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Featured on Forbes: Why Sky Is The Future

Dec 28, 2017 3:42:47 PM

New York City is a city of skyscrapers, high-rises and water towers perched far above the ground. But so much of what connects our city -- the subway system, water and electric utilities, fiber and so on -- lies beneath the ground. In an old, densely built city like New York, instead of perpetually looking to dig up of streets to deliver essential services to NYC businesses, we should be looking to solutions that allow for minimal disruption while providing the highest quality service.

Nowhere is this more applicable than with broadband. It’s become such a common sight to see a Verizon truck and crew blocking off a street so they can lay fiber, but it seems silly that we continue to inflict such inconveniences upon ourselves, especially when less invasive alternatives such as fixed wireless access (a category of high-speed internet access that relies on radio signals instead of cables to provide connections to service providers). Instead of continuing to look to the ground, we should be looking up to the sky for solutions.

It’s far more cost-effective and efficient to deliver broadband to buildings and businesses via the sky instead of digging up the streets. Given that most businesses and buildings outside of Midtown and downtown Manhattan -- in the so-called “digital deserts” -- struggle to get quality high-speed broadband delivered to their premises, building out connectivity via the sky would benefit them greatly. Also, with recent advances in wireless technologies over the past couple of years, the throughput or speed delivered by fixed wireless access is equal to that of fiber.

Even those buildings that are lucky enough to get fiber (i.e., the newly constructed buildings) might have to wait significant periods of time, sometimes up to a year, for the fiber to be installed. In this digital age, waiting up to a year for adequate broadband is an untenable amount of time to be without high-speed internet for any person, let alone any company.

It’s incredible to think that one of the wealthiest cities in the world, home to huge corporations and millions of people, still has such inferior broadband. In a list of the U.S. cities with the fastest Internet connection, NYC doesn’t even make itinto the top 100. Many top real estate developers have multiple buildings without fiber, and because they are unable to support business tenants’ internet needs, they are only able to bring in a fraction of the rent they would have commanded otherwise.

The really shocking thing is that there are still so many building owners who don’t understand why not having high-speed broadband is a critical issue. These owners should look at broadband as if it were a utility like electricity: Would they be able to support a tenant if they didn’t have electricity? Absolutely not -- and the same goes for broadband.

Skywire Networks is one of the companies trying to change this state of affairs by deploying a state-of-the-art fixed wireless broadband network throughout NYC as an alternative to fiber, albeit one that is far less disruptive. There are still large expanses of the city without access to fiber, especially in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Building out connectivity via the sky would allow those areas to adopt high-speed broadband much quicker than if they were to wait for companies like Verizon to come in and lay down wires, a boon for places with growing numbers of entrepreneurs, work share spaces and corporate offices. And NYC isn’t the only place in the U.S. where fixed wireless access is gaining a foothold: People in every state have access to fixed wireless via providers such as GHz Wireless in Texas and CyberNet Communications in California.

Fixed wireless broadband is dependent on the antenna having a direct line of sight to the provider, which means that it won’t necessarily work as well in certain types of terrain (i.e., mountainous areas) and is more vulnerable to certain types of weather phenomena. That being said, the fact that it’s wireless also makes it more cost-effective for ISPs to offer service to a larger area, as they no longer are required to invest in expensive infrastructure requiring constant upkeep.

Broadband has become a necessity. As a result, it only makes sense to expand its access and availability as quickly and painlessly as possible, especially considering that people’s livelihoods depend on it. In older, dense cities like NYC, delivering high-speed broadband via the sky is the best way to do that. Not only does it remove the disruptions and inconveniences caused by digging up the streets it also makes it easier to bring high-speed internet access to those digital deserts.

As previously seen in Forbes.

Alan Levy

Written by Alan Levy