Fixed WISP Rise plans network upgrade as it unites under one brand

JAB Broadband, which is now celebrating acquisition No. 108, is on a path to upgrade its technology at the same time it's adopting a new brand name to encompass all of its divisions: Rise Broadband.

Residents in Rise rural service areas are likely to see more of these vehicles cruising the streets. (Source: Rise Broadband)

The company, which likes to say it's the biggest company nobody's heard of, will now try to become better known under the new name. The business started out in 2006 with the goal of consolidating small wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) to create one cohesive entity.

Until now, it was operating as Digis, Rhino Communications, Skybeam, Prairie iNet and T6. Now those divisions comprise Rise, which offers Internet and phone service to rural and suburban areas throughout 15 states in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions. 

"It's really kind of an evolution as we consolidate and integrate all these different companies," said Jack Koo, Rise president and CEO, in an interview with FierceWirelessTech.

In the coming months, Rise Broadband plans to make a significant investment in its network to provide increased reliability and faster speeds, he said. Rise uses unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz and 3.65 GHz bands as well as the licensed 2.5 GHz band.

The new name and logo are designed to be kind of retro in nature, appealing to more rural customers and "rising above" the limited and often expensive services consumers might get from cable, phone or satellite companies. Koo said the company wants to give customers the freedom to "live where they want to" without giving up access to the kinds of high-speed Internet service they would find in big cities.

The company plans to spend more than $30 million to upgrade its networks. That's already started and will continue over the next couple of years. Speeds for residential end users will be in the 20 Mbps range, with commercial customers seeing up to a Gig. Rise uses equipment from Cambium Networks and Ubiquiti Networks, and it's evaluating gear from other vendors, like Mimosa Networks.

One of the advantages of having a distributed tower network is it can selectively upgrade the networks one tower site at a time. "We can be very laser-focused in where we deploy," Koo said. "It's really going to be focused on need or demand."

The company is keeping an eye on TV white spaces as well. "We expect some portion of that will be allocated to shared use, so it's really a situation where the FCC's commitment to providing unlicensed spectrum continues to grow," Koo said. "The fixed wireless industry is getting a huge amount of support from the FCC," in terms of spectrum.

The FCC also expanded the Connect America fund to include a rural broadband experiment, allocating $100 million to be awarded to non-incumbent companies, like Rise, to stimulate broadband deployment in unserved markets at lower cost. The company was provisionally awarded almost $17 million from the government to deploy broadband in 10 underserved communities in five states. It's a 10-year grant, and while it's still waiting to receive the final funds, the plan is to serve the markets in three years.

Incidentally, the company's old name JAB was a compilation of the initials of the children of co-founder Jeff Kohler, a wireless industry veteran who held senior positions at AT&T Wireless and McCaw Cellular Communications before founding Reason, a wireless management services company that was acquired by InPhonic in 2002.

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