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May 4, 2005

Speakeasy Networks Pushes Pre-WiMax from Top of Space Needle

By Glenn Fleishman

Img 4087-1Dramatically, Speakeasy Networks had its formal press announcement for its dense downtown Seattle pre-WiMax network on the observation level: I was there this morning when executives from Speakeasy, Intel, and Alvarion described the components of the new five-building-top pre-WiMax network that blankets downtown Seattle. The network is live today with early customers and will go into a fully available service with 48 hours from order to live network June 15, according to today’s announcement. (View photo gallery on Flickr.)

Speakeasy has been testing this network for months, and securing building rights. They wanted to be the exclusive 5.8 GHz tenant for the buildings they chose to avoid competition for these choice locations. They’re on top of five buildings, which include the Space Needle and the Westin Building, where all of the major telecommunications links for the Pacific Northwest converge.

Unlike TowerStream, which eschews terrestrial wire as much as they can, Speakeasy didn’t build a wireless ring in the air. They’re using their own private fiber-optic connections leased from AboveNet to serve their pre-WiMax feeds. In a shot at TowerStream, the company is describing their network as the largest densest network of its kind.

The company expects to hit a very large zone of downtown Seattle with a single package of an aggregated 6 Mbps of bandwidth for $800 per month. That can be split into 3 Mbps upstream and 3 Mbps downstream, 4 up and 2 down, or 4 down and 2 up. An unlimited bandwidth T-1 line in Seattle (1.5 Mbps in each direction for an aggregate of 3 Mbps) is about $500 to $550 per month. Two T-1s cost double that for equipment, setup, and monthly fees, and involve some networking tricks to turn them into a single fabric.

A T-1 requires about three weeks to install; Speakeasy is promising 48 hours when they launch the service for all-comers June 15. For the next month, they will be selectively signing up interested businesses. The company said that they are trying to bust WiMax myths, and are promising their 6 Mbps aggregate service only within 1 1/2 to 2 miles of a transmitter in a zone they’ve defined very densely.

Speakeasy’s CEO Bruce Chatterley said that Speakeasy is going after “the traditional customer base for the telephone monopolies.” Voice isn’t part of the mix yet because, as Chatterley said later in an interview, pre-WiMax gear isn’t robust enough to support VoIP with business-level quality. When partners Alvarion and Intel, which has also invested in Speakeasy, make available production WiMax gear, Speakeasy will start testing voice applications, said Umesh Amin, Speakeasy vice president in charge of their WiMax Initiative.

Chatterley said that the company has no worries about using the relatively empty 5.8 GHz unlicensed band, although he and Amin noted that licensed spectrum is of great interest whenever it comes available. Both explained their desire for the 2.5 GHz band mostly controlled by Sprint and Nextel, which they hope and expect will be opened up at an unknown point in the future.

Chatterley said in general remarks that the company was on track for $70 million in revenue this year and $100 million next year with 13,000 business customers purchasing DSL and other high-speed services nationwide, or about 15 percent of their customer base. Chatterley noted later that 100 percent of their new DSL customers are being installed on naked DSL, which is a phone line with no phone company services loaded on it.

I asked Chatterley if WiMax customers would be allowed to resell access as Speakeasy has allowed and encouraged with their T-1 and DSL offerings. He said, “We don’t care what you do with your broadband,” and won’t think of WiMax as a different offering from any of their other broadband services.

Posted by Glennf at May 4, 2005 10:36 PM

Categories: launch plans, operators

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