Ottawas Wireless To Be Metro Wide

March 27, 2006
Print
Text Size:
A A

JAMESTOWN TOWNSHIP — If all goes well, Broadbreeze Communications could turn a 15-square-mile pilot project in Ottawa County into a broadband Internet service for the entire West Michigan area.

With only a 120-degree transmission from atop the Hudsonville city water tower, the Grand Rapids company’s 3G technology is able to offer Internet access over the entirety of 15 miles, through foliage and inside most buildings. That pilot project began last week, and will run until June 1. If successful, the network will be expanded throughout OttawaCounty with the aid of county and other municipal officials, but without cost to either, said Mark Knudsen, county director of planning and grants.

“This will revolutionize the way we provide broadband to not only rural areas but all areas,” Knudsen said. “When we started our wireless initiative, we had no idea something like this was even available. I think most localities that are looking at wireless broadband aren’t aware of this.”

Unlike most other wireless Internet technologies, such as Wi-Fi, 3G does not require direct line of sight, is purely mobile and has an exceedingly long reach. Commonly associated with cellular phones, 3G is short for third-generation technology, identifying it as the successor of cellular and PCS technology.

The primary competitor of Wi-Fi, its barriers to entry have traditionally made it the playground of large telecommunications companies. As such, service models incorporating the technology are generally more expensive, for slower speeds, than comparable landline services. Unlike Wi-Fi, it uses a radio frequency licensed by the FCC, seldom available on the open market.

Broadbreeze, a wholly owned subsidiary of SourcIT, the information technology division of accounting firm Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter, obtained an unused frequency from PlainwellHigh School on a 15-year lease. Per FCC regulations, the company must devote a portion of the school’s bandwidth to educational purposes.

“We went out and did our homework,” said Broadbreeze General Manager Bryan Blackburn. “We discovered this frequency and inked an agreement with them a year ago.”

The Plainwell frequency is a significant asset for the company, one unheard of outside of the large telecommunications firms. The license applies to not only Ottawa County, the company’s initial priority, but also most of the West Michigan region — a full 70 miles north-to-south and 35 miles east-to-west, spreading from Battle Creek to Grand Rapids, Portland to the Lakeshore.

“Right now, we’re concentrating on the 564 square miles of OttawaCounty, and we intend to cover every inch,” Blackburn said. “We’re looking at KentCounty as our next project.”

Blackburn said that the company will have no involvement with the city of Grand Rapids’ municipal Wi-Fi project, which may be complete by the time Broadbreeze finishes deploying its 12- to 17-antenna network throughout OttawaCounty in 2007. Most of the antennas will be collocated atop water towers and municipal property.

The monthly cost for a basic residential subscription of 200kb is $14.99 per month, plus a $5 equipment rental fee. A basic business subscription of 756k is $69.99 per month.    

Recent Articles by Daniel Schoonmaker

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus