Wednesday, March 12, 2008

WISP gets $35 million low interest loan from USDA, plans major expansion

One month ago, I blogged about Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) sweeping into America's heartland where wire line broadband providers refuse to go. One of the WISPs, Stelera Wireless, rolled out service in Floresville & Poth, Texas using recently auctioned spectrum offering average speeds of 1.5-2 Mbps down and 350-380 Kbps for uploads. According to Stelera's CEO Ed Evans, the company is the first in the nation to introduce this technology in support of a wireless network purely focused on broadband services.

Stelera announced today it has received $35 million in low interest loan funds from the US Department of Agriculture that will allow it to expand to 55 towns and cities that have 20,000 or fewer inhabitants.

The WISP plans to use the capital infusion to expand to serve locations in Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Oregon and Arizona. Larger markets will be included as growth continues, the company said.

A major potential roadblock to the company's growth plans could present itself in the form of expanded wireless options offered by cell phone providers that provide throughput speeds in the same range as Stelera's. Stelera and other WISPs will have to offer significantly higher average throughput speeds -- in the neighborhood of 5 to 10 Mbs -- and solid connections if they expect to have a competitive market advantage over these services.

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