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Wave Broadband Wades Into Wi-Fi

Wave Broadband, a small MSO that operates systems in the Pacific Northwest, has installed Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) hot spot gear from MediaCell Inc. in several its systems to provide wireless broadband access to subscribers.

The company has installed Wi-Fi hot spots in the weekend resort town of La Conner, Wash., north of Seattle. The hot spots serve local residents, tourists and residents of several recreational-vehicle parks.


Wave doesn’t expect to make a lot of money on Wi-Fi, but it’s helped the company win back share in the high-speed Internet business from local digital subscriber line providers, according to Wave CEO Steve Weed.

Wave bought the La Conner systems from Northland Cablevision several years ago, and tied together a couple of systems serving 13,000 subscribers. “It wasn’t upgraded, and had no broadband,” Weed said.

DSL already had the business market and had a head start with residents, Weed said. Wave rebuilt the systems and added high-speed data service about the time the mayor received a grant to install a Wi-Fi network.

Weed approached the city, offering to build the Wi-Fi network, giving it away to residential broadband subscribers and tourists as a marketing tool.

The company tested some gear from Nortel, but found problems with provisioning. It then turned to MediaCell. “It worked well and provisioned just like a cable node,” Weed said. “It’s a cable modem with a Wi-Fi transmitter in it.”

Wave installed nine MediaCell units to cover the downtown area. It also installed several units in three RV parks in its service territory. Those RV parks already had a bulk cable-service contract, and now high-speed data service was added, using Wi-Fi. RV travelers that spend months on the road often want to stay in touch with friends and family and the Wi-Fi network allows them to, Weed said.


The MediaCell Wi-Fi transmitters are connected to nearby Wave wireline taps, Weed said. The MediaCell unit is basically a line-extender housing. “For us it looks, like a cable modem,” he said.

The entire project cost in the $10,000 range, Weed said.

Weed said high-speed Internet sales have improved since Wi-Fi was launched, with data-to-basic penetration approaching 50%.

“It’s definitely worth it,” he said. “We’re interested in doing it just as a marketing tactic.”

The hot spots allow residents who attend meetings at the town hall to use their laptops to hook to the Internet. “Lots of cities we talked to want Wi-Fi,” Weed said. “It’s very cool.”