TowerStream Preps For VoIP Test

The fixed-wireless broadband provider calls on New York VoIP users to put its network to the test.

 By Colin C. Haley
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TowerStream, a provider of fixed-wireless broadband services, is optimizing its network to handle Voice over IP traffic.

The company recently completed a one-month trial near its Middletown, R.I., headquarters that allowed VoIP traffic to enter its pre-WiMAX system via Wi-Fi access points.

It now plans beta tests in New York, where users will ride the company's high-speed network to ensure that TowerStream's network provides seamless roaming and connections with VoIP, cellular and landline users. (Interested users can apply through a section of TowerStream's Web site.)

"Over the last nine to 12 months, VoIP has accelerated in acceptance, and Wi-Fi cards have had huge penetration; they're in nearly every notebook shipped and in handsets," Jeff Thompson, TowerStream president and COO, told internetnews.com.

TowerStream has already identified locations for high-powered access points in the city, Thompson said. And the beta-testers can use any VoIP service, provided it is Session Initiation Protocol-based , which most are.

The goal isn't for the privately held firm to shift from an enterprise to a consumer focus.

"I don't think we're going to compete with Vonage, AT&T and Verizon [for VoIP customers], but we'll have a network that supports [VoIP] services," said Thompson, who noted that TowerStream could provide back-haul services to other VoIP service providers.

Beside access points, TowerStream's network requires relatively little in terms of new equipment to make VoIP happen, Thompson said. It is already designed to allow corporate customers to prioritize voice packets, he said.

In its main line of business, TowerStream competes with regional telecoms SBC and Verizon for business customers. It stresses cost, customer service and reliability in pitching new customers.

Since its service isn't routed through the incumbents' central offices, power failures and fiber cuts caused by construction errors don't interrupt service.

So far, TowerStream has grown through direct sales of its $500-per-month T1 service. However, the company is developing into a channel program as it looks to grow nationwide.

It's also expanding its markets, adding a new city roughly every quarter. TowerStream currently offers service in Boston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Providence/Newport, R.I., and is about to go live in San Francisco.

TowerStream was also the first service provider to join the WiMAX Forum, an industry group developing standards for the wireless broadband technology.

Its current technology includes several of the features that will appear in the first WiMAX shipments. Additionally, TowerStream will be one of the first service providers to offer WiMAX-certified solutions nationally, the company said.

This article was originally published on Mar 2, 2005
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