Broadband Communities

JAN-FEB 2014

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014 | | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 53 about putting in wireless but was concerned about how reliable it would be at a distance of 1 mile. We assured him it could be very reliable, and now he's helping the customer and collecting revenue while he waits for fber. BBC: What kinds of areas do you serve? NS: Our bread-and-butter areas are rural markets that have no access to cable or DSL broadband, generally just satellite and cellular. We deliver packages from 5 Mbps to 20 Mbps, which is faster than a lot of DSL even where it does exist. We've been fairly successful in those markets, with 70 to 80 percent penetration, and now we fnd we're being pulled into better-served areas that we hadn't thought were options for us. BBC: Really? 20 Mbps for fxed wireless? Why aren't all wireless providers ofering those speeds? NS: We actually started with 125 Kbps down, 25 Kbps up, but we've upgraded multiple times as customers wanted more bandwidth for services such as Netfix and YouTube. Four years ago we looked at the business case for upgrading again. We knew we wanted to provide more speed, but the economics didn't work – we needed too many access points. Other WISPs told us we were crazy to even try. Ten Ubiquiti, which was a relatively new vendor at that time, came out with better equipment, using multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antennas, for one-quarter the cost of the old equipment. Ubiquiti changed the playing feld, and so ready-set-go: We upgraded the existing network. We never changed the pricing, by the way. We just upgraded the speeds in each tier. BBC: Are you planning further upgrades? Or have you reached the limits of the technology? NS: We've been discussing upgrading the base speed from 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps. I think we can do that [with the technology we have]. We'll try it in a couple of test markets, and if it performs well, we'll increase the base speed in the other markets. Technology keeps improving; MIMO gave us a lot more bandwidth, and I know there are companies out there researching going from half-duplex to what they call wireless full-duplex, which will double our spectrum efciency. Other really neat things coming down the line, such as 3X-MIMO (three-feed MIMO) and the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, will provide more bandwidth in the same spectrum. So we're always looking at upgrades. I want to build a customer for life, and one way to do that is to upgrade when we can, not because we have to. In rural areas, there are still cable companies that don't ofer high-defnition TV or Internet speeds higher than 3 Mbps. We treat the smallest town just like the biggest. Just because you're in a rural area doesn't mean you shouldn't have the same access as someone in a bigger town. BBC: What's your next move in terms of markets? NS: With help from Bandwidth Consulting, we're getting ready to begin serving multiple-dwelling- unit (MDU) properties in our area. We just turned up service in a 24- unit building in a rural area where the existing Cat3 wire couldn't support broadband and running new lines was not an option. Wireless was the only option, and the customers are loving it. Another property we're looking at is an 88- unit building in a town of about 500, 20 minutes from the next closest town. No one is going to run fber for 25 miles into that town. We can shoot the signal wirelessly to the building, then run cable or wireless to each apartment. BBC: Are there MDUs in the St. Louis area that could use your services? NS: Yes, and we're in the stage of CUSTOMERS GIVE THUMBS-UP TO WISPER Exactly how fanatical are Wisper customers? Here are a few data points from a September 2013 customer survey conducted for Wisper by Bandwidth Consulting LLC. QUESTION OR STATEMENT PERCENT AGREED Would you recommend Wisper to a friend? 96% Wisper is an easy company to do business with. 95% I would consider Wisper a customer-oriented company. 94% I am very satisfed with the installation process. 96% The help desk support is knowledgeable and professional. 96% I want to build a customer for life, and one way to do that is to upgrade when we can. BBC_Jan14.indd 53 1/27/14 1:47 PM

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