Brand-new for WISPAPALOOZA 2016, WISPA sponsored a quantified study on the nature of the WISP industry. The report is being announced at the show, with Jimmy Schaeffler, chairman and chief service officer of Carmel Group, making data available to members Tuesday evening during the Annual Awards Reception and Keynote (7:15 p.m. – 9:15 p.m.).
The report outlines, with hard data, why WISP businesses are successful, why people should invest in them, and why banks should offer credit and other resources to allow WISPA members to grow. Members can take this information to a bank or an investor as part of their business plan.
In a series of two-hour long surveys, the group asked respondents about the core elements of the WISP business—such as, what is the demand for broadband? What is a competitive provider? What spectrum bands are the most attractive? The responses were used to compile industry statistics on size, competition, which vendors/manufacturers are used and the regulatory environment. The study also used 10 case studies (five from vendors and five from operators).
“Competition is the No. 1 challenge,” said Schaeffer. “There’s intra-industry competition and also enormous external competition. But when that external competition invests in and does R&D in your core industry, that’s pretty encouraging. We found that cable and telco and fiber companies are all turning to wireless, including AT&T, Google and Comcast.”
Digging trenches for fiber and other groundbased wireline infrastructure is of course expensive, as is launching a fleet of satellites.
“But putting up a few towers and installing a few routers and consumer premise equipment packages is relatively inexpensive,” Schaeffer noted. “So as the tech improves so that more and more bits can be carried down that pipe wirelessly and it becomes more competitive with fiber, WISP technology will become an obvious answer.”
Concerns in the industry include a lack of support by government and the FCC, tech concerns about how quickly operators can ramp up the throughput, and whether the cost of the equipment can be brought down even further.
WISPs also struggle with the size of the industry—compared to the other cable, telephone and fiber/satellite competitors. “Education is critical, for consumers, policymakers and investors,” Schaeffer said.
As far as external drivers guiding WISP businesses, the growth in the business of technology overall—computers, hardware and software—is a core element at the heart of the WISP arena’s expansion. That in turn has been followed by an increase in broadband demand and traffic, especially coming from mobile and other devices. And, there’s been an increase in the demand for video.
“As video morphs into 4K and beyond, and we see more virtual reality and augmented reality, and super-fast two-way gaming, that video growth and the need for more bits going to grow more,” Schaeffer said.