A wireless Internet service provider (WISP) is an Internet service provider with a network based on wireless networking. Technology may include commonplace Wi-Fi wireless mesh networking, or proprietary equipment designed to operate over open 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 4.9, 5, 24, and 60 GHz bands or licensed frequencies in the UHF band (including the MMDS frequency band), LMDS, and other bands from 6Ghz to 80Ghz.
In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released Report and Order, FCC 05-56 in 2005 that revised the FCC’s rules to open the 3650 MHz band for terrestrial wireless broadband operations. On November 14, 2007 the Commission released Public Notice (DA 07-4605) in which the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau announced the start date for licensing and registration process for the 3650-3700 MHz band.
As of July 2015, there are over 1,280 fixed wireless broadband providers operating in the US covering 51% of the US population.
WISPs often offer additional services like location-based content, Virtual Private Networking and Voice over IP. Isolated municipal ISPs and larger statewide initiatives alike are tightly focused on wireless networking.
WISPs have a large market share in rural environments where cable and digital subscriber lines are not available; further, with technology available, they can meet or beat speeds of legacy cable and telephone systems. In urban environments, Gigabit Wireless links are common and provide levels of bandwidth previously only available through expensive fiber optic connections.
Typically, the way that a WISP operates is to order a fiber circuit to the center of the area they wish to serve. From there, the WISP will start building backhauls (gigabit wireless or fiber) to elevated points in the region, such as a radio towers, tall buildings, grain silos, or water tower. Those locations will have access points to provide service to individual customers or to provide backhauls to other towers where they have more equipment. The WISP may also use gigabit wireless links to connect a PoP (Point of Presence) to several towers, reducing the need to pay for fiber circuits to the tower. For fixed wireless connections, a small dish or antenna is mounted to the roof of the customer’s building and aligned to the WISP’s nearest antenna site. When operating over the tightly limited range of the heavily populated 2.4 GHz band, as nearly all 802.11-based WiFi providers do, it is not uncommon to also see access points mounted on light posts and customer buildings.