The Year in Review
Well, that’s another eventful year (almost) in the books. There were some huge stories in the fixed wireless world in 2021, including major broadband funding announcements related to the COVID-19 pandemic, evidence of strong industry growth, and an increased awareness of the digital divide and how ISPs around the world are critical in closing the gap for those in underserved areas.
Before the holiday festivities truly get underway and we start looking forward to what 2022 might bring, we thought we’d reflect on some of the top stories and trends from 2021. So sit back, grab a little festive nog, and join us in our look back at the past 12 months in the world of WISPs.
In January, we updated our articles on WISP market size in both the United States and Canada. First published back in 2017, these articles provide key facts and insights on how the WISP market is doing, including the number of service providers and subscribers in each country, revenue trends, and a look at some of the largest providers on the scene.
Each month, we publish our Interference Newsletter, which is packed with the latest news stories and funding announcements of interest to ISPs. In January, our top story highlighted the release of an annual report from the FCC that brought the good news that the digital divide in the US is closing. Though this report is seen as controversial in some quarters, the fact that more Americans than ever now have access to high-speed broadband is cause for celebration and evidence of the great work being done by WISPs across the country.
The FCC was again the headliner for our top story in February, as it announced a temporary $3.2B program to provide lower-income Americans with discounts on their monthly internet service. It also promised funds to help families purchase a laptop or tablet, a move made all the more necessary by the ongoing pandemic and the need for millions to study and work from home.
Back at the Preseem virtual offices, we published a blog in February called Fixed Wireless Capacity Planning: Making Money from Thin Air. In it, we took a deep and detailed dive into the problem of trying to predict network performance and make plans to accommodate growth and peak-time usage while still providing your subscribers with an optimal experience. As the blog puts it, “fixed wireless capacity planning can feel like trying to nail pudding to a wall”—if this is a problem you’ve experienced at your ISP, give it a read!
We received so much positive feedback from the WISP Virtual Summit we held in 2020, that we decided to follow it up in 2021 with the WISP Virtual Summit: Reloaded. This online event was held over three days and featured presentations from industry experts, vendors, and representatives from fixed wireless ISPs across North America, and included networking opportunities, contests, and more. Thank you to the 600+ registrants from more than 60 countries who signed up for this virtual conference, along with all of our generous sponsors!
In terms of industry news in March, there was none bigger than the announcement of billions of dollars in broadband funding, courtesy of the American Rescue Plan. Included in the funding was an E-Rate Emergency Connectivity Fund to help schools and libraries pay for equipment needed for remote learning. Funds were also earmarked to help low-income families pay for monthly broadband internet access.
As spring finally arrived here in Canada (and elsewhere!), the top story from our newsletter was the announcement of a report from WISPA and The Carmel Group that forecast 10 million customers for fixed wireless operators by 2023. The report also projected that revenues from the fixed wireless internet industry were expected to grow to around $11B by 2025. As the report quite rightly noted, “the positive trajectory of subscribers and revenues in the US fixed wireless broadband industry is real cause for objective optimism.”
The Carmel Group report was issued on the opening day of WISPAMERICA, the annual conference and trade show held by WISPA. This year’s event took place from April 26-29 in Grapevine, Texas, with options to attend virtually as well. As always, the event included informative and interactive sessions on all aspects of the WISP world, as well as exhibitors showcasing a wide range of services and products.
Speaking of our friends at WISPA, in May they announced that they’d partnered with EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit dedicated to closing the digital divide for the 18 million US households that have access to the internet but that can’t afford to connect. The partnership with WISPA helps support the organization’s K-12 Bridge to Broadband program that focuses on connecting at-risk students to the internet for remote learning.
In funding news, the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced $288M in grants for the deployment of broadband infrastructure. In part, the program will fund projects that bring broadband access to rural areas in a cost-effective manner. Elsewhere, two programs announced earlier in the year—the Emergency Broadband Benefit program and the Emergency Connectivity Fund—kicked off this month.
More funding was announced in June, as the White House made $1B in grants available to expand broadband access on tribal lands, where only half of households currently have internet access. The money came from the NTIA and was earmarked for Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities “to support digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth, and distance learning.”
Toward the end of the month, we published another entry in our fixed wireless blog series, named Fixed Wireless Spectrum Bands: Understand the Trade-Offs Between Modulation and SNR. This detailed article looks at how understanding modulation and signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio is key to making the most of wireless capacity. If you’re a growing WISP, you’ll want to give this one a read!
The author of our fixed wireless blog series is Jeremy Austin, our multi-talented Senior Product Manager here at Preseem. In July, Jeremy joined host Dave Clelland for an episode of the MBSI Wav Tech Talk series. During the conversation, the two networking experts chatted about the findings from Jeremy’s blog series, and took an in-depth look at the topic of link quality and wireless service offerings.
Also that month, the controversial topic of Net Neutrality reared its head once again as the White House floated the idea of reviving it, only to receive an earful from provider associations. WISPA was one organization that stood up for their members, noting that such regulation would “limit consumer choice and competition” and that “WISPs are there precisely due to the absence of utility regulation, not because of it.”
As the summer months wore on, the FCC provided an update on the Emergency Connectivity Fund that had been originally announced in March and which officially kicked off in May. Reporting that more than $5B in applications had already been filed, the organization announced the opening of a second application window for states to procure funds to close “the Homework Gap” and provide students with the equipment they need to succeed in remote learning.
Here at Preseem, we posted a blog containing videos from our Access Point Deployment Series that took a close look at popular AP models from Cambium and Ubiquiti. These short videos are co-hosted with some of our WISP customers who provide a wealth of insider tips and industry best practices related to each AP. If you’re considering deploying any new APs in the near future, you’ll want to dive into this one 🙂
In September, WISPA CEO Claude Aiken spoke with Fierce Telecom about how federal government advice to states on how to use broadband funding was essentially wasting that money by ignoring the presence of existing fixed wireless networks. Aiken noted that the White House plan “only counts an area served if it has fiber or if it has cable, regardless of the speed” and argued that “inclusion of wireless technologies in some of that guidance is going to be critical to enable innovation as well as ensure that funds are efficiently used.”
In the fixed wireless world, October is WISPAPALOOZA month and Preseem took our largest contingent ever down to this year’s event in Las Vegas. We thoroughly enjoyed the chance to meet with customers and prospects at the conference, and were also humbled and honored to receive the WISPA Service of the Year award for the third consecutive year. We’re already looking forward to next year—maybe we’ll see you there!
We were also extremely happy to be named by Founders Beta as one of the Top 17 Hottest Tech Companies in Waterloo Region. For those who may not know, Waterloo Region is one of the world’s fastest-growing tech centers and has the highest startup density in the world outside of Silicon Valley, so this was a great honor and perfectly rounded out an enjoyably hectic month!
November was also a busy month here at Preseem, as it saw the release of the 2021 edition of our annual Fixed Wireless Network Report. In case you’re not familiar with the report, each year we use our huge data pool containing billions of metrics to present an overview of the fixed wireless industry across service providers and vendors. Along with in-depth industry insights that can’t be found anywhere else, the report also gives WISPs a chance to benchmark their business against others in the industry. And best of all, it’s completely free! If you haven’t done so yet, sign up to get your copy today.
On the industry news front, November saw the passage of the White House’s $65B Broadband Plan after it was approved by Congress. A large portion of the funds are for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program that will provide subsidies for ISPs that build in underserved areas.
And that brings us to December! In news that may come as no surprise to some WISPs, a report from Ookla showed that many local ISPs provide faster internet speeds than national ones. In fact, the report showed that smaller ISPs provided the fastest option in 19 states and that the 10 fastest ISPs this year were all local providers.
At Preseem, we closed out the year with a webinar on the Ultimate Guide to WISP Customer Success, co-hosted with our friends at Sonar. During the webinar, we took a look at best practices for WISPs to lower customer complaints and call volume, increase customer satisfaction, reduce churn, and much more. At the risk of sounding biased, it’s well worth a watch!
So there you have it. 2021 wrapped up with a neat little bow 🙂 From all of us at Preseem, we’d like to wish you all the best for the holiday season and we hope that 2022 is your best year yet.
To ensure you don’t miss any WISP news next year, subscribe to our blog and newsletter mailing lists. Or if your WISP is looking to kick-start 2022 by improving subscriber QoE and taking a more proactive approach to network management, book a demo and let’s set aside a time to chat early in the new year.
Happy holidays, everyone!