How to Start an ISP or WISP With Ubiquiti AirMAX AirFiber & EdgeRouter
If you follow the right procedure, establishing an ISP business or WISP Wireless Internet Service Provider is a pretty straight forward process. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to start an ISP.
When you’re tired of bickering with your current internet provider and have the determination and skills, you can learn how to start an ISP. If you follow the right methods, establishing an ISP business can be an exciting journey. If this sounds like you, keep reading to learn more about the business end of starting an ISP.
What Is an ISP?
An Internet Service Provider or ISP is a company who provides your internet connectivity. These are the companies that keep us connected and enable us to watch Netflix and work from home as well as allowing remote workers to stay connected with their businesses.
As of 2019, more than 70% of Americans use broadband in their home, making it a competitive market for ISPs.
Why Should You Start an ISP?
There are many reasons to consider starting an ISP. It isn’t surprising that many people are very unhappy with their current internet providers. Even more, the FCC demonstrated that up to 38% of home internet users changed their providers for a few reasons:
- Cost of the service
- Performance of the service
- Customer support
- Loss of bandwidth speed
What Do You Need To Start an ISP Business?
The lists and questions are spinning in your head, and that is to be expected. Still, before you start registering your business, it is an excellent idea to conduct a study of the locality. Weigh in competitors and market saturation as you consider whether another internet service provider in this area is a viable option.
Before you start building anything or spend any money, make sure the target area has the right components that will allow you to meet your goals.
Here are some of the elements to look for:
Usable Relay Sites
A wireless network consists of relay sites where you will install wireless access points that customers will connect to for their internet access. Examples of where these can be found are on buildings, radio towers, water tanks, or even homes. Line of sight from a customer’s rooftop to one of your relay sites is needed to provide fast and reliable service.
Find a Fiber Provider
A connection to the public internet is needed to start an ISP. Buying a fiber connection from an existing provider is generally the way to get this.
Very often, you end up purchasing fiber from the same companies you’re competing with for customers. For example, Comcast, AT&T, or CenturyLink or any of the large ISPs in the U.S.:
- Charter Communications
- Cox Communications
- Century Link
- Cable One
If you’re unclear on how to do this, then you may need to partner with an IT professional. They’ll make sure your getting the correct amount of bandwidth and aren’t overcharged.
The next thing you need to decide is which internet service provider you want to partner with and what hardware you need to purchase.
What Equipment Do You Need?
Naturally, to get started, there are a few types of equipment you’ll need. When you’re new at this and unsure what to choose, Ubiquiti is a great place to start. The latest Ubiquiti offerings include the AirMax AC platform that has Access Points, CPE equipment, and Backhauls. These are a few examples:
AirMax offers a great selection of access points like the AirMax GigaBeam or the Airmax PrismStation AC, along with other equipment needed to start an ISP. Mikrotik is also another reputed manufacturer for access points and other equipment used by ISPs.
AirMax offers a whole line of quality products for ISPs.
EdgeMax offers excellent products for any backhaul needs. A good example is the EdgeMax Edgepoint that provides a combination of routing performance, fiber backhaul capability, and passive PoE support.
Some of the other products you may need are:
While these are just a few, research will reveal everything you need.
Customer Management and Billing
Another of the essential components of running an ISP is finding the best customer management and billing software. When researching for software, keep in mind that what you are looking for should include these critical capabilities:
- Ticketing: This helps record and track customer issues.
- Billing: The right software suite can manage automated billing, expired credit cards, late payments, and more.
- Network Management: A network management suite can monitor your connections so that you know that your network is having problems before your customers start calling you. It will also check and let you know when upgrades are needed.
A few examples are :
Swift Fox is a WISP management software suite it has real-time network monitoring, customer bandwidth tracking, automated billing, and provisioning, along with call center management. It also has WISP-specific tools like frequency coordination features and radio path profiles.
Celerate is an open-source Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) management platform.
UCRM is a free software platform provided by Ubiquiti. It includes excellent billing features like recurring invoicing and automated shut-off for late payments. It is not limited to Ubiquiti devices and is extendable through the use of API and custom Plugins.
Sonar is highly scalable and extendable by using an API. They include hosting in the cost of this service.
Marketing Your Services
The first step to marketing is to find out what specific things your potential customers care about in their internet service. It may surprise you, that it’s not only cheaper and faster service. Many things define the value in an ISP to your customers, and those things determine whether they would make a switch.
Get out there and talk to your neighbors and check out competitive service providers on Yelp. While many people may not understand the technical side of an ISP, they know when they aren’t getting what they need.
Hanging door flyers on buildings where you know you can provide services is an excellent place to begin marketing. Selling to businesses is also an attractive market.
There are a few steps to start an ISP, but it can be worth looking into as a business. The key to success in any business begins with a lot of research and useful resources. If you’re looking for more advice, come back to check out more of our posts.