Fixed Wireless Glossary and Common Terms
OMG, we all know the feeling.
It’s TFW someone in a meeting or conversation starts using acronyms or terms that you’re not familiar with and, instead of simply saying IDK what you mean, you smile and nod as the sweat starts forming on your brow and you slowly become more confused.
Sometimes, it’s like we need an FAQ for everyday life! The Fixed Wireless industry is no different, so if you feel like you’re experiencing low WISP IQ or that your FWA knowledge is MIA, there’s no need for FOMO—just read this blog ASAP for the lowdown on Fixed Wireless acronyms and terms.
BTW and FYI, there’s a key at the end of this blog to decode the abbreviations in this intro 🙂
We’ll do this in alphabetical order but, before we really get started, we can talk about the most common acronym in the WISP world, and that’s WISP itself! This stands for Wireless Internet Service Provider and, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably an employee or owner of a WISP (hi!) or maybe just a curious WISP subscriber who’s looking to learn more about the inner workings of the WISP world. OK, that’s way too many WISPs in one paragraph. Let’s move on.
Stands for: Access Point
In the context of the fixed wireless world, access points are hardware devices attached high up on outdoor installations like towers that allow your devices to connect to local networks via proprietary protocols. APs are often deployed with directional antennas to expand the range of those networks and to increase the number of people that can connect to them. APs are vital in helping WISPs operate and grow—popular AP manufacturers include Cambium and Ubiquiti, who make a variety of different models, each with their own strengths.
Stands for: Application Programming Interface
APIs are connections between software programs that allow the two to share information with each other. These are sometimes referred to as integrations, and can help increase efficiency and save time for users by eliminating duplicate data entry. For example, Preseem includes a variety of integrations with popular billing programs that allow for streamlined subscriber plan management and simplified billing workflows.
Stands for: Active Queue Management
AQM is very close to our hearts as it’s our use of active queue management traffic shaping methods based on the FQ-CoDel algorithm (more on that below) that allow WISPs to easily manage bandwidth limits while improving the quality of experience (QoE) for their subscribers. AQM helps to reduce network congestion when subscribers are using high-bandwidth applications such as streaming or online gaming, so that their internet doesn’t feel slow even when under heavy use.
Stands for: Customer Premises Equipment
Customer Premises Equipment, or sometimes ‘customer-provided equipment,’ simply refers to network-related equipment owned or leased by the internet subscriber that’s located within their home. Examples include landline telephone handsets, routers, modems, or other related tools that allow subscribers to connect to a network and share that connection with other devices in the house. In the context of fixed wireless, the CPE is (most often) an externally-mounted device with a directional antenna that provides the radio link to one or more APs.
Stands for: Fair Queueing Controlled Delay
FQ-CoDel (pronounced “coddle”) is an open-source AQM algorithm that helps to prevent bufferbloat and reduce bottlenecks on a network caused by the use of multiple high-bandwidth applications, such as Netflix streaming, online gaming, and Zoom calls. FQ-CoDel is essentially the traffic shaping engine within Preseem that helps WISPs provide great service and ensures exceptional QoE for their subscribers.
Stands for: Fixed Wireless Access
Fixed Wireless Access refers to wireless connectivity via radio links between two fixed points. This is essentially the service that WISPs provide to their customers—wireless internet access to homes and businesses in rural and suburban areas where fiber or cable have not been laid due to the expense involved. This very important service helps bridge the digital divide (see below for more on that) and brings high-speed internet to a previously underserved population.
Stands for: Megabits Per Second
Mbps is a data-rate unit that measures the speed at which data travels on a network. A bit is short for “binary digit” and represents the smallest unit of data on a computer. A megabit is equal to 1 million bits. Internet bandwidth refers to the amount of data (bits) that can be transmitted over a connection, but is calculated in megabits per second. A higher Mbps number advertised in a WISP plan, for example, indicates that the user can expect faster speeds when using the internet. Megabits should not be confused with megabytes, which contain 8 million bits and are typically used to measure file size.
Stands for: Quality of Experience
This acronym is so common in our line of work that we’ve used it twice in this blog already 🙂 Subscriber QoE is at the heart of everything we do and is the single most important concern of any WISP, as it refers to how the internet ‘feels’ for the end user at home or work. Slow internet, lag, and video buffering are examples of poor QoE and lead to support calls, complaints, poor reviews, and ultimately unhappy customers who leave and don’t come back. Monitoring and improving QoE is essential to the survival and success of all WISPs.
RF Channel Width
Stands for: Radio Frequency Channel Width
Measured in Hertz (Hz), radio frequency is the number of cycles per second when radio waves are transmitted. Channel Width is the size of a Wi-Fi channel, dictating how much data can pass through and at what speed. As detailed in our annual Fixed Wireless Network Report, the 20MHz RF channel width is most commonly used by WISPs. Larger channel widths increase throughput (explained below), which results in better download speeds and higher QoE.
Stands for: Transmission Control Protocol
TCP is a communications standard that allows computers to communicate and exchange data and messages with each other. This is one of the key pillars of the internet as it provides the pathway for your device to send and receive data from other devices. By measuring TCP Round Trip Time (RTT – another acronym!) based on actual subscriber traffic, Preseem helps WISPs find bottlenecks in their networks and provides real-time insights into network performance. These measurements are far more accurate than ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) ping.
Stands for: Wireless Internet Service Provider
For those new to the fixed wireless world, WISPs are internet providers that use (at least in part) fixed wireless access to provide service to residential or business customers. These customers, or subscribers, are typically located in underserved areas where existing fiber or cable doesn’t reach. Serving WISPs is the reason that Preseem exists and we’re proud to support them as they perform the vital work of bridging the digital divide.
Now that you’ve brushed up on your acronyms, here’s a few common WISP terms to make sure you’re familiar with.
The term bufferbloat refers to when network links become saturated with high bandwidth activity, such as online gaming or Zoom calls, causing the internet to feel slow for subscribers. This congestion can lead to a higher volume of support calls for WISPs and a poor QoE for their customers. Traffic shaping tools like Preseem can help reduce or eliminate bufferbloat, thanks to the use of AQM techniques that ease congestion and improve the subscriber experience.
The digital divide has become a common term for the gap between internet access in rural communities as opposed to cities and more heavily-populated areas. Bridging the digital divide is essentially what WISPs do—deliver reliable, high-speed internet to low-density areas ignored by larger ISPs. In 2016, the United Nations declared access to the internet a human right, and we at Preseem are proud to help our customers work toward fulfilling that goal.
In network terms, latency is the time it takes for data to be transferred from its original source to its destination, measured in milliseconds. As mentioned above and in our Fixed Wireless Network Report, Preseem measures this by tracking the round trip time for individual TCP segments to get a detailed view of overall network latency. Latency contributes to common issues like dropped video calls, buffering video, and slow web pages. Fixing this issue with traffic shaping greatly reduces support calls and increases subscriber QoE.
In the fixed wireless world, oversubscription refers to when the available bandwidth on an AP or network is less than the total bandwidth sold via subscriber plans. A simple example from our Fixed Wireless Network Report: a WISP has sold 20 plans offering 10 Mbps on an AP that typically achieves 50 Mbps. This means the provider has ‘sold’ 200 Mbps, well above the 50 Mbps that the AP can deliver if each subscriber were to max out their plans at the same time. To determine the oversubscription ratio, simply divide the sum of subscriber plans by the available bandwidth (in this case, 200/50 = 4).
While oversubscription is an intentional and necessary practice—no provider could afford to limit the number of plans on an AP to the bare minimum and also, it’s highly unlikely that each subscriber will max out their internet plan at the same time even during peak hours—we’ve found that higher oversubscription ratios generally lead to lower subscriber throughput (see below) and a poorer subscriber experience. This can be lessened by the AQM traffic shaping provided by Preseem and can also depend on the model of AP that’s used.
Root Cause Analysis
WISPs often receive calls from subscribers reporting that their internet is slow. This can be caused by a wide variety of factors, so it’s critically important for providers to be able to identify the “root cause” quickly, so that they can fix the issue, resolve the complaint in a timely manner, and keep their customers happy. Think of it like a patient describing symptoms to a doctor, who then uses their expertise to make a diagnosis on what’s causing the patient’s condition. For WISPs, being able to diagnose common issues through effective root cause analysis helps reduce the burden on busy support teams and can improve both employee and customer satisfaction.
Throughput refers to network upload and download rates, measured in bits per second received or sent by each active subscriber. So, where latency is the measurement of how long it takes data to travel between two points, throughput is the measurement of how much data could be delivered in a given timeframe.
Neatly tying many of these acronyms and terms together, traffic shaping is essentially what Preseem does. By using AQM to manage bandwidth and lower latency, Preseem’s traffic shaping helps WISPs reduce Bufferbloat and deliver a superior QoE to their subscribers, even when multiple devices in a home are using high-bandwidth applications like streaming video, online gaming, and video calls all at the same time. See it in action here!
This fixed wireless glossary is by no means a comprehensive list of all the acronyms and terms used in the WISP industry but we hope it’s helped clear up the meanings of a few of the more common ones you’re likely to come across. For more information on how Preseem can help your WISP improve QoE using FQ-CoDel AQM (see, you know what those mean now!), book a demo with our friendly team today.
Finally, as promised, here’s a list of the acronyms we used in the introduction. Hopefully now, it’ll all make sense 🙂
- OMG – Oh My God/Gosh/Goodness
- TFW – That Feeling When
- IDK – I Don’t Know
- FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
- IQ – Intelligence Quotient
- MIA – Missing in Action
- FOMO – Fear of Missing Out
- ASAP – As Soon as Possible
- BTW – By the Way
- FYI – For Your Information