General Information: Should I start a WISP?

When living in communities with little or no broadband service, it's easy to start daydreaming about owning your own Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) and being the savior of your community. Anyone seriously thinking about starting a WISP, however, should be prepared to face up to challenges that they may not have considered. The following questions are examples of what you should ask yourself before proceeding with your WISP business plan.
1. What geographical area do I want to service? You may want to only service your neighbors within a two block radius or you may want to service a large metropolitan area. Determining your boundaries will go a long way in establishing the feasibility of your business.
2. Who are my customers? Do you want to service residential customers, corporate customers, or both? When you decide this you will be able to determine the best product to deliver service, and at what price.
3. How many potential customers do I see in my service area? You don't need to do a poll or to do market research right away, but you should be able to determine a rough number of customers by driving through your service area, and talking with people and businesses. It is very useful to know what prices customers are willing to pay for what amount of bandwidth.
4. What are the physical characteristics of my service area? Always assume you need line of sight. If your service area is in a mountainous area with a lot of tree cover, you may need to think long and hard about how to deliver wireless service.
5. Are there obvious antenna sights? You will need antenna sites visible from everywhere in your service area. They usually consist of structures such as water towers, tall buildings or grain elevators.
6. Do I have a realistic chance of mounting antennas at potential sights? Most people will not want to have your antennas on their building without being handsomely compensated. Your best bet is to make these contacts as soon as possible before you begin even basic planning.
7. Where will my data center be? All wireless distribution systems need a head end. You will need to determine where you can install high bandwidth backbone links to the Internet and how you will get that bandwidth to your antenna site(s). Some WISPs combine a main antenna site with a head end data center, or create a backhaul link from the data center to the main antenna site.
8. Do I have access to enough startup funding? Despite what you may have read, you cannot start a WISP for $5,000.00. How much you will need depends on a lot of variables, but remember it will be a major financial commitment that will take time to recoup (up to 12-24 months).
9. Do I have access to talented people? You will need Radio Frequency (RF) technicians, network Internet Protocol (IP) engineers, tower climbers, install technicians, and help desk technicians. You may need to hire electricians, sales people, marketing people, and an accountant. This is the one thing often overlooked by most entrepreneurs who see themselves being able to do everything until the company grows. This will not be the case.
10. Is a turnkey solution a better approach? After taking into consideration some of the basic issues you may want to have someone else build the WISP for you. This is a popular approach because it allows access to a group of talented people who know how to plan, build and operate a WISP successfully.  In addition, a turnkey solution will provide valuable training that will help you avoid making costly mistakes. It also allows you to focus more on building a businesss because you won't have to worry about the problems of finding the right talent and writing a business plan on your own. The Broadband Wireless Exchange offers many competitive turn key solutions for potential WISP owners.


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