Claude Aiken is the first full-time president and CEO of the Wireless Internet Service Provider’s Association. According to the association, there are roughly 2,000 fixed wireless access providers in all 50 states, with an average of 1,200 customers each.
“These are mostly local businesses focused on providing broadband to their communities, often to places that have never had it before,” said Aiken. “These are people who have done it with their own money, not venture capital.”
Lack of venture capital does not mean lack of technical innovation. In fact, fixed wireless has been one of the most active areas in wireless lately when it comes to new technology.
“There’s been a lot of innovation, a lot of additional work that has gone into this industry on behalf of technical standards and equipment manufacturing,” said Aiken. Companies like Siklu, Mimosa, Ubiquiti Networks, IgniteNet and Cambium Networks are all eyeing the fixed wireless space with proprietary solutions.
Why is rural broadband suddenly so sexy? For one thing, the technology has other use cases. Consider WISPA member Starry, which is using fixed wireless to serve urban areas and compete with traditional fiber-based ISPs.
“The industry itself is one that is growing—it’s expected to double over the course of the next few years,” said Aiken.
Aiken said his priorities in his new role include educating people about fixed wireless, preventing subsidized providers from competing with private WISPs, and helping WISPs get access to licensed spectrum.
As a former associate general counsel at the FCC, Aiken is connected to Washington decision makers as well as to rural entrepreneurs. He’s excited to be associated with technology that he says has the potential to level the playing field.
“A lot of it is focused on wireless networks’ ability to provide comparable service to a line in the ground,” he said. “It’s the same user experience that you would get in urban areas.”