March 24, 2022
Fixed wireless startup WeLink recently announced a handful of new executive appointments that the company says will help it expand into new markets throughout 2022.
WeLink is also working to leverage its offerings in dense, suburban areas as well as rural ones.
The company's efforts come roughly one year after it received a $185 million investment from Digital Alpha Advisors, an investment firm tied to Cisco. At the time, the company offered fixed wireless access (FWA) services in Las Vegas and was exploring expansions into Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, and potentially a handful of other cities.
Figure 1: WeLink's service requires a visit from a technician who installs an antenna
on the customer's roof.
Today, WeLink offers services in four cities – Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, plus Phoenix and Tucson – but is planning to increase that number significantly. "We intend to disrupt a marketplace" when entering it, said John Paul Farmer, WeLink's new chief innovation officer.
Farmer brings noteworthy credentials to WeLink. He was previously CTO of New York City and served as a senior advisor for innovation in the White House under President Obama. He also worked at Microsoft.
Bridging the digital divide
As WeLink's head of innovation, Farmer is working to stand up a subsidiary within the company called WeLink Cities, which will work with city governments around the country to deploy WeLink's FWA technology in support of bridging the digital divide.
The company is one of hundreds in the telecom space chasing roughly $40 billion of government spending designed to fund the construction of telecom networks in underserved areas.
WeLink's technology can definitely be used to cross the digital divide, Farmer said. "There's no longer a tradeoff" between FWA and fiber Internet connections, he said. "That's a game changer."
Others share Farmer's optimism around FWA, including Verizon, T-Mobile and Starry. However, a large number of skeptics – including AT&T – argue that FWA simply cannot support the rise in home Internet traffic.
Regardless, WeLink is moving forward. The company recently hired Brendan Smith, previously an executive in the rooftop solar power industry, as its new chief operating officer and Mark Trout, previously a tech executive at Accenture, as its president.
WeLink uses a wireless mesh system that allows anchor customers to share their wireless Internet connections with nearby households. In that respect, the company is employing roughly the same setup as Common Networks, a California startup that raised tens of millions of dollars but ultimately offloaded its network in San Francisco's East Bay to rival Monkeybrains.
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