Partnership Promises VoIP to Rural Communities

It's no secret that America's rural areas are underserved by the telecom giants. Two upstart companies join forces to bring the benefits of up-to-date IP voice technology to the hinterlands.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Jun 2, 2005
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Atlanta-based Camvera Networks has been helping small municipalities design, build, and manage high-performance fixed wireless networks for several years. Filling a void in a world where the big telecommunications players generally ignore the needs of rural areas, Camvera has developed a specialty in bringing smaller towns into the 21st century.

Technology driven
Unlike the well-publicized communities that are using unlicensed Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11) technology, Camvera's installations use licensed-spectrum radio technology from Navini Networks, which allows high-speed connectivity to as many as 1,000 businesses and residents from a single tower.

It's the Navini connection that led to Camvera's partnership—announced last week—with Cincinnati-based integrated communications provider PowerNet Global Communications. PNG (as it sometimes refers to itself) was looking for companies with experience in deploying Navini gear, and a chance meeting at a trade show got them talking. The rest will soon be history.

A perfect fit
PNG's stock in trade is providing Internet access and VoIP services to business and residential customers over a network that encompasses 20 states—but mostly in large and mid-size cities. Add to that Camvera's deep experience in working with smaller municipalities, and you've got a partnership with all the right stuff to bring the latest phone service to small town denizens.

Again, the choice of powerful, licensed-spectrum radio technology creates a network robust enough to handle not only Internet connectivity needs but voice as well. "Some of our existing muni customers came to us and said, 'We want VoIP,'" Elizabeth Zucco, Camvera's director of marketing, told Enterprise VoIP Planet. The relationship with PowerNet helped make this a reality, Zucco said.

Doing well by doing good
"Every community has some sort of telephone service," pointed out PNG's vice president of product management, Mike Shaw, "but it's often old, independent phone companies, with outdated service standards."

"In many cases, there's no mobile [cellular] service. If Internet service is available at all, it's more than likely dial-up only," Shaw continued.

"So, we'll go in and give them an up-to-date fixed wireless broadband network with VoIP service that has all the latest features like 'find me/follow me,'" Shaw said. "We've got the potential to provide both significant service enhancements and cost savings."

On trial
The project is already underway, with a trial in an undisclosed community. "Camvera has been working with the trial market for three to four months," said Zucco. "We've worked out the network architecture. In two to three weeks, we'll be ready to purchase and install the infrastructure." Camvera expects the trial to be up and running by July, and anticipates an official service launch in six months or so.

Shaw sketched a similar timeline for Enterprise VoIP Planet. "We're roughly 60 to 90 days from the start of testing—just getting trunking in place, setting up 911 facilities," he said. Shaw also emphasized that neither partner was hurrying or cutting corners to get this trial up and running. "The installation has to be high quality," he said.

While neither company is saying much at this stage about plans for expansion, it's clear that this may well be the start of something big. "There doesn't appear to be a lot of limits to the opportunity, as long as we understand our customers—and the competition," Shaw told us. Nor, so far as we can see, is there much competition in this vast, underserved market.

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