RealTime IT News

TowerStream Expands Service

BOSTON -- Fixed wireless broadband has long been touted as a technology for consumers in rural areas, but a Rhode Island company is successfully selling it to businesses in major U.S. cities.

"We're a true alternative," Jeff Thompson, president and COO of TowerStream, said at the WiMAX World trade show here yesterday. "We're doing this in volume."

Last month, the company announced its first West Coast market. It's establishing Points of Presence on Los Angeles' tallest buildings to deliver broadband within a 10-mile radius, beginning in early 2005.

TowerStream already offers service in Boston, Chicago, New York, and Providence/Newport, R.I., and wants to enter a new market every three or four months.

The company vies for business customers against Verizon and SBC . TowerStream stresses cost, customer service and reliability in pitching new customers.

Since the service isn't routed through the incumbents' central offices, power failures like last year's blackout in the East and fiber cuts caused by construction errors don't interrupt service.

So far, TowerStream has grown through direct sales of its $500-per-month T1 service. However, yesterday Thompson said the company is moving "full speed ahead into a channel program" as it looks to grow nationwide.

David Willis, a vice president at the META Group, said resellers can make a big difference for a small company like TowerStream.

"[Resellers] immediately provide access to new customers, including bringing them into deals with clients who would never consider going direct to a small alternative provider," Willis told internetnews.com.

For now, TowerStream has no plan to offer a consumer version of the service, although some large condo associations have banded together to purchase service for the entire building. The cost of individual customer premise equipment would have to drop below $100 for that, Thompson said.

TowerStream will support VoIP services but won't develop its own version of the service.

"We don't have the brand recognition that AT&T has for VoIP," Thompson said. "We're looking to partner with top brands. We can support it and prioritize that traffic."

The company is also a member of the WiMAX Forum. The group, which includes Intel, Fujitsu, Aperto Networks, Proxim and Alvarion, is establishing industry compliance with international broadband wireless access standards and cross-vendor interoperability.