At This WISP, Oliver Asks for More - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell

July 22, 2003

Oltronics offers wireless packages starting from $250 a month for 1.5 Mbps symetrical service with up to five PCs, to $1,000 for 1.5 Mbps up and 10 Mbps down. It can also do custom solutions -- bandwidth as high as 30 Mbps down and increments of 1.5 Mbps on the uplink.

"That's one of the advantages of the technology we're using," Oliver notes. "We can deliver whatever bandwidth they need." The company can also monitor traffic patterns and automatically increase bandwidth as required.

The next step on the wide area services front is a move into Orlando's burgeoning suburbs. Plan A -- or is it plan B? -- is to build infrastructure (relay POPs) to link new communities around Orlando such as Clairmont. That should happen within the next 60 to 90 days, Oliver says.

"Orlando is a relatively new city and growth is tremendous," notes Bailey. "Much of the area is under served. And we've yet to penetrate 60 to 70 percent of our potential market -- especially the highly under-served new communities."

Direct competition in Orlando is scarce, they say. One other Orlando wireless company, Pure Connection Inc., is offering service using slower, less reliable 2.4 GHz technology. Oltronics is talking to a 5.8 GHz service provider in nearby Melbourne about an alliance.

For the most part, the company is selling against wireline carriers, and Oliver and Bailey claim all the standard wireless advantages. Prices for the company's fixed-rate packages are comparable with lower-speed services from wireline carriers -- the $250, 1.5 Mbps service costs about the same as 256 Kbps business class DSL from Bell South, for example.

But the delivery technology and even the price are not that important to most customers. "What they're mainly looking for is, can we give them reliable broadband connectivity at better than or equivalent to what the wireline carriers are offering?" Oliver says.

A more important advantage is being able to offer much quicker provisioning -- days as opposed to weeks or months -- and easy scaling. Most important, though, Oliver says, is customer service.

He claims Oltronics provides better service than its wireline competitors. In particular, the service it provides to the Disney Hilton, where it offers a round-the-clock 1-800 help line for guests, has "won us favour with our customer base," Oliver says.

While it claims important competitive advantages and the opportunity to grow the customer base seems strong, Oliver admits that it's not happening as fast as he would like. It turns out there is a fair amount of missionary work required to sell wireless in Orlandoperhaps surprisingly.

"We're finding that a lot of prospects are not that astute about the technology," he says. "It's a challenge to educate them."

Meanwhile, the company is pursuing myriad other opportunities.

  • One idea is to serve as a carrier's carrier, with Oltronics using its wireless wide area infrastructure to provide wireline carriers with emergency back-up. Oltronics could provide 20, 30, or even 100 Mbps of bandwidth. Bailey says the company is already talking to Orlando-based data carrier EPIK Communications.
  • The company is also exploring providing wide area service between a company and its off-site mass storage center. Oltronics would install the radios, but then only charge on an as-used basis, Bailey says.
  • The company is investigating the profitability of providing college campus Wi-Fi services, and it's trying to get the city of Orlando to talk to it about setting up a municipally-funded Wi-Fi hot zone similar to one in nearby Gainesville, Fla.

But with all that this admittedly "small entity" already has on its plate in Florida, Oliver's eye is at the same time on plan B, in the Carolinas. He's cooking a deal there with a company he describes as a "heavily-funded" start-up serving the utility industry.

The other company's business has something to do with network-based meter-reading. "But it's a little more involved than that," Oliver says. The idea would be for Oltronics to provide network infrastructure services in what he initially characterizes as a "business alliance."

The deal hinges on whether Oltronics' prospective partner can raise the $30 million it needs to execute its business plan, which it has apparently now almost done. Later Oliver admits the deal could be more a "merger" than an alliance. Finally, calling the spade a spade, he admits it might be more like a take-over.

"They would probably come and gobble us up," he says.

Or not. That's just plan B. If it doesn't come off, Oliver has a plan C up his sleeve. It involves going out to look for external funding himself -- he already has a detailed business plan in his pocket -- and continuing to expand the company's business in, and out from, Orlando.

Of course, there could be a plan D as well. After all, for WISPs with a little imagination, anything is possible. The question is, what do you do first?

Reprinted from ISP Planet.

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