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This question was asked in the WISP Forum and this is a summary of the responses.

Q: I have been doing the ground work toward starting a WISP. Now I am about down to crunch time. In other words, that point where I decide whether "to do or not to do."
I am looking at providing to areas that have no other high speed options. Very rural areas, total potential customers is around 3000. I have no doubt that technically I will be able to handle this. One of my goals with this will be to make a living at it and hopefully have a little more time with the family. I realize this requires a lot of work.
My question to you is, do you feel that I can make a living at this (say within 2 years) or will this just be something that takes even more time away from the family? Also, how many of you do this for a living versus a sideline to a full-time job?

A: Here are some of the answers:
"It will end up taking a lot more time away from the family - if you think otherwise you are kidding yourself."

"For a WISP to be your sole income, you need to quickly get to a point where you are generating enough revenue to pay yourself the salary you need to survive. That requires that you initially build enough infrastructure to quickly get that critical mass of customers to begin covering your MRC (which will include your salary). Depending on the wireless architecture you select, your geography, and lots of other factors, that could require a significant investment. If you can get to that same revenue stream incrementally over 2 years while maintaining another source of income, you can probably manage the transition. However, do some math and you'll see that the number of subscribers required to produce that much income is substantial and will be more than you can handle alone. If you can bring on a few partners in the same situation you are in, it's easier."

"This might be possible depending on how you approach the job. Price your services rationally, and read a LOT about equipment before you buy it."

Q: More time with the family?
"No, don't look for this for at least a couple of years. There's so much more than merely installing antennas and buying a T1. The administration of a business is a full-time job in itself. You'll be doing at least three people's work: Executive, technician, and administrator. You'll be on the road a lot. You'll be climbing up on things... Join the mailing lists for WISPers and read the archives, especially the "war stories." The strongest list is WISP@part-15.org. You don't have to join Part-15 to join the list. The other list is isp-wireless@isp-wireless.com. As far as I know, the two lists and this forum are the main nexuses for members of the fixed wireless Internet industry. "

"When you first start out expect the unexpected. You will spend days if not weeks or months like I did trying to figure out this and that. If you use the right gear for your application things seem to become stable at some point. At least for me anyway. Once things become stable you will reach a bump in the road here and there. The last three months have been smooth for me. No problems to speak of. As far as financially only you can be the judge of that. You need to have a very good business plan and see if the numbers work. Just my 2 cents."

Q: One of my goals with this will be to make a living at it and hopefully have a little more time with the family.

"The only way you are going to see this happen is if the spouse is the admin, your 2 kids, or as many as you have, are the installers and you handle the marketing and sales. IMHO."

"To give you a brutally honest answer, I am a computer scientist (I mean a "for real" Computer Scientist with a degree). When I worked for the Navy, I was paid about 38k. When I worked for TRACOR, I was paid about 48k, when I worked for E-Systems I was paid about 90k... Today I am building a WISP, we are 2.5 years into the project, I make (before taxes) 14.4k... That is the down side. I work as essentially as a consultant, someone else owns the business and he cuts the pay checks. His check is SLIGHTLY SMALLER than mine... He is one hell of a good young man, with investors."

"The up side is that I go to work when I want. I leave work when I want and I get to play with the toys I want to play with."

"You will never get rich running an ISP (WISP), but you might make a nice family business of it. It will not be easy. Hell, it will NEVER be easy but if you want it you can do it."

"I've been building ISP's in Eastern Virginia for about eight years now. By that I mean that I have a habit of taking a young person in tow and showing them the ropes until they are able to fend for themselves."

Feedback received on this FAQ entry:
  • Enjoyed reading your notes. We just purchased an 8 story commercial office building that has an unused fiber optic cable inside. I would like to start an ISP, provide jobs for local folks, and assemble a critical mass of computer geeks to start a company. The tower problem is solved with the height of the building. However, I need an equipment "wish list" and "how to" manuals. What might you suggest? You may see our building at yalebiz. com richventure (at) hotmail. com Thanks in advance

    2013-03-19 18:08:21

  • I can say that a friend and myself started our own WISP in 2010, he came from a wireless back ground and I came from a routing and switching back ground, both of us have worked at ISP's and with enterprise class networks supporting over 50,000 users (we make a great team, you will need this). Starting our WISP initial took a lot of time, sometimes working 24hr days to get a quick return on our investment. Your not going to start an ISP with anything less than a STM-1 and make real money and STM-1 and above are not cheap. Equipment, Cisco routers, switches, 6509E with sup720 and small routers 7200 VXR used are not cheap. You really have to do your research on the wireless equipment that you need, you want wireless equipment that will do the bandwidth management for you (we started of with the ISP class Ubiquity radios and still have these in several of our location, great cheap radios. We were really lucky we started in a area where customers had no other option for high speed internet except for VSAT that is fairly expensive and has upload down load limits. We were where able to compete on pricing and offered no limits on UL|DL and the word got out quick, we do small- medium businesses along with many home users, we made our initial investment of 60K back within the first 3 months and have done very well sense. Providing to businesses has been the key, we both made well over 200k our first year and over 300k last year. I can only hope things continue this year to do the same, our work load has dropped off and we mostly focus on new services to bring to the table. Bottom line it can be done, find the right area, does not matter where most issues can be remotely repaired and if not find someone local that you can hire to go out and re-run a cable or replace a radio. Find a good provider, negotiate prices, find land owners workout deals of discounted internet or even free internet for tower space. You can do it and good luck to anyone that opens their own ISP.

    2012-02-13 06:57:47

  • Entrepreneurs should hardly EVER listen to wage earners. Let's be "brutally" honest every person in the world isn't a computer scientist, nor is every computer scientist...wealthy. If having a few things and a flexible schedule is enough for a person, well...really, what kind of advice could she/he provide in terms of foreseeing income potential? NOT GOT DERN THING. "YOU will never get rich running an ISP"...what is that supposed to mean? Do you know how many people have spilled that out of their mouths and end up having to eat those words right off of the floor? Who said a business venture is supposed to be easy or effortless? There are advantages to having that kind of service compared to let's say...a diner. You'll work hard at both, but there are qualities that make one venture more bearable than the other...which depends on the person who's running the business. Funny, the person who posted before me...say's "you can't get rich..." but the COMPANY he works for is able to pay him 48K. Interesting huh? There is a difference between the person who writes the book about how to start a business and the guy/gal that just sets up a popcorn stand and DOES IT. Keep dreaming and moving forward with your projects! I wish you the best of luck! Please let me know if your business is doing well. I'm just starting my road to providing wifi in a wifi deprived area. Please let me know how you're doing. userz7711@yahoo.com

    2011-05-24 02:37:42 (kevinb2 See Profile)

  • Wow, Seagreen... Last quote on the form and I am now up to 30k before taxes. I guess we are like six or seven years into the project. I'm actually looking at starting another WISP (my own one this time). I wonder how long it will take me to get back to 30k after I make the jump. :)

    2010-09-17 00:53:32 (DaDawgs See Profile)

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by superdog See Profile edited by seagreen See Profile
last modified: 2006-06-16 18:29:16