How to start a WISP

#1

Do you have any advice for people who want to start a WISP?

In 2016 I saw this video on YouTube: " Community Built Wireless ISP - Doe Bay Internet Users Association" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBiBLG9wnDU

That is when I fell in love with the idea of starting a WISP.

It was disappointing however that I found very little practical information on how to do it when searching online.

Reddit was the best resource, but there was no one post I could point to that presented the process of building a WISP from start to finish, just ideas here and there that started to put the picture together.

I studied the different hardware offered by Ubiquiti and learned the big concepts:

  1. Get a POP location in an urban area where you have access to fiber and can buy a metered internet connection that allows resale.
  2. Use some backhauls to pump that internet out to the (probably countryside) location where you want to deliver it.
  3. Deliver the internet from a PtMP to a CPE.

Getting customers for this type of business is pretty straight forward I think. You do your research and you only go into an area where you know you can provide a substantially better and cheaper connection to a small geo-specific group of people. Go door to door or mail them to let them know about the new service. Give discounts if they let you put an advertisement on their lawn.

I lived in an area at the time where this was viable. In Valparaiso, Indiana the city just had a big fiber initiative, yet homes just a few miles away were on DSL still without cable available.

I put together a business plan, and was surprised how cheap Ubiquiti equipment was. This is a business that can be started for just a few thousand dollars.

Ultimately where my plan broke down was:

  1. I didn’t know how/where/who to get the fiber connection and POP location.
  2. I didn’t know how to get access to the buildings/water towers to backhaul the connection out.
  3. I wasn’t sure how I would handle the network aspect of assigning a public IP to each customer.
  4. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to climb towers myself or outsource it.
  5. Overall lack of confidence - not knowing what I didn’t know - because I had never worked for a WISP before.

Would love to hear from those who have started a WISP how you did it and overcame those problems that made me give up.

#2

I almost went down this road and your questions were pretty much the same ones that I had. I was able to locate a fiber line that I could resell but it was like $1000 per month for 200 or 500 megs.

There is money to be made in that industry if it is done properly. The big problem is some of these WISPS want to grow as fast as they can but then their network suffers and their reputation goes with it. There is a local WISP in the area that actually shut down their Facebook page because they were getting so many bad reviews. They were using every client as a repeater location and it is killing them.

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#3

For sure, it can be tricky. I just came across this guide which I hadn’t seen before which looks really good: https://startyourownisp.com/

It looks like there is a community building around that, 500 people in the chat room there.
https://riot.im/app/#/room/#startyourownisp:matrix.org