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Calif. WISPs Join Forces to Create SkyWeb Alliance

Reminiscent of the early days of the cellular phone industry, three California-based wireless Internet service providers have partnered to make a unified wireless carrier network throughout the state.

Under the "SkyWeb" brand name, NextWeb, SkyPipeline and SkyRiver Communications have signed the inter-carrier interconnect agreement. The between will cover more than 150 cities including San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas to Southern California, including the greater Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego regions. The service is available immediately.

The companies say connectivity on the network is tailored for a wide variety of enterprise needs, ranging from 512Kbps fractional T1 speeds all the way up to 10 Mbps. The SkyWeb members have also pledged to gradually integrate and synchronize their respective back office systems.

"California is one of the world's leading economies, and is arguably one of the most challenging business environments in the country," said SkyPipeline CEO Ryan Blair. "Each of the Alliance members has proven they can succeed on their own in their respective regions, and this agreement brings together these three winners, in an unprecedented fashion. The synergy created by this group will serve as a welcome sign to enterprises throughout the state. Fixed wireless is emerging as a new way for businesses to access the Internet, and its ease of installation and high bandwidth provide an extremely attractive proposition."

The partnership also covers joint sales and marketing efforts -- including the ability to "wholesale" service in each other's territories, with product and pricing agreements -- along with a commitment to use "best practices" techniques to install joint technology and operations initiatives.

This means while each company operates in distinct geographical regions, each can sign up new customers on any other portion of the network.

The coverage areas can be broken down into the following general divisions:

NextWeb -- SF Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Orange County
SkyPipeline -- Santa Barbara, Ventura County, San Fernando Valley, parts of the Los Angeles basin
SkyRiver -- Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego

The agreement may pave the way for more small WISPs to band together. In its recent report, In-Stat/MDR predicted that the wireless Internet service provider market would experience strong growth, and this Alliance provides the majority of enterprises in California with an excellent alternative for business-class Internet access."

"There are three major factors that make the WISP market a great business -- one, it is unlicensed spectrum; two, the equipment costs are low, and going lower; and three, the business model -- bypassing the local cable and telephony plant to deliver a carrier-class broadband service at a markedly lower price -- is very compelling," said In-Stat/MDR senior analyst Daryl Schoolar.