EarthLink caught me up on two issues, one foreground, one background: The recent announcement of the seven preliminary bidders for the Wireless Silicon Valley request for proposals (RFP) floated by the Joint Venture Silicon Valley public interest group included EarthLink's name, but not as a bidder. Rather, EarthLink declined to participate. In an article a few days ago, I speculated that perhaps it would require too much capital and offer too little return. Not quite so, said Jerry Grasso, EarthLink's spokesperson on municipal issues, in an interview this morning.
Rather, Grasso said, the Wireless S.V. bid would have required far too much free with far too few homes passed for service within the EarthLink financial model. "When you do the math, what the value wanted didn't fit with what EarthLink looks for from its business perspective," said Grasso. He said that reports (including a speculation on my part) that the company was overextended aren't true. The municipal division outsources the heavy lifting to partners, like Motorola's infrastructure building services division.
On a less public issue, EarthLink's Cole Reinwand, vice president of product strategy and marketing, answered a reader question--Will EarthLink offer wholesale access to other retail brands in their metro-scale deployments not just to the Wi-Fi network, but to the backbone WiMax-like point-to-multipoint business-grade wireless network? The answer is yes.
Reinwand said via email that they expect a large percentage of what they term "T1 Alternative" accounts to be sold on a wholesale basis to integrators who can handle the on-site installation of equipment, customer interaction, and sales and marketing to the smaller businesses that would benefit from this service.
Reinwand said EarthLink would handle sales directly to municipalities; in Philadelphia, several hundred leased wired lines will be replaced with EarthLink's backbone T1 Alternative at a much lower cost. EarthLink is using Motorola's somewhat ridiculously named MOTOwi4 systems for backhaul, which use Canopy (currently non-WiMax). Motorola might stick with the funny names for consumer brands.
Broadband wireless through point-to-multipoint has some very high advantages, exploited by TowerStream and other early movers, including fast install (sometimes within 1 to 2 days) and simple increases beyond T1 rates of about 1.5 Mbps with no additional equipment.