Wi-Fi provider Towerstream is turning its superfast Manhattan Wi-Fi zone into a distribution platform for daily deal apps in a bid to monetize its wireless network, the largest in Manhattan. The company is partnering with BlisMobile, which will handle the app distribution through its AppZone service.
Is Wi-Fi the Future of Mobile Internet? Jeff Thompson, the CEO of Towerstream (s twer) has been asking this question lately. And after seeing the results of a test Wi-Fi project in mid-town Manhattan, Thompson keeps coming back to the same answer: yes.
Having a smartphone connected to the web can be a useful thing, if it’s leveraged correctly. Google Shopper doesn’t break new ground, but in addition to scanning bar codes with the camera, it can scan product boxes, too. Detailed product information returns right to the phone.
Today is the due date for municipalities and companies to apply via mail for a piece of the $4 billion being released in the first tranche of the broadband stimulus program, (those filing electronically get another week to get their applications through clogged servers). Roughly half of the folks I’ve interviewed have decided to wait for the second and third rounds of funding before applying. Moreover, it appears that wireless is winning out over wireline. Read More about Will Wireless Be the Broadband Stimulus Winner?
[qi:101] The $7.2 billion to be paid out to companies that plan to expand the nation’s broadband access isn’t just about tossing funds to private and public organizations to lay fiber or place wireless towers — it’s about job creation. This was brought home to me during an interview with Jeff Thompson, CEO of Towerstream (s twer), a fixed WiMAX provider that hopes to take advantage of broadband stimulus grants to build out wireless networks in more areas of the country.
Along the way, Thompson hopes to rehire some of the 34 people he’s had to lay off in the last few months since the economy has soured. Towerstream, which currently employs 150 people, provides last-mile WiMAX-based service in nine markets. Thompson hopes to expand into new markets with the aid of some stimulus money, but declined to detail his plans, citing competitive concerns. However, once Towerstream’s applications are in, they will become public. In the meantime, I was struck by Thompson’s focus on new jobs during our conversation, since I have been viewing this legislation mostly for its potential to boost broadband in rural and underserved areas. In my haste to write about speeds and technology, I’ve neglected to consider how many jobs are created, a criterion in the grant process. The rules associated with applying for a grant mention job creation on 15 different pages.
When President-elect Barack Obama asked Congress to delay the transition that will force broadcasters to switch from analog TV signals to digital ones last week, we noted that the move could cause trouble for companies planning to use the newly available spectrum for new technologies. I’ve reached out to most of the affected companies, as well as some industry experts, to determine what it would really mean. It’s also important to note that as of now the law mandates a change on Feb. 17, and until that law is changed, a delay is all talk with no action. Read More about The Biggest Losers: Delayed DTV Edition
The FCC decision on Tuesday that opened up a huge chunk of spectrum for broadband services is a decided victory for its proponents, but there are still many details left to figure out, including what kind of radios will be used to “tune” into the Internet. Today, at an event, Larry Page of Google said any such chips used in these devices should cost less than $5.
One way to do that is to put multiple radios on the chip, tuned to the variety of available spectrum, and let them use the existing WiMAX or Wi-Fi protocols, rather than coming up with something new. Wi-Fi chips are cheap, and WiMAX prices should come down as more networks are deployed. Jeff Thompson, CEO of Towerstream (s TWER), a provider of wireless broadband to business using WiMAX, says using an existing and open network protocol makes sense.
He doesn’t know exactly what will happen, but Thompson says many players such as Intel (s INTC) and Fujitsu (s FJTSY) are combining Wi-Fi and WiMAX radios in a single package, and both protocols have something to offer in the white spaces spectrum. Wi-Fi could work for local area networking while WiMAX would allow the signal to travel over a longer range. The end result would be a mobile broadband device that could work as fixed device, as well as on the go. Because the spectrum is unlicensed, a network operator could offer the broadband service at cheaper rates than current data plans from wireless carriers.
DigitalBridge Communications, a provider of WiMAX-based broadband-to-rural communities, announced a $20 million Series B round of financing Monday, showing that some investors believe there might be gold to mine in them thar rural broadband markets. The new funding (which PE Hub says is closer to $23 million) joins the $17 million or so the company had raised previously. DigitalBridge CEO Kelley Dunne, contacted via phone Monday night, said the latest round should let the company “fully fund” its planned rollout to 15 markets, beyond its current list of served communities that includes the Idaho locales of Rexburg and Pocatello, along with Missoula, Mon., and Washington, Ind.
Dunne, a telecom veteran who spent time both at a CLEC and at Verizon, said that capital expenditures for a WiMAX provider today are “about one-tenth” of the costs that a wireline CLEC might need. Combining WiMAX with low-cost fiber agreements and easy-to-install customer-premise gear from Alvarion is a recipe that is already producing cash-flow-positive results in Rexburg, Dunne said.
Read More about VCs Put $20 Million into Rural WiMAX