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2 How to start

Read everything you can get your hands on and then check out the following links and read them in their entirety:

I want to start a wireless ISP (dslr thread) -this is the forum thread that I started when I got the bright idea to be a WISP

The WISP Directory

StartAWisp.com - name speaks for itself. An organized collection of various topics/posts related to many aspects of starting a WISP.

WISP FAQs - "This site is a collection of questions and answers that have been compiled and submitted by WISP's from around the world."

This is what I would call a great starting place to learn the basics as these are all the articles that I read that started me down the road to be a WISP!!!!

Note: Some of the above info is old or non-existent now. A good thread with relatively recent information can be found here, and is a good starting point:
»[Equipment] Starting a WISP

Feedback received on this FAQ entry:

  • wisp handbook link is dead

    2012-07-26 23:33:28

by superdog See Profile edited by seagreen See Profile
last modified: 2012-07-27 14:24:09

Many people here ask very general questions which could be easily answered in a simple search. One of my personal favorite search engines is Google.

Here are a few tips to get the web page you're looking for faster:

If you're searching for something with two or more words, then use commas. For example, if I was searching for how to convert db to watts, then it would look like this: "dbm to watts."

You should also use multiple words. For example, searching for our free products will return more relevant results then just products. Placing those search terms in quotes will eliminate search engine returns for each individual word in the phrase.

To get some more tips for searching, I have include some links to a few good sites:

Atomz Search Tips

Google Help Central

by Playa4life See Profile edited by KeysCapt See Profile
last modified: 2008-08-31 10:15:35

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)

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

Here are four books I've found to be really good at getting my skills up to speed to try and attempt this venture I've started.

    •TCP/IP Network Administration by Craig Hunt. ISBN# 0-596-00297-1

    •T1: A Survival Guide by Matthew Gast. ISBN# 0-596-00127-4

    •Building Wireless Community Networks by Rob Flickenger. ISBN# 0-596-00204-1

    •802.11 Wireless Networks by Matthew Gast. ISBN# 0-596-00183-5

All of these are published by O'Reilly, and are available at better bookstores, or from Amazon at better prices.
You'll also need a couple of books on whatever Operating System you choose to run, and a book or two on DNS, Mail Servers, Radius (if you run it), and Security.
I know there are more books out there than I could ever read in a lifetime, but these helped get me started.

by drjim See Profile edited by KeysCapt See Profile
last modified: 2008-08-31 10:19:17

Be prepared to face opposition, generally speaking people don't like towers.

Tower selection:
Select a tower suitable for your proposed current needs, and also to accommodate upcoming desires. Perhaps in the future you will want to either add more equipment to your existing tower or rent space out to someone else. If your tower isn't capable to handling the increased load capacity you may be forced to erect a new tower and start this process over again. When calculating how much square feet of resistance will be on the tower don't forget to include crow's nests, top hats, or standoffs used for antenna placement in your estimations. Be sure your tower manufacture has an ICBO#, expect your development department to ask for this.

Permitting process:
Your local development department will require that you obtain a building permit, and perhaps other permits for your new tower.

If your selected area is not commercially zoned you will need to complete a site approval application and pay a processing fee ($2000+/-). Your site approval will be subject to certain conditions such as improving driveway access and equipping the tower with an equipment shed, lighting, and signing a waiver allowing the development department to allow future tower developers to use your tower for their needs provided at a reasonable rent. If they find an existing suitable tower for your needs within a given area they will deny your request and require you use that existing tower. If not be prepared for the development department to survey neighbors and post public notices.

Structural Calculations
The development department will want an engineer licensed in your state to review your selected tower and accompanying equipment and draw up a set of structural calculations for both the footings and wind speed. They will most likely require 2-4 copies of stamped, wet signature calculations ($3500+/-).

Soil Sample
If the footings designed for the tower are rated for soil above your local area's threshold (around 1500 PSF) a core-type soil sample analysis will be required by a state licensed geotechnician ($3000+/-). If your footings are designed for 4000 PSF (like Trylon TSF Titan T-200) and your soil checks in at only 3000 PSF your structural engineer will need to re-draw the footings to accommodate that type of soil. It may be beneficial to determine your local threshold and have your structural engineer redraw the footings to fall below that limit at the same time he provides the wind-load calculations. This will avoid the need for a soil sample.

Building Permit
The building permit itself will carry a filing fee and subject your project to new found taxes, inspections, hazmat inquiries, and a whole host of other headaches ($400+/-).

The FAA will want you to file FAA Form 7460-1, Notice of Proposed Construction or Alteration. The development department may also require this.

Encroachment permits
May be required if you are close to public access roads.

Site preparation:
Your project area will need to clear of obstruction so a crane, backhoe, and other equipment can gain access.

Tower unloading
Sometimes you will need equipment on your receiving end to unload the tower when it is shipped, ask your distributor/shipper for more information.

To dig the hole will require a backhoe, estimate $150-300 for this.

Tower erection
You will most like require a crane to assist you in this process, depending on your area and the crane company this can cost as little as $300 but usually more in the $6-700 range. Be sure to ask for references and experience with towers.

Each cubic yard of concrete will cost roughly $80-110.

Reinforcement rod
Many tower footings call for grade 60 rebar, a pre-constructed cage will cost $150-500.

Tower jockey
If you don't want to climb the tower yourself you will need to pay someone else. This will probably be required to detach the crane's equipment from the tower once put into place. Someone will also need to bolt the sections. Will also be required for aiming directional antennas, routing cable etc.

Equipping your tower:
Once your tower is permitted and erected (I guarantee YOU won't be at this point) - your tower needs to be properly equipped.

The FAA or development department may require you paint your tower for aircraft visibility purposes; this price will vary considerably.

The FAA or development department may require you light your tower for aircraft visibility purposes, this price will also vary depending on what type of lights and the quantity required ($700+/-). May require backup source of electricity.

You might consider no-climb sides for your tower to reduce your liability, also a fence wouldn't be a bad idea ($1600+/-) - towers present an obstacle for youngsters to overcome.

Lighting protection
Your tower needs to be properly grounded, entire websites and threads are dedicated to this topic, and I won't even dare to venture there.

Equipment shelter
Will more than likely be required by development department with a minimum square footage. You can build this yourself or get a pre-fabricated therefore price can vary. ($400-3000+/-)

You will need to get power to your equipment shelter somehow, and this can't be done wirelessly.

It would be a good idea to get liability insurance on the tower in the event a youngster scales your fence and circumvents the no-climb guards.

Having your own tower is great but it will cost you considerably. These prices and conditions are from my experience in Central California - they may be different in your area. Your district may require more of you or considerably less. Investigate the matter thoroughly before you get started. I'm sure I've left some things out and would love to hear back from other readers with comments or suggestions. Either IM on DSLR, respond here or send an e-mail to scott at velociter dot net.

Feedback received on this FAQ entry:
  • I have a Glen Martin antenna lift system that bolts on the side of 45G tower so You can lift your antenna up and down the tower without climbing anymore. There is enough track to go up to 90ft on the side of your 45G tower. It comes with the cart and cable and track and stainless hardware to bolt the track onto the 45G tower. $1900 for all.

    2013-01-29 12:01:25

  • Hi Scott, well written article my friend. Its certainly NOT something one should " leap " into with eyes closed. I feel pretty certain you have given readers a real " heads up " here and I personally wish to send my thanks for such. I came into it with eyes wide open and still got huge shocks when the reallity of it dawned :-) Your prices even though your in the US are deffinately comparible to Aust pricing here. Great Work Scott, we can learn a lot here , its written in such a way as to not put people off the idea but it gives a " real " look at some of the challenges a potential tower owner / service provider WILL face. All the best from Down Under. Kindest Regards Charlie Flinders Ranges South Australia

    2011-11-20 20:16:12

by scottvd See Profile edited by seagreen See Profile
last modified: 2006-06-16 13:41:13