Mich. Town a Haven for Wi-Fi ‘Overbuild’


Telecommunications providers have seen their cities overbuilt by video providers and telephone companies, but a wireless-broadband overbuild in Michigan might be one for the books.

In Grand Haven, a community of about 16,000 on the shore of Lake Michigan, Wi-Fi provider Ottawa Wireless Inc. has already attracted 300 residential customers in four-and-a-half months, about 35% of which have abandoned cable-modem or digital-subscriber-line service in favor of cheaper, portable broadband, according to the operator.

Wired broadband service typically sells for $35-$50 per month. Ottawa Wireless’ entry-level product, a 256-kilobit-per-second service, retails for $19.95, according to CEO Tyler van Houweligen.

He said about 60% of customers traded up from dial-up connectivity.

The venture has also sold about 300 pay-as-you-go access cards for people who don’t want monthly commitments.

Charter Communications Inc. officials declined to comment on the impact of the wireless competitor. SBC Communications Inc. is the incumbent phone provider.

Ottawa Wireless is also in the midst of a beta-test of mobile Wi-Fi voice-over-Internet-protocol telephone service, with the expectation of a full product launch within the next few months. Unlimited calling is expected to be marketed for $29.99 per month.

For more on Grand Haven, please see Linda Haugsted’s story on page 8 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.