Covad Goes the Last Mile

When you’re the only national DSL network in the U.S. what do you do for your next act?

You “disintermediate” the copper wire. In plain English, you take it out of the equation. And the way you take it out is with fixed WiMax technology. That’s the idea right now at Covad, according to Director of Marketing Simon McIver.

The SMB market is ripe for a new connection, according to McIver. Small and mid-size businesses are “waking up” to the fact that consumer broadband services don’t cut it for business applications like POS systems, Web servers, or even office email.

“The problem with cable and DSL is that it’s a shared line.” That means that things may work smoothly at 9:00 a.m. when kids are in school, but slow down at 3:00 p.m. when they get out and hit the MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games).

A traditional solution is “a good old fashioned T1 line with 1.5 megabytes locked in,” explains McIver. “It’s consistent, it’s always there.” But for small businesses, it’s a prohibitively costly solution.

That’s where fixed WiMax comes in. Unlike WiFi, WiMax can deliver the assured bandwidth and higher reliability of a T1 with a lot less infrastructure. WiMax also has wider range and better coverage than WiFi — especially indoors.

“You have full independence for the last mile,” McIver says. “You don’t have to deal with a CLEC — you can set up a customer within hours. The on-premises antenna connects to a base station like a standard T1, but wirelessly.”

Businesses aren’t the only customers that will find Covad WiMax broadband attractive. “There are plenty of people who want a big pipe to the house,” McIver explains. “They don’t care how you deliver it. ”

But Covad doesn’t plan to sell directly to consumers. “We want to enable brands like Earthlink and AOL to be successful,” McIver adds. “Covad will continue to be the small business brand.

Covad is currently running a “pre-WiMax” version of its service in four metro areas: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Chicago. “Standards are being finalized and we expect the first true WiMax network in Q3 — Q4,” McIver explains.