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June 25, 2007

Nortel Brings 'WiMAX Newspapers' and Other Services to Illinois and Iowa

By Richard Grigonis, Executive Editor, IP Communications Group

In an age where classic print media are in decline, it’s refreshing to a newspaper publisher get into the delivery of wireless broadband services and data.

The Moline Dispatch Publishing Co. (MDPC) is using Nortel (News - Alert) WiMAX equipment to furnish fixed and mobile high-speed broadband in the Quad Cities area (a group of four cities clustered on the Mississippi spanning western Illinois and eastern Iowa) via its Internet Service Provider, Quad-Cities Online (QCO). Three Nortel Mobile WiMAX base stations will initially be deployed. Moline Dispatch Publishing will use them to provide both mobile broadband access on a local college campus and residential broadband access to subscribers of Moline Dispatch’s ISP, QCO, and to provide a unique alternate form of news delivery to subscribers of its three major publications, The Moline Dispatch, The Rock Island Argus and the Leader. Along with possible VoIP and other simliar uses, the journalists working for MDPC may also use the WiMAX (News - Alert) network to quickly post news reports from the field.




Regina Moldovan, Senior Manager for WiMAX Marketing at Nortel Networks, said, “I first heard about Moline was at WiMAX World in Boston. One of the Moline’s top executives was an attendee there, and he took a look at Nortel’s WiMAX solution and seemed genuinely interested. Things then began to move quickly. What’s really interesting to me about this particular customer is the unique structure of their deal. They’re working in partnership with Black Hawk College, community college in the area that actually owns the spectrum. Moline is leasing it from them and partnering with them to be able to deliver WiMAX and broadband access services to an area or community that includes students and businesses and residential users as well.”

“From our perspective, it just really goes to show how versatile WiMAX is, and in particular Nortel’s solution,” Moldovan said. “There’s been a lot of news about Sprint (News - Alert) getting into WiMAX, and we’re talking to a number of major U.S. service providers about it. We’re also talking to a number of smaller service providers that can add a lot of value their communities using our unique, versatile, WiMAX solution.”

Gerry Taylor, Publisher of the Moline (Illinois) Dispatch, said, “The area here is known as the Quad Cities. We’re situated on the Mississippi River just about midway between Chicago and Des Moines on Interstate 80. The original four towns here were Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Moline/East Moline and Rock Island in Illinois, once called the farm equipment capital of the world since John Deere & Company is headquartered here. We’re on the Illinois side of the river, and we’ve been an ISP since the mid 1990s. We got into it sort of accidentally, starting out with a bulleting board system and ending up developing a substantial base of dial-up Internet customers. Ultimately, we went off in several directions as we began to look at the ability to deliver our news and information on a platform other than newspapers made from ground-up trees.”

“We had several motives at the time,” Taylor said. “One was to serve our subscribers, who were interested in getting Internet access and we did many things very early such as informative classes for people; then we began reselling DSL. In 1999, we participated in the LMDS (Local Multipoint Distribution Service) spectrum auction and bought some LMDS spectrum for this market and another in Illinois. We expected we’d be blowing out massive amounts of data, point-to-multipoint with LMDS, only to discover that technology wasn’t quite ready for prime time when it came to residential partners, and so on. But then we found we could use LMDS as the backbone for our network locally. Right after that we began using unlicensed spectrum, installing some 2 GHz, 4 GHz and 5.8 GHz coverage around town, to begin learning about how to provide wireless Internet service.”

“Although this is Illinois, and you probably think the land is flat, this is actually a very rolling, ravine-filled area,” Taylor said. “We soon found that line-of-sight to unlicensed spectrum is pretty severely limited here. In any case, we’ve provided service to several hundred business customers using line-of-sight unlicensed spectrum for some time now, and we became friends with our local community college, Black Hawk, several years ago when they started working with EBS (Educational Broadband Service) spectrum. Ultimately, we were able to work out a lease arrangement with them to make use of their EBS spectrum and thus give us the ability to offer a broadband migration path for many of our dial-up customers.”

“Our original plan was that we wanted to have several ‘arrows in our quiver’ if you will,” Taylor said. “Besides dial-up, we wanted to be able to offer DSL, wireless broadband and ultimately deliver our newspaper products on an electronic platform. We did do that, but the changes in the regulatory climate and the phone industry caused us to think that there’s not much of a future in reselling DSL. We investigated how we could get into the licensed wireless spectrum portion of things and have a way to continue to serve our customers and grow our business. And then we became quite excited to find out that Nortel had some products coming down the pipe that were interesting to us. For the last two years we’ve been considering a number of alternatives. We wanted to use 802.16e Mobile WiMAX, and the idea of using gear provided by a company such as Nortel looked to be a really good opportunity for us. That’s how we got where we are with Nortel.”

“We’ve bundled the newspaper and dial-up delivery years ago, and we have several thousand subscribers that really like it,” Taylor said. “We were among the first papers in the U.S. to distribute content via the Internet and we’ll do whatever we can to deliver eyeballs to advertisers. WiMAX will expand our capabilities greatly.”

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Richard Grigonis is Editor of Internet Telephony (News - Alert) magazine. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.


 







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