Claude's Blog: High atop Phoenix with Triad Wireless

To get large radios and dishes to top of one of the taller buildings in Phoenix, it requires an elevator ride, climbing a few flights of stairs, and then handing them up a ladder to the roof. But it is absolutely worth it for the fantastic signal propagation and stunning views of the Phoenix area.

This is one of the key backhaul locations for Triad Wireless, a Phoenix-based WISP with about 2400 customers and 14 employees. I happened to be in town just in time to see them set up one end of a gigabit wireless connection that will service the Innings Festival later next week, celebrating baseball in the Valley of the Sun.

Life wasn’t always rooftop views and gigabit speeds for Triad. “At one point we had to take out loans at about 40-50% interest,” said Rory Conway, CEO of Triad, “we had so much demand for our service, and traditional banks didn’t understand our business model that we were at the mercy of the business equivalent of payday lenders.” Access to capital continues to be an issue for WISPs which operate a business model that few financial institutions understand.

While Triad provides service to incredibly rural areas like the Grand Canyon area, it also goes head-to-head with national cable and telephone companies. “We have gone into areas already served by 1-2  large incumbents, and we will take about 60% of the market because we’re a local company providing high-quality service,” Rory said, “we also offer pricing flexibility that the larger guys don’t.” Even where they offer 300 Mbps service, he sees people take their $24 plan for 10 Mbps service because it meets both their needs and their budget.

Asked about the challenges facing the industry, Rory didn’t hesitate: “Access to spectrum, access to capital, and access to a trained workforce – if we were able to solve those three issues, we’d be able to serve so many more.” 

Spectrum, in particular is a challenge. “Access to the 5.9 GHz and 6 GHz bands for high-powered unlicensed use would enable us to offer gigabit wireless service to more people,” remarked Rory. “We’re doing a lot to provide competitive options in the communities we serve, but if we don’t see more spectrum come online soon on terms that make sense to small businesses, we are going to have some difficulties meeting the demand we’re seeing.  Advanced RF engineering and design only gets you so far, nobody gets to violate the laws of physics.”