The Year in Review
With the holidays now upon us, it’s time to reflect on the year that was for Internet Service Providers in our annual Fixed Wireless Year in Review.
As usual, it was a busy one for ISPs and the fixed wireless industry. 2022 saw the launch of the Affordable Connectivity Program, broadband ‘nutrition labels’ and maps, and the growing importance of fiber/hybrid networks for local/regional ISPs and big telcos alike. Numerous funding opportunities were announced throughout the year, none bigger or more controversial than the NTIA’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program.
The past 12 months were eventful here at Preseem as well, as we continued to grow and develop our QoE solution to help our customers thrive and deliver a better experience for their subscribers. So, without further ado, let’s look back at 2022 together!
Early in January, the FCC announced the launch of the $14.2B Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), replacing the Emergency Broadband Benefit program (EBB). Like the EBB, the ACP was designed to help low-income families attain or retain internet access, though the per-month benefit was reduced to $30 from $50.
Here at Preseem/Aterlo Networks, we were honored to be included as one of the Top 100 Tech Companies to Watch by Founders Beta. Meanwhile, our first blog of the year explained How Active Queue Management Keeps Web Traffic Flowing to Improve QoE. If your ISP is familiar with support calls complaining about multiple devices slowing down the internet, AQM is the ‘easy button’ you’ve been looking for.
We addressed another common cause of slow internet complaints in our next blog, Bufferbloat: The Hidden Problem and How ISPs Can Fix It. Bufferbloat occurs when network links become saturated with high-bandwidth activity, causing latency to rise. This in turn triggers an increase in ‘slow-internet’ calls for ISPs. Give this one a read to find out how to fix this issue for good!
In industry news, the FCC was busy in February, first announcing $1.2B via the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to fund broadband deployment in rural areas. They also unanimously approved the use of ‘nutrition labels’ for broadband services to boost market competition. The move immediately earned pushback from WISPA and others, however, who asked that extra time for compliance be given to smaller providers.
For fixed wireless internet service providers, there are two big events on the calendar each year, the first of which is the annual WISPAmerica conference. The Preseem team traveled to New Orleans for the event, where we held exclusive sessions, met with customers and prospects at our booth, and sponsored the first-ever Women of WISPA group meeting. Read all about it here.
It was a busy month for us, as we also released our new RF analysis tools and scores. These help identify QoE and RF changes while making it easy to accurately see AP capacity at a glance.
March also saw more funding arrive in the fixed wireless world, as the NTIA released $277M in broadband infrastructure grants. The FCC also awarded $64M via the Emergency Connectivity Fund, while announcing plans to deliver another $1B from the fund.
In the leadup to the BEAD Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), WISPA advocated for a technology-neutral approach in broadband funding programs. “Prioritizing fiber transmission would mean that large swaths of America would continue to remain unserved,” they said in a letter to lawmakers. “Such an outcome would be inequitable,” they added, noting that 38% of all new broadband subscriptions in the US in Q4 2021 were fixed wireless. This was not the last we’d hear of BEAD in 2022 🙂
Here at Preseem, we published blogs on what QoE really means, and how to measure and proactively manage AP capacity. Our CEO and co-founder Gerrit Nagelhout was also featured in a success story for the Accelerator Centre, the Waterloo startup hub we call home. If you’d like to learn more about our history and journey so far, this story is a great place to start!
The big industry story in May was the much-anticipated release of the $42.5B BEAD NOFO by the NTIA. From a fixed wireless provider perspective, the criteria to receive funding was a major letdown as the rules clearly favored fiber over other access technologies.
Controversially, the NOFO also attempted to define “reliable broadband service.” This did not include fixed wireless over unlicensed spectrum, which essentially eliminated many ISPs already providing perfectly reliable service via that method to rural and non-urban areas across the US. As might be expected, the WISP industry had thoughts on this, which were expressed over the coming months.
In other funding news, the FCC announced another $200M in distribution via the RDOF, while full funding of the $350M USDA Rural Broadband Program received rare bipartisan support in Washington.
Reaction to the BEAD announcement continued in June, as the NTIA were questioned by the Senate Commerce Committee on the rules for distributing the funds, as well as the prioritization of fiber over other access technologies.
Here at Preseem, we issued a statement on the matter, offering our thoughts on why fixed wireless over unlicensed spectrum should qualify as reliable broadband service. The press release included a quote from David Zumwalt, CEO of WISPA, who said that “WISPs provide dependable, resilient, reliable broadband to millions of Americans across the country, and have long served and excelled on the front lines of bringing broadband to unserved areas.”
We also offered our thoughts on bandwidth management best practices this month, and held a webinar with our customer ZIRKEL Wireless, who explained how they’re saving 10-15 hours per month with Preseem.
In a timely development, given the recent BEAD news, it was revealed that fixed wireless customers routinely give high Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for the service. That means they’re not only satisfied with the service but willing to recommend it to others. In fact, Fixed Wireless scored higher than fiber in every category, from web browsing experience to streaming video 👀
Also this month, money from the $10B federal Capital Projects Fund (CPF) began flowing to projects in four states. The combined projects in Kansas, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota collectively received funds to expand high-speed broadband to 83,000 homes and businesses in rural or underserved areas.
In August, we took a close look at traffic shaping and explained why it’s nice icing on the cake for an already well-baked network, but is not QoE on its own.
Funding continued to flow this month, as the USDA awarded $401M in the third round of its Broadband Reconnect Program. The money made its way to over 20 projects that aimed to deliver broadband to over 31,000 rural residents and businesses across the US.
A significant trend reported on in August was the uptick in mergers and acquisitions in the WISP industry. These come as a response to encroachment in the market by big telcos like Verizon and T-Mobile. With Wells Fargo forecasting that the number of fixed wireless subscribers in the US will grow from 7.1M (2021) to 17.2M by the end of 2026, we can expect more of this activity in the near future.
The expected growth of the fixed wireless market was part of our article on trends to watch for in the industry. We also noted continued government funding for broadband, the rise of fiber/hybrid networks, and the importance of data-driven network management as other items to keep an eye on.
We also hosted a technical webinar in September that took a deep and geeky dive into Network Latency, Packet Buffers, and Transport Layer Changes. Our expert panelists took a look at the sources of network latency, queue management, and packet loss issues. They also discussed how the change in transport protocols from TCP to QUIC will change the internet and make TCP proxies (acceleration) obsolete.
September also saw the launch of our first-ever Preseem Podcast. Hosted by our co-founder and Chief Product Officer Dan Siemon and our Senior Product Manager Jeremy Austin, the podcast is available on Podbean, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts. Give it a listen when you have a chance!
In funding news, the FCC announced another $800M commitment for six providers to expand broadband availability across 19 states. Fiber was also in the news in September, as fallout from the BEAD definition of “reliable broadband” continued to reverberate. Susan Myers of WISPA said fiber subsidies promoted a race to the bottom, while Wisper Internet CEO Nathan Stooke said a technology-neutral approach should be adopted.
In the WISP world, October is all about WISPAPALOOZA, the largest annual event on the industry calendar. With over 2,200 attendees, the Las Vegas conference offers the best opportunity to connect with industry peers, learn from networking experts, and check out the latest technology.
Preseem was also proud to co-sponsor the largest-ever gathering of Women of WISPA (WoW) at this year’s WISPAPALOOZA. Co-founded by Preseem’s Alison Vreeswyk, WoW led a panel discussion on empowering and connecting women in the industry in front of 100+ attendees. WoW also led Pink Day at the conference, which helped raise money for breast cancer nonprofit METAvivor.
As might be expected, fiber was a hot topic at this year’s event. Fierce Telecom reported that WISPs face a do-or-die moment that will lead to a rise in fixed wireless/fiber hybrid networks. As WISPs embrace fiber, big telcos like Verizon are embracing fixed wireless, recently expanding to more than one million FWA subscribers.
In November, BEAD-inspired discussions continued, as US senators urged NTIA to redefine reliable broadband to include fixed wireless over unlicensed spectrum. Meanwhile, the FCC received good early reviews for their updated broadband maps. The NCTA cautiously called it a “promising step forward,” while others praised its “impressive leap in technology.” We can expect to hear more about broadband maps in 2023 as subsequent drafts are released.
Here at Preseem, we published a blog called Set It and Forget It with AQM that explained why active queue management and a changing internet have made DPI and TCP proxies (acceleration) outdated tools. We also showed how ISPs can Improve Network Capacity Planning and QoE by embracing a data-based approach to network management.
They say you should save the best for last, so we decided to wrap up the year by releasing our popular Fixed Wireless Network Report in December. This year’s report included some new data, including in-depth insights on subscriber usage by speed plans, the speeds attained by plans, active throughput by plan, and AP capacity. That’s on top of all the regular detailed analysis and metrics that ISPs can’t find anywhere else. If you don’t have one yet, sign up to get your free copy today!
We also hosted a webinar in December with our good friends at Sonar Software. During the webinar, Preseem’s Dan Siemon and Sonar CEO Simon Westlake chatted about challenges and best practices with adopting fiber and moving to a hybrid network model.
Last but not least, a recent report issued by Cox and conducted by a third-party research firm, indicated that affordable Internet improves lives. Though the report is specific to Cox customers, its core findings are universal. That is, access to reliable, high-speed internet is literally life-changing and can lead to better jobs and educational opportunities, and a better quality of life. So keep up the good work fixed wireless ISPs, and all the best for 2023!