What is wireless broadband?

Believe it or not, there are those of us who are old enough to remember when the internet consisted of squeaky dial-up connections, pages downloading at a rate of one per day and not being able to get online until your mum was off the phone.

Then came broadband, WiFi and speeds that increased a hundred-fold from 53 kbps (kilobits per second) to 5,300 kbps in a matter of a few years. Glorious, beautiful, life-changing internet became possible. But apart from gradual improvements in download speeds, the technology hasn’t really changed since it was introduced 20 years ago.

Well, now change has arrived, and it’s come in the form of wireless broadband that will increase the speed of your internet more than a hundred times over again, from the current average of 46.2 Mbps (megabits per second) to 6,000 Mbps by 2025. It means that in the years to come, we will start thinking of our current broadband connections in the same way as we remember dial-up: comically slow and hopelessly unable to achieve what we take for granted from our technology.

We think wireless broadband is the future

Wireless broadband has nothing to do with how you connect your devices at home; it is about how the internet reaches your home in the first place. Traditional broadband travels via high-speed fibre optic cable from national data centres to local exchanges and then by copper cable to your house. Because copper is terrible at carrying signals over any distance, providers are now in the process of switching them for fibre optic cables, resulting in ‘full fibre’ connections capable of up to 1,000 Mbps. This will take many years to complete, because it involves digging up every road to lay the new cable directly to people’s houses.

Regardless, traditional broadband travels a long way and is limited by the type of cable that carries it, even the most sophisticated fibre optic technology. With wireless broadband, the internet is sent to houses via radio signal at the speed of light, with no need for local exchanges and a far shorter distance to travel between the transmitter and receiver. It is broadcast via wireless transmitters installed on roof-tops, telecommunication masts, monopoles and street poles, creating a network that completely covers the town or city. As long as your home is within line-of-sight of one of the transmitters, you can receive wireless broadband, which is much faster and has better latency than anything that comes via cable.

The benefits of wireless broadband

The positive aspects of wireless broadband are not just limited to its speed (although the headline numbers are pretty impressive). With home phones slowly becoming a distant memory for newer generations, residents will be able to completely ditch their landlines if they want to. It also means there will be no such thing as ‘peak’ usage anymore. Currently, your home’s internet can slow down if lots of other households are online at the same time. That’s because the whole street often relies on the data from a single optical fibre split between houses. The wireless broadband connection provides every house with its own, individual link to ultra-high speed internet, unshared by any other household. It means that no matter how many houses on your street are streaming the latest 4K Ultra HD films, your home’s connection will not slow down.

One of the most exciting things about wireless broadband is that we are still at the very early stages of its development. Sure, 6,000 Mbps sounds fast now, just as 6 Mbps sounded fast in 1999, but as more and more money continues to flow into R&D for wireless technology, we will inevitably see speeds increase even further. The world is only a few years away from realising the potential of a completely new digital landscape. If you have been in any way excited, entertained or enraptured by the internet over the last 20 years, just imagine what the next couple of decades are going to bring.

Why wireless beats fibre optic broadband

Most internet providers will tell you that fibre optic broadband is the future. Well, they aren’t exactly fibbing, but they are being pretty liberal with the truth. Sure, connecting your home directly to fibre optic broadband (known in the biz as ‘FTTP’) is better than using traditional copper cables: It’s faster and your speed is no longer affected by how far your home is from the internet exchange. But upgrading your broadband is like a buying a remote control aeroplane – if you really want to take off, cables kind of defeat the purpose. Here’s why:

The technology is already almost out of date

Work has only just begun to install FTTP cables across the UK, which are expected to be able to deliver home broadband at speeds of approximately 1 Gbps. That’s 1,000 Mbps – pretty fast compared to average speeds now. But in reality, broadband technology is only a few years away from being capable of delivering internet that is much, much faster.

This means that by the time all the fancy new cable has been laid to connect homes directly to fibre optic broadband (which is likely to be some point in the next decade), it will already be hopelessly unable to cope with the speeds that other technology will be capable of. And the only way to bring it up to date is spend another decade re-laying newer cable, only for the cycle to begin again.

Wireless technology does not suffer from the same problems as FTTP. The wireless transmitters that broadcast the broadband signal to your home are roughly the size of a packet of sugar and set on top of a mast, similar to mobile phone towers. The billions of pounds being invested in wireless technology means it is improving at an incredible rate, so whenever faster broadband becomes possible, it’s simply a matter of swapping out the transmitters for an updated version. No digging, no waiting, just the fastest broadband that modern technology can achieve, beamed directly to your home.

Fibre optic broadband availability is a real pain

If you don’t have FTTP yet, connecting your town means putting cables into the ground to connect every house in every street. That involves a LOT of closed roads, detours, noise, and the hassle of trying to get in and out of your house while dodging workmen, trenches, vans and equipment for months on end. It’s all the fun of your morning traffic jam, extended to the rest of your daytime, leisure time and down time. Plus, with the added bonus of a carbon footprint that would make a low-budget airline blush.

Wireless broadband uses radio transmitters set up around your town. They are installed in a day or two and can be maintained and upgraded without so much as a single closed road. It’s less hassle, a lower carbon footprint and will last a good 50 to 60 years before needing to be replaced.

Fibre optic broadband deals have no flexibility

Whichever provider you end up choosing, they have to cover the massive expense of the installation and maintenance of their new and improved FTTP network. Which means passing the costs on to you. You want ultra-fast speeds? It’ll cost you double what you’re paying now. Just upgraded your TV to 4K Ultra HD? Better be prepared to sign up to a brand new contract for faster broadband to cope with it. Want to downgrade your speed? There’s that brand new contract again.

Wireless broadband is more flexible (well, it is the way we do it here at 6G Internet). Because our installation and running costs are lower, our customers can choose to switch to any package that suits them without extending or renewing their contract. It’s simply a matter of picking what’s right for your household at that particular time. Stick or switch. Upgrade or downgrade. It’s fine by us and it’s up to you.

But here’s the most important bit: because we don’t need to spend as much money on our infrastructure to deliver higher speeds, we can deliver ultra-fast broadband without having to charge the inflated prices our FTTP competitors do. And as we improve our speeds and technology, our customers can enjoy ever faster broadband. The government wants most areas to be able to access 1 Gbps broadband by 2025. By that time, we will be providing internet that is six times faster – for the same price.

If you’re interested in joining the wireless revolution, check if it’s available in your area now.