WISP Market Snapshot: DISH Offers Wholesale TV for the Triple Play

When it comes to the rural and underserved markets throughout the United States, communications options have historically been a bit limited. Wireless ISPs have cropped up over the past 10 years to bring true broadband to these regions, using a combination of low-cost microwave equipment and outsourced backhaul to cost-effectively serve the market. Recently though, WISPs have branched out from simple broadband, to offer new offerings like the residential triple-play.

Satellite giant DISH Network is catering to WISPs looking to do just that, with the Single Bill Solution program. It allows them to resell satellite TV service while retaining the billing relationship with the customer.

“We are allowing them to give customers a single bill for all of their services, so they can bundle their broadband and VoIP with our video product, and still own the customer,” said Bill Gerski, senior consultant at DISH Network. “We offer them enough of a discount to be able to compete effectively with the local telco.”

As those local telcos continue to invest in upgrading their networks to improve broadband speeds and roll out IPTV, competition is ramping up.

Gerski said that the WISP market is quite varied, ranging from mere hundreds of customers to the hundreds of thousands of customers. But, “regardless of the size, they all tell me the same thing: that they need to round out the triple play and be competitive.”

While WISPs still operate mostly in a rural environment, end user expectations are changing in that market. “They really want to have the same services that their friends, brothers and sisters have in the urban markets,” Gerski said. “And WISPs can give it to them. They’re also demanding brand-new things: not just video, but also home automation and security. I’m seeing a renewed enthusiasm about new multiple services and bundles in this market.”

Commercial and multi-dwelling units are increasingly a target for WISPs too, Gerski said. DISH also offers Hughes and Exceed services to the WISP market for those applications.

“This is a brand new idea for many, but a lot of them are providing wireless now to them and are building out fiber for commercial development,” he noted. “In the next 12 to 18 months you’ll see a lot of the WISP operators jumping into this.”

Ultimately, WISPs have a local presence, local installation and sales teams, and they hire local people. “These guys are part of the community,” Gerski said. “I’m seeing them start to compete head on with smaller cable and phone operators that are without the same local service capabilities, and I’m starting to see them take away customers from the telcos.”

The opportunities appear to only be getting bigger, as the growth in the market has made many stand up and take notice—and it’s seen a rash of new entrants into the space. Gerski added, “I’ve been in the cable and satellite business for 40 years and I haven’t seen this kind of enthusiasm in a market since the early days of cable in the 1970s. There is tremendous growth and opportunity here.”

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