Pittsburgh Broadband Conference

Pittsburgh Broadband Conference

It was a great pleasure to attend a conference in Pittsburgh this week concerning community broadband.  Unlike most other conferences we have attended so far, which were largely directed at wireless internet service providers (and hence more like trade shows of technology), this one, called “Next Century Cities” was more of a forum to spur change in communities needing or wanting to take their broadband issues into their own hands.

Speakers were largely government representatives at the town, rural municipality, state and even federal levels, including former FCC Chairwoman, Mignon Clyburn -an inspiring speaker.

We were quite amazed to learn that the National Broadband Map produced by the FCC was a major underrepresentation of actual broadband coverage in the US, and by the speakers’ conversations on stage, the need for broadband improvements appears acute in both rural and in many urban areas. One of the speakers who had done extensive testing on broadband access revealed that the National Broadband Map’s coverage indicators were based on it being  “available in a census block if the provider does or could, within a service interval that is typical for that type of connection – that is, without a extraordinary commitment of resources – provision two-way data transmission to and from the internet.”  Let us translate that: it’s what could be done not what is being done map of coverage.  The same speaker concurred with online criticism of this tool as being a “$350 million boondoggle”.  (The good news for Mage is that the need for our technology is even more desperate than we realized).

Communities in the US are angry about not only inadequate coverage, but also the oligarchical structure of the telecommunications industry, which they say favours incumbents and keeps small communities from finding ways to improve their own situations.  One speaker screened quite a dramatic documentary called “Do Not Pass Go” which showcased conflicts between federal (siding with large telcomm companies) vs. local communities without broadband.  Regardless of what side one sits on this issue,  it was a shame to see community initiatives stymied, especially when incumbent telecomm providers had already rejected these areas as worthy to support new broadband infrastructure (i.e. fiber).

Ms. Clyburn actually spoke about the acute need for a different kind of “business case” for rural broadband infrastructure. While private companies look only at the ROI based on getting the monthly homeowner revenue to pay it back, the communities themselves look deeper at the rationale and its effects.  For example, the need to retain residents in their communities, the need to retain and attract businesses, the need to educate their youth, the need to maintain property values and the need to provide overall communication with the outside world.  All of these have some dollar value not being considered by telecomm providers; yet these factors are critical to communities. Like water, heat and electricity, broadband is vital to rural communities’ ultimate survival.  If these other factors could be prioritized, and even quantified, if need be, perhaps there would be more commitment. Or, perhaps the ultimate solution is to allow more free rein on community broadband initiatives and not deem them “unfair competition” for private (incumbent) telecomm providers.

Certainly, what we did notice at this conference is that everyone we spoke to was keenly interested in hearing more about what we could do to help their communities, both through our equipment, and in partnering with our ISP partners such as Aer Wireless in the US, who attended the conference with us.  In fact, in situations where US communities do wish to take initiatives into their own hands, and yet must legally use private company partners instead of acting as their own ISPs, Mage has a solution. Our partner, AER Wireless, can not only provide our equipment, but also a huge range of services that go with it, for example:

  • In cases where a community wants or plans to get more fiber built, deploying MagiNet can be a give high-speed broadband in the gap period. Then, when fiber connections are finally constructed, our ISP can move it to another area and re-use it.  This way, areas of need can get an immediate solution to get them connected, and use the new subscriber revenue from the temporary solution to help finance the fiber network build.  In other words, build up cash from the wireless network to finance some fiber where needed.
  • In cases where grants are available, careful planning of where fiber and MagiNet should be deployed stretch the grant immensely – giving far better connectivity for the buck.
  • Deploying seamless high speed outdoor Wifi in a given area such as a downtown or commercial zone – assisting in economic development initiatives such as business attraction and retail foot-traffic retention.  Such networks, promoted with good signage, can also get drivers to pull off the highway and boost tourism.
  • Enabling soft-phone in areas with poor cell-phone access, at a fraction of the cost.
  • Enabling emergency life-line and 911 service with complete coverage.
  • Deploying temporary, portable networks in the case of bad weather/natural disaster events where communication is locked out.
  • Using networks to facilitate large events – such as a festival – as it can be deployed within days and moved/reused later.
  • Reaching First Nations and very remote communities without damaging their lands, and giving them a solution they can self-install and locally maintain.

The good news is that for Mage, the need for our technology is even greater in the US than we realized.   The conference organizers told us directly, “Everyone is talking about you guys.  You are the only people who came to this conference with a potential solution to the problem.”  Indeed – affordable, fast rural broadband is what we are here to provide.

Needless to say, we are buried in leads, and following up feverishly over the coming weeks.

Mage and Aer Wireless Keith Walker rural broadband technology partners

New wireless rural broadband technology - Next Century Cities rural portable broadband technolgoy

Digital Futures & BC Broadband Conference

Lots has been happening here at Mage!  April 25 & 26, Sisso attended the Digital Futures Alberta conference in Pincher Creek and made many excellent connections with communities all around Alberta who really need upgrades to their broadband speed  – in short order!  We’re working on getting back to everyone there, and once we get maps of desired coverage areas, we’ll reply with network designs and quotations.

Sisso and Jacqueline also attended the BC Broadband Association Conference in Richmond BC last week (May 1 – 2).  This conference allowed us to reconnect with many of the Wireless Internet Service Providers we’d met through CanWisp and meet many new ones as well.  Sisso spoke on day two, and one excellent bonus was that Tim Ryan, of Kaslo Infonet Society, also got up to say a few words on Mage’s behalf, regarding his experience with the field test we ran there in early April.  Tim’s message was that Mage’s equipment would be a very useful additional “tool in the toolkit” for internet service providers,  since it can affordably reach homeowners that would be not economical otherwise, and that he was planning to deploy Mage’s equipment in various areas across the Kaslo valley this summer.  Thank you Tim!

We are very excited to be rolling out more networks this summer, and we are working to get our network designs/quotations out as fast as we can!  If you’d like to inquire about improving high speed broadband in your area, please contact us today.

Sisso and Simon from National Research Council talk NLOS wireless

Tim Ryan of Kaslo Infonet Society and Sisso speak at BCBC 2018


IRAP Funding and BC Broadband Association Conference

We got some great news today: Mage was granted IRAP (Industrial Research Assistance Program from the National Research Council) funding today to help us hire a new PhD programmer.  This new individual is going to be developing our new network-design software which we will use for designing our wireless data pipelines, i.e. MagiNet™.  Should make our network design process (and hence our quoting process) go much more quickly as it becomes functional.

Also, we’ll be heading to Richmond BC to participate and speak at the BC Broadband Association (BCBA) on May 1 – 2.  We look forward to seeing, meeting, and supporting our many friends in the rural broadband market!

Kaslo Terrain Test

It’s been a very busy past few weeks, and we wanted to let you know we ran another terrain test, this time with the toughest terrain we’ve seen yet, in Kaslo BC.

The Internet Service Provider there, Kaslo InfoNet Board (KIN), headed up by Tim Ryan, had been quite skeptical of the system before seeing it run for himself.  In addition to being a director of KIN and a member of its Technical Services Committee, Tim also sits on the BC Broadband Association board.

The main issues in the area are mountains and very thick, mixed-species forest.  There is also a lake to one side of the community and fibre cable has had to be run right through the lake, with towers attempting to fill in many areas, but without good sight lines.

Tim and his two technicians ran the test with us. We started the network at an access point beside Kaslo Community Garden, shooting up and onward past A Avenue.  We shot straight through the trees (and this was the part about which Sisso was most concerned, since it was hard to even gage which direction to aim the nodes at with the terrain!). Regardless of that potential difficulty, MagiNet™ grabbed the signal right away, and we were off to the races.  While we had allowed a whole day for testing, by noon, the guys at KIN were convinced, and we all enjoyed lively discussion over lunch at a local restaurant.  KIN intends to do some planning over the next few weeks to re-work their connectivity model for the area, integrating our technology into all the non line-of-sight (NLOS) areas not easily reachable using fiber or towers.

With the terrain test behind us, we also were able to take the time to enjoy the beautiful Ainsworth Hot Springs that evening, and got quite a charge out of seeing so many wild turkeys on the sides of the road during the drives to and from Ainsworth Hot Springs to Kaslo.

KIN is expecting they will be deploying some of Mage’s technology as soon as July or August 2018.

Stay tuned!

Terrain Test in Kaslo BC NLOS


NLOS Wireless Test in Mountains and Forest

Trade Shows Ramping Up

The Mage Networks booth at CanWISP

We’ve been hitting the road these past few weeks and the fun is just beginning! March 14 – 16 we attended the Globe Clean Technology Forum in Vancouver and were invited to pitch Maginet™ to investors and buyers from around the world. This was extremely worthwhile, allowing us to identify many serious investors and purchasing agents who saw the potential of our technology.

This week we’re in Ottawa exhibiting at CanWISP, the national trade show for wireless internet service providers, where we’ll be able to show our equipment to the companies who supply rural Canada with internet access. We expect there will be exciting announcements soon for homeowners across Canada who have been awaiting improved high-speed service.


A speaker giving a presentation at CANWisp

Non line of sight (NLOS) terrain test

Pilot test in Waiparous

Last week, were invited to Waiparous to test out the specific links we intend to use for the pilot network. According to people in the industry, Waiparous is “wireless hell”. And it is.  Very thick trees, ravines, and hairpin roads.  A true non-line-of-sight case.

Jason Marsland, owner of Velocity Networks, and Adam, his installer were there for the test. They were extremely impressed with the results. Our system worked where their other methods had failed time after time. Both of them related that they laughed when they first heard that we thought that we could do what they had been trying to do for ages. This week, we proved them wrong in a most resounding way.

We’re now going to work on the details of the actual deployment (which units go on which homes and how exactly they will be connected). Jason is extremely excited and thinks he’ll be able to reach many customers previously out of range.  We met 4 or 5 home owners, each of whom knew several neighbours also needing the service we are planning to offer.

This difficult terrain test is a major hurdle we’ve overcome. We will be pushing hard to get equipment ready to permanently deploy this network.

The best part for us is that Adam, Velocity’s installer, was there.  He’s the person who gets face to face with the actual customer when things go wrong. The fact that he was impressed is more important to us than almost anyone else’s opinion.

We’re moving as fast as possible to complete and test the production version of the firmware. We also have secured a lot of the equipment we need so we will be ready to deploy as soon as possible.

Full Steam Ahead!

NLOS internet