When we caught up with Kevin about his hybrid fiber-wireless ISP, we were curious about when and why his company started to augment their copper and fiber network with wireless. We also wanted to know how wireless has helped them to expand his business. Here are Kevin's answers to the questions we asked:
What can you tell us about your company and your role there?
“Originally focused on software research and development, the company also started giving away dial up in rural Idaho in the mid 90s to test the waters. I was brought on board in ‘95 to provide tech support to these dial up customers. Within a couple of years, I purchased the company and refocused all of our efforts on providing internet.”
What were your initial offerings?
“After starting with dial up, we quickly began offering internet via DSL, direct Ethernet, and cable as well. Our approach has always been “technology agnostic,” utilizing whatever works best for each situation.”
When did you start using wireless, and how has it helped your business grow?
“In 1996 we began using wireless backhaul and WiFi to provide hot spots for MDUs. Then we began replacing our expensive T1 leased lines to remote communities with wireless links. This allowed us compete with other DSL providers in those areas at a fraction of our previous cost. We then connected additional communities wirelessly in order to increase our customer base.
“Today we have over 4,000 wireless internet subscribers. Our current wireless offerings include packages of 4/2, 8/4, and 10/1 (LTE), with 25/3 coming up next (Mbps up/down). We’ll soon phase out our 4/2 and increase our entry level service to 6/3.”
When did you start using fiber, and how has it helped your business grow?
“We began offering fiber service around the same time that we started using fixed wireless. For MDU applications, we found that combining FTTB (backhaul to the property) and FTTP (connectivity to the units) allowed us to deliver much higher speeds and reliability.
“We also helped to create a fiber ring around one of the cities in our network. Feeding off of this ring, we provide true FTTH residential deployments. We now have over 1,000 total fiber customers, connected at an average speed of 100 Mbps!”
Describe solutions in which you are combining fiber and wireless:
“We use fiber and wireless together all the time. We may bring fiber to a building to provide the bandwidth and then distribute the signal wirelessly inside the building. Or we may bring bandwidth to a location via wireless backhaul, then use fiber to connect the customers from there. In the later case, this is because fiber is either too expensive or not available.
“Another application of fiber is how we now create redundant links whenever we connect remote locations. We’ll deploy both fiber and microwave (fixed wireless) backhaul for rock solid reliability to these coverage areas.”
What advice would you offer to ISPs regarding fiber, wireless, and the hybrid approach?
“Use what makes sense to get the job done. This takes understanding the full picture, including the finances. As service providers, we need to start thinking about our investments and ROI in a more long term way. We need to consider what our network infrastructure investments will need to be and how that fits into the overall plan. A few years ago, WISPs all said they needed a quick ROI. Now we need to think longer term. Our competitors are!”
To learn more about Hybrid Fiber-Wireless ISPs, download our free quick guide below: