At This WISP, Oliver Asks for More

By Gerry Blackwell

July 22, 2003

With many potential opportunities to examine but less actual growth than he'd like, Oltronics president Bob Oliver has more than just plan A and plan B--he's already cooking up plans C and D.

Orlando Fla.-based WISP Oltronics Internet Services may be typical of WISPs everywhere right now. The opportunities seem so endless that the real problem is choosing where to invest your resources.

It's always a good idea to have a plan A and a plan B, and maybe a plan C too. That's how Oltronics president Bob Oliver is playing it.

Oliver, sounding over the phone from his office in Orlando like an old-time southern country gentleman, is enthusiastic about what his company is doing in central Florida. But plan B -- which he's not allowed to talk much about -- is there in the background. It could bring a radical change in direction and circumstances for Oltronics.

Not that radical change is anything new. Oliver founded Oltronics in 1986 as a computer and telecom consulting firm. The core business was helping clients, including some big ones like Bank of America and the State of New York, to manage their local and wide area data networks.

"We're still doing that," Oliver notes. "It's kind of my primary cup of tea."

He added the Internet services operation in 1997. The emphasis at first was dialup and residential, then DSL. It all changed two years ago, when the company began to add fixed wireless broadband. Not long after, realizing that margins on residential dialup were going nowhere but down, Oltronics dumped that part of the business and now concentrates 100 percent on broadband.

Since then, the core of the Internet services business has been providing wide area access to Orlando businesses. But the company is also pursuing hospitality industry and MDU (multi-dwelling unit) opportunities with its wireless technology. Hospitality is a natural given the strength of the local tourism industry.

Oltronics already has one big hotel customer in the Disney Hilton where it's providing wireless broadband service to 800 guest rooms, plus public areas and meeting rooms.

Servicing the Hilton account has required a major commitment, especially during the September-to-April conference season when Oltronics technicians are onsite daily.

"It's quite strenouous but quite profitable if handled properly," Oliver says. "This is the vertical market where we're trying to go, this is where our focus is right now."

Well, one of the focuses.

Oltronics is providing broadband wireless service in the conference areas at a local Days Inn property and it's working on a deal to provide wireless access services in another big (1,400-room) hotel.

"We're a small entity," Oliver notes. "If we can attract two customers like that by end of the year, for us that would be very good."

On the MDU front, it recently completed installation of a 22 storey AmSouth Bank building in Orlando. It's sending and receiving wide area wireless signals from the roof, has established a Wi-Fi hotspot on the ground floor, and hopes to provide WLAN and Wi-Fi access services to the building's small business tenants.

Providing wide area access to individual companies remains the heart of Oltronics' business, though, and it's moving increasingly to wireless. The company has about 45 wireline customers -- business DSL and a few direct-connect T-1 -- and about 90 wireless customers.

"A small percentage of those are SOHO, so we have done some home installations where the customers are working out of home offices," adds director of sales James Bailey.

The company is serving these customers from a main wireless POP atop the 22 storey Radisson Hotel, using 5.8 GHz Tsunami wide area point-to-multipoint gear from Proxim. The wireless POP is linked to the Internet backbone by OC-3 (155 Mbps) fiber.

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