GH Wireless Network On Hold

February 13, 2004
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GRAND HAVEN — The full deployment of a high-speed wireless network citywide will have to wait a few months, as the start-up company behind the venture focuses on optimizing the technology, addressing a surge in interest from other communities and focusing in the short term on a niche product.

For that trio of reasons, Ottawa Wireless LLC won’t launch the network citywide until this spring as testing continues with a small group of customers in the downtown area and adjoining neighborhoods.

In slowing down the broader launch, Ottawa Wireless founder Tyler van Houwelingen wants to ensure that the technology works as promised and to continue working with frequencies and antennae locations to “make it even better.”

“As a small company, you can damage your reputation by trying to go too fast,” said van Houwelingen, who formed the company late last year and wants to use the network in Grand Haven as a pilot for deploying additional systems elsewhere.

“We want to make sure everything’s going fantastic before we really cut it loose,” he said. “To assure a smooth customer experience, we need to build up a little more.”

The Grand Haven City Council recently awarded Ottawa Wireless a franchise to deploy the wireless network across town. The agreement gave formality to van Houwelingen’s push to deploy a citywide network and create a so-called “hot city,” as opposed to “hot spots” where high-speed wireless Internet service is limited to certain locations like restaurants, coffee shops and airports.

Van Houwelingen plans to offer the service for $19.95 a month

In addition to taking a careful approach to rolling out the network citywide, Ottawa Wireless has received several inquiries from other communities in the region and a few across the nation that are interested in having a wireless telecom system deployed. A small company with a limited staff, Ottawa Wireless is working to respond to those inquiries and formulate a plan to license out the technology, while still putting resources toward lighting the Grand Haven network.

Van Houwelingen is hiring additional technical staff to better balance the strong response and interest he’s received since announcing the venture in December.

“How fast can we build it up and how fast can we operate as a company are the main things right now,” he said.

As the company works out those issues, van Houwelingen plans to pursue a niche market for wireless Internet service: boaters on Lake Michigan.

The network Ottawa Wireless is putting together will cover 15 miles out into Lake Michigan, from south of Holland to north of Muskegon, providing an opportunity to target recreational boaters and charter fishing boats for service.

Van Houwelingen, who will market the service during this week’s boat show at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, sees a small but profitable market in offering wireless service to boaters.

“There’s a pretty good niche there,” he said.    

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