[Linux-aus] My life as a wireless ISP, your comments please

David Newall davidn at davidnewall.com
Thu Feb 5 13:22:46 EST 2009

Leon Brooks wrote:
> I may be setting up wireless (802.11-based) Internet
> access for a small WA country town.
> For now, I plan to do it by enabling an 8/1 megabit
> ADSL1 link (the only connectivity available except
> dialup)

Wifi seems like an attractive technology for this, doesn't it?  I
presume you'd be looking at directional antennae on your end, too.  I
don't suppose you'd get very far, otherwise, particularly as you'll be
competing with other 802.11 devices; you should expect many of your
customers to deploy their own access point for wireless access within
their own premises.

I'm not sure why you're fussed over your own router-to-router
bandwidth.  You're feed is only 8Mbps and so the rest doesn't matter all
that much, does it?  If you were thinking of aggregating multiple ADSL
services to increase your own bandwidth, you might like to think again. 
In a recent trial of Next-G in Erldunda (i.e. "up to 2.8Mbps") I
achieved a maximum throughput of 700Kbps.  I presume carrier bandwidth
is limited, maybe even slower than the 8Mbps service you think you're
going to use.  Remember, too, that you'll be sharing whatever bandwidth
there is amongst all of the other ADSL customers on the exchange.

I think this is not going to be a money-making venture for you.  Since
you are in an ADSL provisioned area, it stands to reason that your
customers will be people who can't get an ADSL service (too far away or
no phone), or who don't want to pay that much (no money.)  If the area
also has Next-G, which is likely, then the former group have options,
and will choose based on cost versus bandwidth needs.  Next-G setup
costs will be much less than yours; CPE costs should be similar, but
Next-G doesn't need to install or align directional antennae, which
surely will cost  you a few hundred dollars per site.  So when you think
about it, I reckon your market segment will be almost exclusively people
who can't get ADSL and who need higher speed than Next-G.

Perhaps it would be worth considering an alternative service, namely
point-to-point radio delivery of ADSL to premises too far to get direct
ADSL.  Then you don't need to worry about routers, proxies, caches,
authentication or accounting, and your customers will pay what your time
is worth.  I can't see how any other service could work, unless it was a
free service for the community, because almost everybody with
thirty-bucks a month can already get a service at least as good as you
can offer.

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