An informative and encouraging speech by Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai highlighted a successful 2014 WISPAPALOOZA event during its Annual Awards Banquet on October 15 at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas. WISPAPALOOZA, an annual conference and trade show dedicated to the fixed Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) industry, took place Saturday, October 11, 2014 – Friday, October 17, 2014 and hosted more than 1,100 attendees, 100 exhibitors/sponsors and more than 50 business, regulatory and technical learning sessions.
During his speech, Commissioner Pai observed that almost half of all Americans can now access high-speed broadband using fixed wireless technology. He discussed a number of his views on how the FCC could better enable small broadband providers to extend their services.
First, Commissioner Pai noted the FCC’s decision to add unlicensed spectrum for outdoor use to the 5 GHz band and cited his support for rules opening up the 3550-3650 MHz band. The Commissioner also heralded new rules that will increase the ability of WISPs to obtain co-location approval on wireless infrastructure. Secondly, Commissioner Pai reiterated his position that Title II regulation of the Internet would place extreme burdens on small businesses that serve rural customers.
“The concerns of small businesses need to be front and center in this debate, not an afterthought to an ideological crusade,” he said. “Small ISPs serving rural areas already face enough challenges. Consumers have lower income, distances are farther, and deployment is more expensive. Regulating broadband under Title II would only exacerbate these problems.”
“We thank Commissioner Pai for attending our conference and spending time on the exhibit hall floor to see the tremendous innovation that is driving our industry,” said Chuck Hogg, President of WISPA. “His remarks were spot-on in recognizing the ways the FCC has and can promote fair competition for small broadband providers.”
Also during the event, the organization behind WISPAPALOOZA, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), announced the one-year term appointment of new Committee Chairpersons.
Numerous committees for various functions exist, but the three most active ones organize advocacy efforts for the WISP industry. Alex Phillips, CEO of highspeedlink.net, based out of Harrisonburg, Va., is re-appointed as Chairman of the FCC Committee, which coordinates all activities and rulemaking among the WISP industry and federal government agencies. Phillips is also a WISPA Board member and Vice President of the organization.
Elizabeth Bowles, President of Aristotle, Inc. based out of Little Rock, Ark., and former President of WISPA, is appointed as Chairman of the Legislative Committee, which coordinates issues, interests and advocacies of elected government officials. Bowles is still an active elected Director on the Board.
Forbes Mercy, President of Washington Broadband, Inc. based out of Yakima, Wash., and former Vice President and Legislative Chair of WISPA, is appointed as Chairman of the Promotions Committee which is responsible for organizing a uniform message and educating organization members, media, and others with similar interests, about advocacies within the industry. Mercy is a current Director having just been re-elected for his fourth term.
“Each committee plays an important role in the growth and success of WISPA and I have confidence in the leadership of each appointee,” said Hogg.
As for some news notes from exhibitors and sponsor on the expo hall floor … SAF Tehnika is disrupting the spectrum analyzer market with a series of devices that truly fit into the palm of a hand and weigh less than 11 ounces. Rather than covering the entire spectrum range in one laptop-sized device, as is usually done, SAF has broken up the spectrum range into five separate devices for its Spectrum Compact series (2.0 – 8.0 Ghz, 5.925 – 12.0, 10.0 – 18.0, 17.0 – 24.3 and 24.0 – 40.0). The end result is a series of handheld devices that are not only smaller in size, but costs are around $3,000 per unit rather than the tens of thousands of dollars for traditional spectrum analyzers. This makes the Spectrum Compact cost-effective and highly usable for pole climber fleets to perform link troubleshooting, site survey and acceptance and aid for installation/maintenance of antenna systems without the need to bring out supervisors with a much more expensive and more complicated analyzer.
“This is not laboratory equipment,” explains Dan White, managing director, North America for SAF. “This is for use in the field.”
The units’ touch screens work with gloves on, and while the devices lack some of the features of larger, more expensive spectrum analyzers, most everything is there for pole climbers to handle most troubleshooting, site survey and antenna maintenance work, says White.
Sticking with the theme of field technicians, every rural WISP can relate a story about an account that was successfully marketed, sold and signed up but when the truck rolled to install services, a group of trees or other large obstacle created a failed line-of-sight, leading to an inability to get the account up and running. This doesn’t have to happen ever again.
Working with broadband and IT infrastructure provider Convergence, under the brand name Exede, ViaSat is providing WISP with a back-up plan when line-of-sight gets obstructed. WISP installers can now recommend a high-speed Internet over satellite solution when the fixed wireless service an account already signed up for simply won’t work. The program can be white labeled and is a pure wholesale model, so WISPs can decided how much they charge for the change in CPE and the alternate Internet service. Excede residential plans are 12Mbps/3Mbps and 5Mbps/1Mbps, plus a business plan at 15Mbps/4Mbps.
Of course, WISPs working with Radwin gear can avoid line-of-sight issues altogether. A leader in the sub-6 Ghz band, the infrastructure company specializes in delivering high-capacity service in tough environments where there may be a lot of interference or where there are near- and non-line-of-site issues. What’s more, Radwin offers secured service level agreements (SLA) with its solution, rather than the more-common “committed information rate” offered within the unlicensed realm, which isn’t really secured, says Rami Cohen, product marketing director for the Tel Aviv-based company.
Offering both point-to-point and point-to-multipoint services, Radwin can guarantee quality because it uses a TDMA infrastructure, explains Bernie Vaysenberg, Radwin’s North American director of channel sales. “That means we work in time slots,” he says, and while each time slot can’t be truly “dedicated” per user in the unlicensed spectrum, service is guaranteed within a time slot under congestion. Radwin’s infrastructure is also immune to interference, adds Cohen.
“The same principals apply for our mobile solution,” he says.
Radwin’s primary target at WISPAPALOOZA is enterprise-focused WISPs, or ESPs, but during the past year or so, the company has seen increased interest from residential and small business oriented WISPs that came into the market with entry-level gear and are now having quality and capacity issues, as well as WISPs seeing greater interference due to increased traffic and service providers looking to provide higher levels of service to meet users’ increasing expectations or to run advanced services such as VoIP or unified communications over their networks.
Evidence of both the need for more reliable networks and a demand from WISPs to move into value-added and enhanced services is exhibited in the number of IP telephony and hosted PBX providers, such as Vitelity, Ipifony and NetSapiens, setting up booths at WISPALOOZA. While all three of these providers have been serving WISPs for a number of years or have worked this show since 2011, their conversations are no longer simply about “adding voice” but rather about WISPs “future-proofing” their operations by building robust and stable end-to-end IP communications platforms that allow them to move into high-quality, next-generation and business productivity communications features and services, including the evolution of unified communications.
“It’s not so much about making a phone call anymore,” says Anand Buch, co-founder and CEO of NetSapiens. “It’s now about how I handle my phone call; how I access and manage my messages. How do I communicate in the most productive way, and integrate with voice applications such as call recording?”
NetSapiens, for its part, is talking to WISPs about integrating its IP telephony platform with third-party applications such as CRM, pointing to robust user-portals that let subscribers and business managers self-manage their voice features and functions. The company also is in beta on a mobile app that will allow users to access all the services on their desk phone when out of the office.
Vitelity, meanwhile, was showing its own vMobile suite, which moves a customer’s full PBX functionality to vMobile-enabled smartphones. “The product is really resonating with WISPs this year,” says Vitelity’s marketing director Jeannie Zaemes.
And even if advanced services are still further down the road for some WISPs, Ipifony co-founder and system architect Matt Hardeman wants them to know that “there is money to be made in voice, and we can help them do that.”
Hardeman not only believes that Ipifony can help, but if resellers follow the requisite steps, he guarantees success. That’s because the company has developed a business model by which it does not get paid until services are delivered and the customer pays the reseller. In other words, only after the IP telephony platform is in place and generating revenue does Ipifony collect its recurring licenses fee.
“So we have a common interest with the ISP in getting them up and running and getting them running properly,” he says. In turn, Ipifony systematically and thoroughly walks its resellers through every step of the configuration and installation process, right through to service turn-up.
“We only get paid that recurring royalty for subscribers A, B, and C if subscribers A, B, and C are happy and keep paying,” explains Hardeman. “Therefore, we take an interest not just in our product but in the whole delivery, from our product all the way out to subscriber edge.”
That’s not to suggest Ipifony is bringing a rigid process. As Vitelity’s Zaemas points out, WISPs are a diverse group of service providers, often with very niche-oriented models and highly specific needs. That plays right into the hands of IP services and their inherent flexibility, as well as the agility and swift-moving nature of relatively smaller IP telephony providers such as Vitelity and Ipifony, which pride themselves on meeting the unique needs of individual WISPs.
From future-proofing to safeguarding, Silicon Valley-based provider Yaana was at WISPAPALOOZA to help wireless ISPs get in compliance. Most WISPs know they are required to provide subscriber data and records to law enforcement agencies in the event of a criminal investigation, terrorist threat, etc. What they may not know is they could face fines of up to $10,000 a day for not being able to turn over the data quickly enough or for not providing the right data the right way, as well for not having the appropriate mechanisms in place to assist law enforcement.
Not only does Yaana make sure WISPs can assist law enforcement as mandated by a Web of legislation including Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), eDiscovery, Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), USA PATRIOT Act, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), among others, but it also protects subscriber information and privacy, as also mandated by some of these laws. The tool also can be used to monitor network performance.
The company’s NetDiscovery compliance solution is cloud-based, making it easier for smaller WISPs to fulfill and respond to all legal requests without having the inherent capital and operating expenses of self-deployment. Providers pay a monthly fee, and the more WISPA members that purchase the service, the cheaper the monthly fee. In other words, Yaana is offering a volume discount across the WISPA membership.