Element8, a broadband provider with a focus on fixed wireless access (FWA), said today that it has made a “transformational” investment in Wisper ISP, another broadband provider with an FWA focus. Element8 will invest $151 million in Wisper, said Element8 Executive Vice President Jonathan Van in an email exchange with Telecompetitor.
“We both believe next-generation FWA is the best high-speed internet solution for many of the markets we cover so we can connect the highest number of people and meet our ultimate mission,” Van told us.
He added, though, that “Even with next-generation FWA, there continues to be pockets of opportunity to provide fiber broadband and we continue to build those opportunistically.”
Wisper ISP was the second biggest winner in the 2018 Connect America Fund (CAF II) auction, in which it won $220 million for FWA deployments in unserved rural areas. The company offers service in parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
The company’s CAF win apparently caught the attention of Microsoft, which invited the company to join its Airband rural broadband initiative – an initiative aimed at bringing broadband to unserved rural areas, primarily through FWA.
Element8 offers FWA and fiber broadband in Oklahoma, Texas and “the Heartland.” The company got a big boost earlier this year when investment firm Digital Alpha Advisors invested $200 million in the company.
When we asked Van if the companies expect to pursue government funding for broadband buildouts, he said, “When the government’s mandate is to connect every American, we continue to see the need for private capital and strategic partners to come together with proven builders and operators to make the most of public funding allocated for this once-in-a-generation digital infrastructure opportunity.”
A press release about the deal touted Digital Alpha’s “strategic partnerships with Silicon Valley industry leaders focused on next-generation networks, cloud, IoT and smart city platforms to bring complete solutions to meet every stakeholder’s needs in this new era of connectivity.”
At the time Digital Alpha’s investment in Element8 was announced, a press release called out one of those Silicon Valley partnerships – with Cisco.
Today’s press release includes a quote from Cisco Senior Director of Service Provider Sales Brian Rueger, who said, “We look forward to continuing out work with Element8 to change the economics of the internet with a converged network architecture approach to help meet our shared goals for a more inclusive future for all.”