January 4, 2010
BendBroadband Grows Its Own Wireless
BendBroadband’s decision to launch a wireless data network to customers in central Oregon brings the potential of 15 Mbps service over a homegrown network built from scratch.
The smallish Oregon-based service provider’s combination of licensed spectrum, new technologies and a network future-proofing that allows a simple upgrade path to Long Term Evolution (LTE), is a savvy new business model the company is counting on to move it into the wireless space.
“We didn’t just want to launch a me-too network, but one with the best possible speeds in a very underserved market. It’s all about opportunity,” said Frank Miller, CTO at BendBroadband.
It’s also about growing your own network. Bend has built a 100 percent IP-based network from end-to-end, and plans to move to LTE when the ecosystem matures.
Partners and teams
Yet building a wireless network from the ground up, particularly for smaller operators such as BendBroadband that have historically lacked the economies of scale and capital to advance their networks, is something of an ordeal.
“The largest challenge was building a wireless team and fostering new relationships with the right technology partners that would meet the challenging goals for a complete and mature wireless ecosystem based on HSPA+ in our spectrum holdings,” Miller said.
Those new relationships include Ericsson as BendBroadband’s technical vendor in the Packetcore and Radio Access Network, and Bandrich its partner in the user equipment space.
Equally as challenging, Miller added, is integrating a wireless network into a traditional cable system.
“We must manage the entire vendor process and the complex decisions to put out a product we’ve never put out before, and build a team from scratch with the RF engineering expertise to manage a wireless service in-house.”
The company integrated existing provisioning and billing systems, warehouse provisioning and other tools needed to deploy a wireless broadband solution, and has applied for broadband wireless stimulus fund money, he noted.
The result is a new wireless data network, with customers receiving from 6-8 Mbps down and 2-3 up at layer 3, and three wireless services for residential and business customers: high-speed Internet, mobile broadband and phone. Average latency is under 60ms through the Radio Access Network.
Its wireless service will also reach homes inside the company’s cable footprint that have not been economically feasible to serve via traditional fiber-coax cable infrastructure. That, by itself, has been a key driver in Bend’s decision to launch its wireless Internet service.
“There’s benefit to a greenfield build because it requires a minimal amount of equipment, and it’s all new and data-centric. There is a very large, underserved market and it’s a reasonable ROI model with licensed HSPA+ spectrum. But it’s also vendor dependent,” Miller said.
“We have great hopes for this product and its value,” he said.