The fixed wireless knowledge gap

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:22 pm

IT managers ‘get it’ – but do business owners?

As Internet service providers (ISPs) roll out wireless Internet connectivity, a few are finding out that some people just don’t "get it."
The difference between those who "get it" and those who don’t is clear. IT managers at medium- to large-size companies understand the concept of getting Internet connectivity beamed to their building’s server through a fixed antennae on the roof.
Everyone else thinks of sending e-mail from their cell phones.
That presents a special challenge to those marketing wireless service outside of metro Milwaukee, where businesses run smaller and the decision-maker is more likely an owner or businessperson than a technician.
According to Cyberlynk President Michael Hobach, the misunderstanding is so universal his Racine-based ISP firm has removed any mention of wireless from its direct mail pieces.
"We get a lot more response from mailings that accentuate broadband more so than wireless," Hobach said. But Hobach finds that even the term "broadband" is misunderstood and misused.
"Do you know what broadband means?" Hobach asks. "It doesn’t have to do with bandwidth, which is what most people think. It means the medium the signal is coming through is so broad. Twisted pair can be considered broadband because you can get your phone service over it as well as a dial-up connection or DSL. Wireless is broadband because you can use it for multiple purposes – video, Web connectivity."
Hobach is finding that getting in front of the prospect becomes the priority. Then the team can explain the cost and reliability benefits of fixed wireless.
"There are a lot of family-owned businesses here, and they are primarily low-tech in terms of what they do," Hobach said. "A lot of this is foreign to those managers."
The Milwaukee
While Cyberlynk does offer wireless service in Milwaukee County, much of his activity is south of the county line – as far afield as Walworth County and Lake County, Ill. But the experience of Nick Laird, director of sales at marketing for Milwaukee-based Onlight, is significantly different.
Laird calls primarily on IT managers of larger organizations.
They "get it."
"In our experience, most IT managers we talk to are not only aware of wireless but have already implemented 80211b around the office and recognize the potential," Laird said, referring to wireless protocols used within the office setting. "They are already experienced enough to know that there are risks and rewards.
Does Laird find the going is tougher when a non-techie is the decision-maker?
"Yes," Laird said. "There is a significant difference between a company that has an IT manager or has created a position for an IT manager and one that doesn’t have the staff to justify it. To some degree it is new territory for industry novices. There is definitely some confusion between wireless for cellphones, wireless for PDAs and TCP/IP over wireless."
Lack of understanding can not only make for a tougher sell, but a more vulnerable buyer.
"The general public is not yet to the point where they know what questions to ask," Laird said. "They are somewhat at the mercy of the description they are given by vendors. Is there encryption? You may not have the experience to ask if there is MAC address bonding. In a couple of years, people will know what questions to ask. But there is still something of a gap between the promise and the specifics."
Finding a workaround
Hobach is convinced he has found a way around the challenge of selling wireless successfully in outlying markets.
He has partnered with LANEX LLC, a New Berlin-based Web development company, to hire a new-business developer. Karl Radke will sell the capabilities of both companies, splitting his time equally between the two.
Hobach has also launched a $99-per-month wireless connectivity service. The lower-cost offering does not include bells and whistles like servers, bandwidth guarantees and the like.
And just to be certain, Hobach said he plans to beef up Cyberlynk’s wireless offering in downtown Milwaukee.
"In Milwaukee, we are weak downtown," Hobach said. "We are negotiating for an antennae site. It is not the Firstar Building, but it is a very tall building everyone would recognize."

May 10. 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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