One wireless broadband provider is raising the bar for remote telecommuters.
Not all business is conducted within range of major mobile networks. What happens when your mobile workforce does business quite literally in the field, or telecommutes from a town that’s off the beaten path? One wireless broadband start up is building out wireless networks to support the rural American mobile workforce, one small town at a time.
Grass roots marketing, along with identifying and then tapping into an underserved market and complementary acquisitions, are the cornerstones of one Internet-focused corporation’s anticipated double-digit growth in 2010. Yonder Media, headquartered in Reno, NV, is extending the Internet’s reach out to roughly 50 million Americans, remote enterprise workers, and telecommuters via WiFi wireless broadband technology one small town at a time, and banking on rural America to come through.
Founded in 2006, the company goes into towns of 3,000-5,000 people who are predominantly served up access via antiquated dial-up or expensive satellite technologies. Yonder Media installs WiFi mesh networks that deliver 3 to 6 MB bandwidth along with customized portals that support local community activities. Yonder is turning church towers, water towers, and even hilltops into WiFi towers and stringing together one town after another.
According to Dirk Christiansen, president & COO, the company’s marketing strategy is based on straightforward word of mouth, traditional marketing tools, and the referral system. He says, “In rural America, we primarily use doorknockers, mailers, even flyers left in coffee shops and the referral system.”
Christiansen is pragmatic and at the same time optimistic about Yonder Media’s growth in the current economy. “During this past year we have continued to grow, maybe not as quickly as originally projected, although still in the lower double digit numbers. We’ve seen some economizing taking place with our customers and we’ve also seen a fair amount of migration in our networks. So when someone’s dropped off, we’ve picked up new folks along the way.
The competitive landscape is interesting. Christiansen notes, “We don’t see much in the way of competition from dial-up, satellite, or small local ISPs who are slow, expensive, or don’t provide great quality of service.” Significantly, Yonder brings in fiber as a differentiator as opposed to some providers who bundle DSL lines and resell them. He says Yonder Media bumps into Comcast and AT&T networks occasionally and can’t compete with their $7 per month price tag. While they’ve lost a few customers to large carriers offering triple play bundles (voice, high speed data, and TV), that isn’t Yonder Media’s market.
Acquisitions will play a large role in the company’s anticipated 15-20% growth this year. Christiansen explains, “We buy a lot of small companies and migrate them into the Yonder Media umbrella, upgrading their quality of service and customer support along the way. We’re currently actively engaged in conversations with 14 or 15 different companies, looking for the most appropriate acquisitions.”
He says that their biggest hindrance to growth is securing financing for the acquisitions. The company is privately held and has purposefully not sought out venture capital because according to Christiansen, most VCs just don’t get their market. He says they don’t use proprietary technology; they use equipment from leading network infrastructure equipment manufacturers like Cisco, Motorola, and Proxim so there’s no smoke and mirrors involved. Their model is subscription based, and the VC model is not built around that.
As a result, he says they secure their financing through banks. “We spent a lot of time back on Wall Street last fall obtaining money, so as we make these network acquisitions we have banks and supporters that will help us fund those purchases.” He added that the question they were asked most often was if people who lived in the American countryside could afford Yonder’s services; Wall Street bankers had this certain perception that rural America had no money when in fact, often the case is that rural folks have more money than do inner city dwellers.
An additional misconception by the city bankers was that great coverage already existed across America. They’d evidently swallowed Verizon and AT&T’s advertising Kool-Aid and thought Americans could get coverage on their donkey in the desert. Fortunately, Yonder convinced its potential backers by demonstrating that coverage was great as long as you stayed in town, on the interstate, or in first class on United – but decide to telecommute from your home five miles outside of Carson, NV and you were in the sticks with few good options.
Related Information From Dell.com: Your Mobility Strategy.