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WISPAPALOOZA Show Reopens in Las Vegas With Celebrations of Can-Do Broadband Connectivity

Many WISPs are no longer merely “wireless” internet service providers, but offer fiber-optics in a hybrid solution.

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Photo of a packed event center for breakfast at Bally's in Las Vegas as WISPAPALOOZA opened by Drew Clark

LAS VEGAS, October 12, 2021 –  The Wireless Industry Service Provider Association on Tuesday reopened its flagship trade show, WISPAPALOOZA, through Thursday at the Paris Hotel and Bally’s.

Not held since 2019 due to the pandemic, WISPAPALOOZA brings the community-based internet innovators ecosystem together at a single spot for education, trade show exhibits and ISP community engagement.

“This WISPAPALOOZA is a celebration on a number of levels,” said Claude Aiken, CEO of WISPA.  “Our community hasn’t gotten together at this scale for two years, and we’re just excited as heck to get back and see old friends.”

At Broadband Breakfast Live Online on October 6, 2021, Broadband Breakfast previewed the Wispapalooza trade show.

He also touted the WISP community for its service during pandemic. ”They kept people connected, safe and working.  And they did it because it was the right thing to do.”

Other analysts and attendees agreed. “Fixed wireless offers a much-needed substitute for addressing broadband need in underserved rural and suburban markets where other solutions are too cost-prohibitive or take too long to deploy,” said Mobile Experts principal analysis Kyung Mun. The consultancy predicts that globally, there are 80 million subscribers to fixed wireless (20% year-over-year growth) will take off to 200 million by 2026, or a compound annual growth rate of 70%.

WISPAPALOOZA is set to feature:

  • More than 90 panels filled with more than 200 internet access innovators, featuring updates on the state of technology, operational tips and practices, human resources, and the regulatory landscape, among others.
  • More than 160 exhibitors, demoing their best hardware, software, services and know-how.
  • A full 2,000 WISP industry attendees, enabling tons of networking opportunities.

WISPs are among the hardiest and those with the most can-do spirit in the communications industry. The group was loath to cancel their smaller trade show, WISPAmerica, in March 2020, and already held WISPAmerica earlier this year, in Grapevine, Texas.

In other words: Even the lingering spike of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which caused the National Association of Broadcasters and other groups to cancel their in-person shows, couldn’t keep WISP operators from gathering at this time.

Indeed, community-based access innovators have been integral to lifting the economy and helping Americans connect during the pandemic, delivering internet access to those in the farthest and toughest reaches of America.

Other wireless industry trends include hybrid networks, government funds

WISPAPALOOZA is also a celebration of the continual evolution of ISP technology and business models, too.

Over the course of two years, the landscape has changed significantly.  Many WISPs now have licensed spectrum, via the Citizens Broadband Radio Service auction completed last year.

Perhaps most significantly, many WISPs are no longer just “WISPs,” meaning that they are actively making use of fiber-optic technologies in their deployments.

While fixed wireless access has been the industry’s predominate delivery technology, today the majority of WISPs now employ other transmission modes, such as fiber to the home and business.  As an example, he cited the work on Nextlink: “They have proven the case that fixed-wireless and hybrid networks deliver” when fiber and wireless are harnessed together.

An additional significant change among the rank-and-file WISPA members: More and more WISPs are competing for and using public funding to grow their networks, while also reducing the digital divide.

“Our community-based providers use an all-the-above toolbox so all Americans get competitive, innovative and affordable internet access in their communities,” said Aiken.  He said that the exhibition floor will showcase WISPs ““resilience and continued evolution of an industry that’s future-proofing solutions for their customers and marketplace.”

WISPA is composed of about 1,000 members and provide broadband access to more than 4 million residential and business customers in the United States, often in exclusively rural areas.

Nextlink Internet voted “Operator of the Year” by colleagues, others recognized

Meanwhile, the Hudson Oaks, Texas, based Nextlink Internet, an internet service provider focused on rural communities across the central United States, announced that it has been named “Operator of the Year” by its colleagues in the ISP industry.

The company was recognized today at WISPAPALOOZA.

“Our team has been putting forth tremendous effort in expanding our service areas in 12 states across the country,” said Nextlink CEO Bill Baker. “We are also proud to be leading the way for our industry in terms of successful engagement in the Federal Communications Commission’s programs and in many public-private partnerships.”

WISPA also announced additional awards:

“Manufacturer of the Year” – Cambium Networks: “We are honored to be recognized as Manufacturer of the Year by WISPA network operators,” said Atul Bhatnagar, CEO. “Cambium Networks collaborates with WISPs to deliver customer-focused innovations in hardware, software and services to provide excellent quality of experience.”

“Product of the Year” – RF Elements: “Our third consecutive year winning the WISPA Product of the Year Award sends a very clear message about how game-changing our RF elements products really are,” said Juraj Taptic, Co-Founder and CEO.

“Service of the Year” – Aterlo Preseem: “We are humbled and honored to have been selected to receive this award for the third year running,” said Gerrit Nagelhout, CEO. “We are proud to serve the thriving WISP community by developing products that make their lives easier and help them grow.”

“Distributor of the Year” – ISP Supplies: “We celebrate the hard work of our employees and the close partnerships we enjoy with our customers,” said Steve Discher, Founder and CEO.

“Triumph Award” – All WISPs: “Never has robust and reliable connectivity been more essential than now,” noted Aiken of WISPA. “The industry’s selfless work during the pandemic with the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected pledge, the Emergency Broadband Benefit, and ensuring their networks were always up and running no matter the strain, for all.  Congrats, All WISPs, for your tremendous public service, unflagging spirit, and get it done attitude!”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:46 p.m. ET to reflect additional awards, besides those of Nextlink Internet.

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark is a nationally respected U.S. telecommunications attorney. An early advocate of better broadband, better lives, he founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for better broadband data in 2008. That effort became the Broadband Breakfast media community. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over news coverage focused on digital infrastructure investment, broadband’s impact, and Big Tech. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Clark served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative. Now, in light of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, attorney Clark helps fiber-based and wireless clients secure funding, identify markets, broker infrastructure and operate in the public right of way. He also helps fixed wireless providers obtain spectrum licenses from the Federal Communications Commission. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

WISP

Wireless Internet Service Providers to Connect More Fiber Points as Bandwidth Consumption Increases

‘The only way to get that density is to get fiber out there. That allows you to get more subs with your wireless.’

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Photo of Jay Anderson, chief technology officer of FiberLight

LAS VEGAS, October 6, 2022 – By employing more fiber points, wireless internet service providers can improve network performance and innovation, industry players at the WISPAPALOOZA conference told Broadband Breakfast.

Jay Anderson, chief technology officer of FiberLight, which has built fiber networks in several states, including Texas, Florida, and Virginia, told this publication as wireless internet service providers get more subscribers online, the existing connections to the fiber backbone can get congested without more densification of fiber points.

“The only way to get that density is to get fiber out there, and that allows you to get more subs with your wireless,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he expects WISPs to adopt a “hybrid architecture” moving forward. FiberLight’s Texan WISP partners have grown “leaps and bounds,” he said. “They’re using our infrastructure…to get that capacity out there…our job is to get as much of it out there, [at as high a] bandwidth as possible,” he added.

Mike Rowell, senior vice president of operations for Hilliary Communications, related some of his own professional experience with fiber to Broadband Breakfast. Hilliary provides internet, telephone, and television service across Texas and Oklahoma.

“We can see fiber helping us out tremendously in some areas getting us to a wireless access point,” Rowell said, explaining that a single fiber deployment can replace a less-reliable, multi-device connection to a hard-to-serve area. He said this strategy enabled his company to offer higher internet speeds and reach new customers. 

Rowell has worked in telecommunications for four decades. He said he has seen once-prohibitive costs for fiber-installation machinery plummet, which makes fiber a far more viable option than it previously was.

“Fiber – from just…two years ago – was totally different than today,” he said. “You can [now] have fiber splicers that can do a really, really nice job for under $3,000.”

Rowell also emphasized the importance of foresight and innovative business planning. “We never thought we’d be selling one-gig, and here we are selling it,” he said. “It’s going to be the same thing: We don’t think we’re going to be selling 10-gig, but we’re going to.”

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Wireless Internet Service Providers Facing Challenges Meeting BEAD Program Requirements: Experts

Hurdles WISPs face include defining reliable service, regulatory burdens, and financial requirements, experts say.

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Carol Mattey, principal at Mattey Consulting LLC, via Twitter.

LAS VEGAS, October 4, 2022 – Several requirements for providers receiving funds from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program present significant difficulties for wireless internet service providers, said experts at the WISPAPALOOZA conference on Monday.

The BEAD program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, will allot $42.5 billion dollars to the states to promote broadband access. States will in turn issue awards from their allotted funds to “subgrantees” – such as wireless internet service providers – for broadband deployment and other projects.

“The biggest concern is the way that NTIA has defined ‘reliable broadband service’ to exclude locations that are served exclusively with unlicensed spectrum,” Stephen Coran, attorney in the broadband and communications practice group at Lerman Senter, told Broadband Breakfast Monday. “There’s nine million people who are getting broadband service that way. Many of them can’t get it any other way and the service is reliable.”

Areas covered solely by unlicensed spectrum are considered unserved by the NTIA. Carol Mattey, principal at Mattey Consulting LLC, told Broadband Breakfast Monday that although WISPs who operate such networks can apply for BEAD funding to alter their networks to meet the NTIA’s definition of “reliable broadband,” navigating BEAD’s complex regulatory framework will be difficult for many small providers.

“Most small providers don’t have the in-house staff or expertise to manage regulatory compliance,” she explained. “They’re…in the business of building networks. They don’t have people [who are] regulatory compliance experts.”

Mattey said small networks will have to adapt to overcome BEAD’s regulatory barriers. “They either have to acquire [regulatory-compliance] resources of share resources with others,” she said.

Possible financial hurdles

States or subgrantees must provide matching funds of at least 25 percent of each project’s cost. In addition, the NTIA’s notice of funding opportunity requires subgrantees to provide a letter of credit from a bank, totaling no less than 25 percent of the subgrantee’s award from the state.

Subgrantees receiving BEAD funding must also comply with Build America, Buy America provisions, which require construction material produced domestically make up at least 55 percent of total project cost – even if foreign sourcing would be cheaper. The NTIA is moving to waive some of these requirements for recipients of the NTIA’s $1-billion Middle Mile grant program.

Many subgrantees must also comply with the Davis-Bacon Act, which empowers the Department of Labor to set wage thresholds for contractors working on federally funded projects.

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Wisper Internet CEO Takes Issue With Federal Government Preference for Fiber

Wisper CEO Nathan Stooke said the attitude to connect more Americans should be to let the “best technology win.”

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September 13, 2022 – The CEO of a wireless internet service provider took a shot at the federal government’s preference for fiber infrastructure, saying the attitude to connect more Americans should be to let the “best technology win.”

Officials from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a Commerce agency that is handling $42.5 billion for broadband infrastructure, have said that they prefer fiber builds because of their claimed ability to stand the test of time.

But Nathan Stooke of Wisper Internet said during an Ask Me Anything-style interview with Broadband.Money on August 26 that the government shouldn’t “dictate the technology.”

“What is their goal?” Stooke asked in an exchange with Drew Clark, Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher. “I mean they keep saying it’s to get people who don’t have service, service. We have to bridge the digital divide by forcing it to be fiber. You’ve now shrunk down the number of people you can serve right because it’s just the reality of it.

“I think there should be some fiber projects there. I’m never advocating for ‘don’t exclude anything.’”

A similar sentiment was expressed last month during a panel at the TPI Aspen Conference, in which representatives from private industry, trade associations and academia urged the government to give alternative technologies – like fixed-wireless and satellite – a chance to show their potential. That came after the Federal Communications Commission denied SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband service nearly $900 million from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund because it is still a developing technology.

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