WISPs overcoming installation challenges and using new technologies for rural broadband

Wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) are quietly deploying broadband around the country, often in rural areas overlooked by larger players like Google, cable companies and major telcos.

According to the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association (WISPA), there are roughly 3 million WISPs in the U.S. Most use unlicensed spectrum and tend to excel in rural areas, where running fiber and coaxial cable makes little sense economically.

In an interview with FierceInstaller, Alex Phillips, a WISPA board member and vice president of Rural Broadband Network Services, a Virginia-based WISP, said that most service orders to WISPs involve a truck roll. There are usually one or two installers with each truck roll, depending on the installation.

There are two primary reasons for the truck roll. First, optimal antenna placement is key for broadband speed and reliability. A clear line of sight from the tower is ideal. However, installers sometimes discover that homeowners want the antenna to be in a place where it is minimally visible. According to Phillips, installers must be able to find a balance between optimal performance and aesthetics.

Second, distribution of the signal within the home is an issue. WISPs often supply the router and may even manage the router. Also, depending on the nature of the home, other solutions may be required. For example, if the router is on the second floor, a HomePlug solution that uses electrical wiring to transmit a signal to the basement could be optimal.

Cabling within the home is another issue. Many newer homes come with category 5 cabling, which makes signal distribution much easier. However, older homes often do not have category 5 cabling. Plastic optical fiber provides a low-cost option within the home, as this kind of cable can be purchased at stores such as Lowe's or Home Depot.

Phillips mentioned an installation that occurred at a home with limestone walls. Getting a signal through such a wall is far from easy, but in this case, the installer had a background in the siding industry, so the installation was successful.

WISPs often have to deploy hybrid solutions such as a wireless/fiber-to-the-premises deployment that Shelby Broadband provided for a subdivision in Kentucky. Shelby used a point-to-point solution from Ubiquiti Networks at 24 GHz to deliver broadband to the subdivison.

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