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Wi-Fi Public Access from the Ground Up

Whether you are a location owner with a steady stream of potential customers or a CLEC interested in amortizing bandwidth, the business of for-pay Wi-Fi public access can be represented as a value chain. Each link represents a distinct element.

What’s involved in planning, installing, and operating a WISP business? Let’s study the pros and cons of “build” versus “buy” in public access networking, and concentrate on what it takes to be successful at each particular component.

Who should read this article?
Techies with an entrepreneurial spirit. Wi-Fi enthusiasts.
What you need prior to reading this article:
You'll need some money, time and energy to take this knowledge to the street.
Where can I get the stuff you talk about in this article?
Check with manufacturers.
Where can I go to get help if I need it?
Join the lists and ask a fellow member.
Where can I go to give comments on this article?
In the forums.

What’s your Business Plan?

First question: should you try to go it alone, building out the network, acquiring and supporting customers by yourself, or is it better to establish partnerships? Perhaps the single biggest thing to take away from this article is that you don’t have to do everything yourself. Examine the value chain, concentrate on the areas where you can add the most value, and pick strong partners for the rest. A broker can strengthen your value proposition, resulting in a successful for-pay wireless business for you and greater value for your customers.

I. Network build out and maintenance

Building a network is the most capital-intensive part of the WISP business. The two main components are fixed capital costs of network equipment and recurring costs of bandwidth and network maintenance.
If you build a network that requires authentication and billing, you’ll need to purchase either high-end access points that integrate those functions or network equipment to perform these tasks. On the other hand, if you find a partner to perform the essential AAA (authentication, authorization and accounting) functions, you can focus on building the network inexpensively.

Partnering companies can offer services ranging from selection of bandwidth and hardware to purchasing to installation and maintenance. This is the right option if you don’t have a networking background, or if you intend to focus on customer acquisition and support.
If you are going deploy your own network, here are the steps you’ll need to follow to get your network up and running.

I.1- Bandwidth selection
A WISP sells bandwidth, so consider these factors:
- The amount of bandwidth required
- Bandwidth performance
- Redundant circuits and IP provisioning
- At least one static IP address