tower system broadcasts the internet signal through the air to your home or business.
Many towers are set up in rural towns and cities to provide a maximum coverage area for the fixed wireless service. Here's an example of ours.
If you're using a wireless router in your home, before the signal goes to your wireless router, it's most likely coming from a cable in your wall, which connects to cables that run all across town, to the nearest internet service provider, and beyond. There are even cables connecting the world's internet, under the sea.
Think of line of sight internet as a wireless system for the whole region, not just your house. No underground cables. It does require a clear line of sight though as the name implies.
Instead, residential internet subscribers have a receiver installed at their location which picks up a signal from a tower base station from an internet service provider. The receiver is the access point for your building.
What Are the Main Advantages?
This type of direct line of sight internet connection is well-suited to address some of the issues that rural areas have with accessing high-speed internet.
It's not that rural areas don't want good internet--they definitely do. The high cost of installing the needed physical infrastructure (like underground cables) is sometimes too great to make it worth it, especially if the area just doesn't have a very large population.
In other cases, the rural environment and landscape itself makes it hard to install cables underground.
So, the primary advantage of line of sight internet is that it does not take huge amounts of fiber optic cable. This allows the system to be implemented much cheaper and more quickly.
This helps solve the primary problem in getting high speed internet in rural areas, which is that there it is often not worth a company's resources to install the equipment it needs to for only a few people.
This way, it is efficient enough to make it worthwhile.
Since there is nothing underground and much less physical equipment, it is much easier and cheaper to maintain. Let construction diggers dig wherever they want. They will never accidentally cut through a cable!
If there is an issue with the equipment, it is far easier to pinpoint and fix. No digging required to access the problem.
The set-up for business internet or home owners is also very quick and can be done closer to a week rather than several months required to run fiber optic cable for the area. This quicker time means that it's also a less expensive process than traditional internet installation.
Low Latency and High-Speed
Of course, the internet speed is fast. Otherwise, this wouldn't be a great solution. The speeds are equal to that of cable-based internet. Like any internet service, you can choose the rural internet plan that is best for your needs.
Since the signal is beamed directly through the air from base to receiver, it does not have to deal with all the twists and turns of an underground cable. It just goes in a clean, straight line. The technical term for this is "low latency," meaning no efficiency is lost between transfers and turns.
In summary, line of sight internet can go where cables can't (or won't), is faster to install, less expensive to maintain, and is completely wireless.
Why It's Helping Rural Areas
Line of sight internet services are helping to expand internet access across rural areas. The current coronavirus pandemic is highlighting some of these bandwidth restriction issues, as students and workers alike are doing more work from home. This almost always requires internet access.
For students who live in areas where there wasn't high-speed access for everyone, recently installed line of sight internet access has allowed them to continue with their studies, reducing inequality of access.
In rural areas that have too few people for companies to be interested in installing large amounts of fiber optic cable, line of sight internet equipment can be utilized much more easily.
Since all that is needed for access to high-speed internet is a clear line of sight between your location and the base station, the open expanses of many rural areas are a perfect fit.
There might not be cable underneath the highway by the cornfield, but that corn is not interfering at all with the radio signal beaming the internet directly into your home or business.
Also, the technology is always improving, so that the distance the signal can be beamed is always increasing. This is part of a long-term solution for rural areas.
The more efficient system, without the need for miles of cable, makes financial sense for companies to invest in, therefore creating opportunities for rural citizens that they wouldn't have with traditional internet service providers.
The system works well in rural areas for these reasons.