Treading Water With BeyonDSL

Las Vegas-based BeyonDSL is not that different from any number of other regional wireless ISPs with larger ambitions.

Like others, it finds itself becalmed right now by the economic downturn. Its aspirations to expand a narrow base of operationsthe company launched in Vegas last August and has added two small southern California towns sincehave been put on hold.

BeyonDSL won’t open any new markets probably for the next six to 12 months, says vice president of field operations Neil Golli. Like other regional WISPs, it’s hunkering down and trying to make the best of a less than ideal situation.

“We think it’s the best move for us,” Golli says. “We’ve seen so many wireless ISPs opening up and then shutting their doors 60 or 90 days later. We want to see the Las Vegas market grow and mature first before we go and spend millions and millions on a nationwide rollout.”

But BeyonDSL is by no means going into hibernation. Nor is it in decline. Golli says the company can be profitable even if it never expands its baseand will be within 12 months.

Of catamarans and clients

Until now the company has focused on small businesses in the city. But it recently announced a new initiative to bring high-speed fixed wireless Internet access to the posh Lakes gated community on the edge of Las Vegas.

The Lakes project is interesting because BeyonDSL aims to provide coverage everywhere in the community, including out on the lake.

And the company continues to expand its core customer base in a hyper-competitive market.

BeyonDSL is the dedicated fixed wireless subsidiary of Las Vegas-based Internet Business’s International Inc., a publicly traded Internet company with a diversified portfolio, including LA Internet Corp., a full-service ISP based in Los Angeles.

BeyonDSL currently operates a 45-Mbps backbone network in Las Vegas using 5.8-GHz spectrum. The company uses 2.4-GHz frequency hopping gear from Alvarionthe merged combination of BreezeCOM and Flowarefor the last mile. It has four main POPs and eight to ten mini-POPs in the city.

In Woodland, a town of less than 10,000 just north of Sacramento, it has a smaller 11-Mbps network. And it’s just in the process of building out in Moreno Valley, another small community near Sacramento.

Frequency-hopping hub

The company’s main focus, though, is Las Vegas, where it claims to be the largest provider of broadband fixed wireless services.

There are at least three other WISPs in the cityLANwaves Inc., Wireless Telcorp Inc. and newcomer Velocitus.

BeyonDSL successfully differentiates itself in a couple of ways. First, it uses frequency hopping technology for the last mile, which director of operations Dave Flinn says helps it get around the kind of interference problems that will only get worse with unlicensed spectrum in such a heavily saturated market.

With the other wireless ISPs, plus lots of WLANs, there is “tons” of 2.4-GHz network activity, Flinn says. But BeyonDSL takes extra care over network management.

“Frequency hopping on its own is not enough,” he says. “We also have a full-time network manager. He sits inside a control room and manages, changing [frequency hopping] sequences, whatever he needs to do to get around the interference problems.”

The company’s network topology, with very short-range mini-POPs on low-rise buildings delivering service to small clusters of customers in overcrowded areas, also minimizes interference issues, Flinn says.

The result, according to Golli, is that BeyonDSL does a better job of delivering reliable service. “I know we’ve taken business away from competitors because they have not been able to provide a stable service and deliver on performance promises,” he says.

The company is also going after a slightly different slice of the market than others. Most of its competitors are targeting customers that want 512-Kbps service and up. BeyonDSL focuses more on the lower end, offering services starting at 128 Kbps for $65 a month.

It is also exploiting an opportunity that is more likely to present itself at the low end of the market. Many of its small business customers don’t even have LANs, so BeyonDSL is also doing low-level LAN integration work for themnot WLANs necessarily, just cabling and configuring Ethernet.

“It’s an extremely profitable part of our business,” Golli says.

Leaving Las Vegas

BeyonDSL also wants to get into the wireless network integration business, helping corporations in Las Vegas and elsewhere and towns and cities in the region build wireless LANs, and campus and metro-area broadband wireless networks.

It hopes to emulate In The Air Data in this. ITAD, a broadband wireless design and implementation company based in Las Vegas, helped BeyonDSL get started.

“Since then we’ve learned quite a bit about how to do this,” says Golli. “Now we’d like to put it to use. We’ve got all the people here to make everything happen wirelessly for other companies.”

In the meantime, its services business is expanding, with 20 to 25 percent of the new business coming from referralsalways a good sign. The Lakes Project is partly a strategy to get more leads to business customers.

Many of the community’s residents are successful and affluent entrepreneurs. The hope is that when they see how good the residential service isBeyonDSL expects to offer monthly service for $40 or $50they’ll want it for the office.

The company has already built much of the network. In recent tests, Flinn was getting access at 800 Kbps at the far end of the lake.

“We’re designing it so people can go out on the boat with a laptop or sit in the park. Wherever they travel through the community, they’ll have high-speed access,” Golli says.

BeyonDSL will begin marketing the service in earnest over the next several weeks.

But while it’s more than content for now to develop the Las Vegas market to the max and play in the two smaller communities, BeyonDSL won’t be content for long. Despite its claims that it can be profitable the way it is, the company still has higher ambitions.

“Eventually,” says Golli, “we want to build out across the country. That’s definitely still the goal.”

Trouble is, it’s everybody else’s goal too. If, when, the economic clouds lift, it will be interesting to see which ones are really ready for the big time.

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