NextPhase is On Demand

By Adam Stone

March 27, 2006

The company says mixing wireless and wires is key to its approach toward short-notice connectivity needs.

NextPhase Wireless is all about networking building to get laptops online. Based in Anaheim, California, the company aims to make a name for itself by using more than one way to deploy wireless networks quickly, whether it be with the help of Ethernet, fiber or even satellite.

"It's like having a Swiss Army knife," says President and CEO Robert Ford.

Ford describes a recent example in which MedPoint Pharmaceuticals needed to mount a 500-person conference in an Anaheim, California hotel. Planners needed enough Wi-Fi to accommodate all those users, and NextPhase stepped in to build the network. No problem.

Then the hotel started swapping conference spaces at the last minute. "We had designed the network, we were all ready to go, and then the hotel says they have switched ballrooms and we can't set it up yet," Ford says. With just a day to make a new plan, NextPhase plugged the Wi-Fi into the hotel's Ethernet and was able to redistribute the wireless access according to the new plan.

"If we had not been able to tap into that Ethernet, we would have struggled," Ford says. "In that case, we were able to tie into their Ethernet backbone. Elsewhere, we have done a similar thing for the city of Diamond Bar, California, except that there, it was an integration with fiber."

In that case, the company deployed wireless connectivity in multiple municipal meeting locations to support council meetings and study sessions within Diamond Bar City Hall.

In its efforts to support diverse forms of wireless connectivity, NextPhase relies upon a mix of technologies. Recently, it integrated Alvarion pre-WiMax and Orthogon Systems backhaul equipment into a network whose footprint encompasses some 135,000 businesses in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The integration of the new technologies should boost throughput and improve scalability.

But it is the on-demand "Sudden Network" product that Ford says will help set the company apart.

"On demand" in this case refers to the ability to get a network up and running on short notice, typically in response to unplanned events. The system could be used by first responders or to ensure business continuity and disaster recovery, Ford says.

Analysts are tentative in their assessment of the proposition.

An urgent demand for wireless networks "is not what one comes across very often," says Eddie Hold, Vice President and Research Director of Wireless Services at research firm Current Analysis in Sterling, Virginia.

The likelihood of a conference-capable hotel suddenly needing a bigger network seems pretty slim, he says, and most people already are equipped to handle the absence of a wireless network, thanks to the wonders of the BlackBerry.

In a case where Wi-Fi might be needed, Hold says, someone usually knows pretty far in advance. "I'm really struggling to see a large market for this, when a little prior preparation would go a long way," he says.

Ford says there are any number of reasons why a rapid network deployment might be needed. Beyond emergency situations, for example, there is always the possibility of a short-term business need. "You can have a bump in your demand, and traditional technologies either won't be cost effective, or else you just can't do it fast enough," he says.

The best way to get it done, Ford says, is through the kind of technological mix-and-match in which NextPhase excels. "Even though we have wireless in the name of the company, we are really all about connectivity," he says, whether by fiber or satellite or any other means.

Ford's biggest problem is not a lack of need within the marketplace, but rather a lack of comprehension. Mix Wi-Fi and Ethernet? Many find it too unfamiliar to grasp at first. "You are putting technologies together in a different way, and a lot of people are blinkered to what is possible," Ford says. "So the biggest challenge often is in explaining to people what you can do."

Originally published on .

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