To solve Asia’s last-mile mobile connectivity woes, Wilson Electronics switches track
By Benjamin Cher June 6, 2016
- Lack of DIY culture, so moves focus from consumer to commercial customers
- Getting out from being under the radar, working with telcos and regulators
IT is a perennial frustration: You enter a building and see the connection bars on your mobile phone drop.
These days, it probably means seeing your 4G (Fourth Generation) connection drop to 3G – even worse, perhaps to archaic networks such as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) or, horror of horrors, GSM (Global System for Mobile communications).
This is still an everyday occurrence, despite your smartphone packing more technology punch than the mainframe computers of the 1960s.
READ ALSO: Malaysian consumers not happy with their telcos and banks: Frost study
A Distributed Antenna System (DAS) can solve this problem, but it is expensive and requires constant connectivity.
Last-mile connectivity is an issue that Utah-headquartered Wilson Electronics has been fixing over in the United States, offering a cheaper alternative to DAS with its signal boosting technology.
The company made its Asia Pacific entry in 2015 with its consumer signal boosters, but has not seen the same adoption rate, admitted president and chief executive officer Bruce Lancaster.
“The point of view last year was to carry a business model that was really effective in the United States, which is a consumer oriented, do-it-yourself (DIY) type of business,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) on a recent visit to Singapore.
“When you look at Malaysia and across other Asia Pacific countries, there is a lot of discretionary income, but people are not typically the DIY types,” he added.
So despite the double prong of heavy network buildouts and connectivity problems in the region, a pure-play consumer approach did not appear the best one for Asia Pacific.
“But as a company, we also do in-building solutions, so our focus is to go after a logical problem that does exist – connectivity within buildings,” said Lancaster.
This has led to Wilson Electronics shifting its focus to commercial customers, especially building and fleet owners.
The company is not ignoring the consumer market, Lancaster stressed, adding that it will still offer its consumer products in Asia Pacific.
Telcos and regulators
Telco competition in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore is getting increasingly intense, especially when it comes to network and connectivity bragging rights.
Wilson Electronics’ signal boosters are telco-agnostic, according to Lancaster (pic). “We’re just carrying that signal to that last few feet they have difficulty reaching.
“We have to work with the telcos, make sure we are certified by them, that they understand our technology, and that they know we are not interfering with their towers or overloading their systems in any way,” he added.
He claimed that telcos have been receptive to Wilson Electronics after learning about what their technology does.
“One of the things we have to be cognisant of is changing the perception that telcos have, of only wanting their bands to be amplified,” said Lancaster.
“We believe that it is better to amplify everyone’s – whether a competing telco’s signal gets amplified is irrelevant to end-consumers, they just want their phones to work,” he added.
In the United States, Wilson Electronics is part of US telco Verizon Inc’s partner programme, and it is similarly looking to working with telcos in Asia Pacific.
“We are having ongoing talks … driving our business forward with all the telcos; all across Asia Pacific we are talking to carriers,” said Lancaster.
“We don’t want to work under the radar – we want to work with the carriers, we see them as our best advocates,” he added.
As for regulators, Wilson Electronics is playing by the rules and going through the proper processes, according to Lancaster.
“We believe very much in playing by the rules – it takes a little bit of time, but so far the reception has been good,” he said.
“We are just providing a desperately needed and desired service to consumers, enterprises, and telcos,” he added.
Wilson Electronics will be relaunching its commercial efforts in the next 12 months, and will be bringing in over 50 partners to go through its installer programme.
This means “giving them the tools and knowledge they need to understand the issue, our solution, and how to install it,” said Lancaster.
“We’re going to take our time and educate people and make them aware that there is a solution for their problems, and that DAS is not the only one.
“We will also work with telcos to make sure they are all on board with it, supportive, and are even recommending our solution,” he added.
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