You would be hard-pressed to find an industry with more momentum than Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) across the USA. The number of WISPs, born out of necessity due to lack of connectivity options in rural America, has grown exponentially over the last several years to an estimated 2,500+ providers across the country. Using fixed wireless applications routing back to leased fiber lines, WISPs can service any subscriber premise in “line of sight” to their access points, while delivering true broadband speeds and data plans that greatly outperform outdated technologies such as Telco/DSL lines.
Over the years, government officials took notice of the need to close the digital divide between urban and rural communities. They took action with the legislative pocketbooks and funding continued to grow at every level with federal, state, and local officials awarding grants to improve connectivity in areas lacking resources. The FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF) put a spotlight on the industry and added an exclamation point by awarding an additional $1.5 billion with a second round of funding in 2018, Connect America Fund II.
An industry whose foundation was built using garages as server rooms and mounting backhaul microwaves on top of barn roofs suddenly had the financial firepower, and obligation, to build out larger coverage areas in a quicker fashion. Benchmarks of coverage and service availability were implemented ensuring areas were completed within the timeframe parameters or risk the discontinuation of funding. The need for WISPs to utilize co-location arrangements on existing vertical assets became paramount and wide-spread, seemingly overnight. More in-depth partnerships were required to help facilitate the rollouts as co-locations were not always the primary method of expansion in the ISP world: PerfectVision was positioned, willing, and able to assist.
PerfectVision’s product line, subject matter expertise, and relationships in the macro world, coupled with their already prominent standing in the WISP industry, quickly elevated them as a leading organization to support these co-location efforts. As a long-time vendor member of the WISPA organization and several other local and national broadband associations, PerfectVision was well known for working with WISPs to support a full portfolio of components and materials needed to facilitate high-quality installs at smaller sites and on subscriber premises. As the WISP world learned more about PerfectVision’s macro capabilities the partnerships only grew. The needed product offering was in already in place, including a full line of steel mount and modification components, transmission lines and accessories, safety gear, and all things grounding. Just as important, however, was the existing relationships with tower owners, A&E firms, carriers, and GCs across the country. Existing efficiencies in the facilitation of product information, communication with site Engineers of Record, and utilization of PerfectVision’s logistics capabilities in macro steel were just a few areas in which assistance is available to keep projects flowing, keep coverage metrics on time, and holistically help WISPs smoothly utilize co-locations where needed.
One such company is Wisper ISP. Headquartered in Mascoutah, IL, and one of the top winners in the CAF II auction, Wisper has made Perfect Vision their preferred materials partner for macro deployments. According to Max Henry, Wisper’s Lead Construction Manager, “Wisper has had a huge growth over the past year and a half, providing our internet services to connect families across the Midwest. PerfectVision has been a huge help. They provide us with all our steel components that we install on our new site build outs, as well as other poles, mounts, and consumables. They are always helpful in finding a part or a one-off mount as well, whether they have equipment in stock or not. PV also has been great to partner with since their team is very professional and always willing to help. As Wisper grows more and into more states, we look forward to PerfectVision assisting us further!”
The evolution of the WISP continues daily: Radio capacity and speeds improve, RF mapping gets more accurate, serviceable distances increase, and now, there is point-to-point gear that transmits through tree lines. WISPs are lighting up more sites every day with monopole sector frames and armored fiber, as opposed to grain silo mounts and CAT5e that at one time dominated rural America. The surprising fact is that the momentum in growth, funding, and transition all started before COVID-19.
2020 and the arrival of the novel Coronavirus placed an even bigger microscope on the need to expand broadband and decrease the digital divide. Work from home, the digital classroom, and the expansion of streaming content continue to fuel the need for network capacity. Lawmakers have drastically continued to press the envelope. Since early 2020, we have seen the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) arrive with $10 billion in broadband funding, state-granted COVID relief funds to the tune of hundreds of millions for internet expansion, and a recent Infrastructure bill that includes $65 billion dedicated to broadband expansion. We also saw massive participation in the recent CBRS auction by broadband providers securing staggering amounts of licenses for deployment.
The astronomical additions to the pipeline of grants, secured spectrum, and growth of subscriber bases certainly bodes well for the foreseeable future of the industry. The wireless communication industry is taking notice and taking action. Infrastructure asset companies such as Crown Castle, American Tower, and others are aggressively marketing WISP specific co-location programs, according to PerfectVision. Tower contractors are actively pursuing labor contracts and bringing on extra crews to support WISP divisions. Proactive suppliers such as PerfectVision have increased production capacity to accommodate the growing demand of consumption. Carriers aren’t the only ones with CAPEX and OPEX runways over the next several years – it may be worth your time to learn what additional opportunities your local WISP has to offer. To learn more, click here.