Wireless ISP Webpass expands with building-specific strategy

A small but expanding Internet service provider could give fiber and cable competitors a little run for their money. Webpass offers 500 Mbps upload and download speeds for $55 a month using point-to-point wireless technology--but it's not for single-family homes.

The no-contract service is targeted at multi-unit residential buildings and businesses. The company also plans to install fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) in some locations, but hasn't done so yet, according to Ars Technica.

Like a lot of wireless ISPs, or WISPs, not too many people have probably heard of the service provider outside of its service territory. In Webpass' case, its point-to-point technology isn't economically feasible for single-family homes, and it's only in a handful of cities: San Francisco, Miami, San Diego, Oakland, Chicago and, most recently, Boston.

Webpass founder and president Charles Barr told Xconomy when it prepared to launch in Boston that his company's wireless infrastructure is "a very organic network--we start with a base, and then it goes building to building to building, based on demand." The company went through a lot of trial and error in the mid-2000s and carefully chose its expansion sites to test different parts of its model. 

"We're building-specific," Barr, who was a network administrator before founding Webpass, told Ars. "It does me no good to put a billboard up in the city and say, 'Hey, call Webpass,' and have half the city call and say, 'I live in a single-family home, can you bring me service for $55?' The answer is no. But if you're in one of our residential buildings or one of our commercial buildings, you've heard of Webpass because we market very specifically to those buildings, or it's word of mouth."

Source: YouTube/Webpass

As Ars notes, a lot of WISPs in rural areas deliver home broadband service, generally offering speeds only up to 15 Mbps or so, but also bringing connectivity to single-family homes in sparsely populated areas where the only wired choice often is slow DSL or nothing at all.

Webpass delivers broadband to commercial buildings and residential buildings with a minimum of 10 units, according to Ars. It has about 20,000 residential subscribers, many living in high-rises. The company makes most of its money by charging higher prices to deliver greater reliability to commercial customers than residential. Barr said revenue is "very substantially over $10 million" per year.

Webpass radios operate in many different frequencies, including the unlicensed 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands used by Wi-Fi, Barr said. Webpass also uses the 6, 11, 18, 23, 24, 60, 70, and 80 GHz bands, representing a mix of licensed and unlicensed frequencies. Barr told Ars that interference differs greatly from one band to another, with 2.4 and 5 GHz guaranteed to have interference and 60 GHz being basically interference-free, although it only reaches 500 meters.

According to its website, Webpass offers business Internet connections from 10 to 1,000 Mbps and residential Internet connections at 100, 200 or 500 Mbps. 

For more:
- see this Ars Technica article

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