TowerStream’s integration with two major wireless carriers has been completed and it expects to see them go live on its Wi-Fi network in the first quarter next year, Jeff Thompson, president, CEO and director of the company, told analysts on the third quarter earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.
TowerStream’s Wi-Fi nodes have been tested and are certified for PassPoint, the roaming standard established by the Wi-Fi Alliance in June 2012. Passpoint-enabled wireless devices automatically discover and connect to Wi-Fi networks using Passpoint-certified access points, thus eliminating service set identification limitations.
“This gives us many features and capabilities for carriers to manage and control the user experience and to make Wi-Fi a seamless part of the radio access network,” Thompson said. “The high-bandwidth capability of Wi-Fi can drive usage and revenue for the carriers.”
With Passpoint technology, the Wi-Fi operator can offer a true neutral host business model, with no limit to the number of carriers or other entities that can access an antenna.
“On a Wi-Fi node, you rent a port on an antenna, just like a collocation and you are off to the races. There are no limits,” Thompson said.
TowerStream’s Wi-Fi and small cell business is also currently partnering with non-carriers, such as Skype, Boingo and other location based advertising companies. The company’s Wi-Fi nodes may be leased to a multitude of different customers, such as MSOs, Internet companies, location-based services; and platform players, such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon, as well as carriers.
“What’s interesting about Wi-Fi is that, unlike licensed technologies such DAS or LTE, it is in every device and you don’t have to be a carrier to have access,” Thompson told DAS Bulletin. “There are a lot of other business opportunities. It is the most successful wireless technology ever.”
TowerStream currently has 2,800 Wi-Fi nodes in place, adding 1,000 nodes in the third quarter. Typically, it has three and sometimes four Wi-Fi nodes on a rooftop. The company is currently leasing space at more than 10,000 locations in urban environments, many with 20-year leases and exclusivity.
“The Wi-Fi cost structure is significantly less than cellular or DAS antennas, which allows us to grow more cash flow per node with less revenue,” Thompson said. “We believe the low cost and revenue possibilities can exceed other cell node cash margins.”
Thompson noted that the Wireless Broadband Alliance Wi-Fi Global Congress, Nov. 8, in San Francisco created a lot of buzz around the future of Wi-Fi, with presentations by Sprint Nextel, AT&T, British Telecom and China Mobile, which said it is going from 3 million Wi-Fi access points up to 6 million access points in the next two years.
“What we saw was a huge sea change in that Wi-Fi has become embedded in the long term business model concerning how [carriers] are going to service their customers, giving them a better user experience and eventually start charging them per megabit,” Thompson said. “Wi-Fi is becoming part of the radio access network and it will be a seamless user experience.”