I personally know them, and FWIW there's a lot of bark there...


WiNOG Wireless Roadshows
Coming to a City Near You

-----Original Message-----
Behalf Of Peter R.
Sent: Sunday, July 23, 2006 2:07 PM
To: WISPA General List
Subject: [WISPA] Sparkplug scales with broadband wireless buzz


Sparkplug scales with broadband wireless buzz
By Dan O'Shea

Jul 17, 2006 12:00 AM

If it's any indication of what may come for the broadband wireless 
market, several of the
companies making news in the sector recently are guided by veterans of 
McCaw Cellular, the
company that turned the mobile industry into a fiercely competitive 
national market. These
include service providers Clearwire and Nextlink, but don't forget about 
Sparkplug, a
small broadband wireless service provider based in Chicago that is 
beginning to make more
noise on the broadband wireless scene.

The company, which is headed by McCaw vets Bill Malloy, Sparkplug's CEO, 
and Steve Hooper,
the company's chairman, last week announced that it has merged with two 
other regional
service providers - Prairie iNet in Des Moines, Iowa, and Telespectra in 
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Under Sparkplug's post-merger structure, Malloy will lead the 
organization as CEO, along
with senior executives Jeff Hardesty, currently CEO of Telespectra; and 
Neil Mulholland,
CEO and founder of Prairie iNet. Malloy said he's known both Mulholland 
and Hardesty for
several years. The resulting company will operate under the Sparkplug 
name and combine
Sparkplug's markets of Chicago and Nashville; several Midwest markets 
served by Prairie
iNet; and Telespectra's networks in the Southwest covering Arizona, 
Colorado, Nevada, New
Mexico and Southern California.

"We're all wireless guys from way back, and if you look at what's been 
happening the last
few years with broadband wireless, we're finally at the point where the 
technology is
meeting up with customer needs," Malloy said. The merger of the three 
companies was led by
venture capital firm Ignition Partners, in which Malloy is a venture 
partner and Hooper is
a founding partner.

Malloy said the companies merged to chase a common market of business 
customers with
specific needs, including the potential of growing businesses to 
increasingly use
broadband wireless to communicate among multiple branches and offices in 
different markets.

"As businesses deploy more IP-based services that are mission-critical, 
high-quality committed bandwidth is a key enabler," said Hardesty in a 
statement. "This
merger lets us extend our operational expertise in meeting these needs 
to more business
customers across the combined company."

However, Malloy said that the beefed-up Sparkplug also will watch for 
other merger and
acquisition opportunities. "There's no secret that there's a lot of 
consolidation in this
market, and is this deal being put together to go and do more merging 
and partnering?
That's certainly something we'll look at," he said.

Broadband wireless market consolidation has been top of mind for the 
last few years, as
the technology has gained credibility, and investors and potential 
investors have looked
at how to encourage scalability and consistency in a market 
characterized by hundreds of
Mom-and-Pop wireless ISPs. Companies like California-based NextWeb and 
Texas-based AirBand
Communications have driven much of the consolidation early on, and 
NextWeb itself was
acquired by Covad Communications last year.

Sparkplug is operating in both licensed and license-exempt frequencies. 
Its licenses are
in the ranges of 6 GHz, 11 GHz and 18 GHz, license-exempt operations 
include 5.2 GHz and
5.7 GHz. These frequencies, with the exception of 5.7 GHz, aren't 
currently being
considered for WiMAX certification, but Malloy isn't feeling left out.

"Five or six years ago, we began to study WiMAX very deeply because we 
were the guys who
genuflected at the altar of licensed technology," he said. "But we have 
been impressed by
what we have been able to do in the unlicensed frequencies to make this 
work and meet
customer needs. We are going to see WiMAX in our future at some point, 
but for now, it's
not something that we're worrying about."

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