So Long RedButton, and Thanks for All the Fish

Having co-founded RedButton, a Cape Town based wireless Internet company, over six years ago, the time came to move on and so I recently exited the business, which continues with success.

Looking back, I feel privileged to have gained a wealth of experience and feel proud to have built up an established business from scratch with no outside investment.

The highlights include:

  • Climbing Kilimanjaro with my business partners, Barry Steyn and Kilian Hagemann, soon after founding the business, in September 2006. We also subsequently climbed the snow clad Waaihoek a number of times.
  • Building and then launching the RedButton WiFi Hotspot Billing System in April 2007
  • The large-scale roll-out of the RedButton WiFi Hotspot Billing System in June 2007
  • Participating in and then winning the VeloCITI Business Acceleration Programme in October 2007
  • Closing a deal with a major hotel, that is a part of the world’s largest hotel chain, in 2009
  • Watching the business go on with success as I move on

In closing, this is to thank all the staff of RedButton and above all my family for their support. So long RedButton, and thanks for all the fish.

Building and Managing Fixed Broadband Wireless Access Networks – Not For Sissies

Whether you are new to the field of Fixed Broadband Wireless Access Network (FBWA) or a salty old sea dog in my opinion the white paper “How to Build and Manage a Successful FBWA Business” [edit 16/06/2011 regretfully this article is no longer available online, sorry] is an excellent read. WISPs and WiFi hotspot network operators fall within the FBWA category, and even if you plan to run a single commercial WiFi hotspot, with one access point, I would recommend you read this article.

The article makes an important point in that providing a highly reliable service is a significantly greater challenge in the FBWA space than in the cellular mobile telephony service (CMTS) space. It does this by reminding the reader that reliability requirements in terms of backhaul links are significantly more stringent in FBWA networks than in CMTS networks, since with the former, backhual link downtime generally results on consumer downtime since one has a single point of failure, whilst in the latter, service degradation is the result, which is generally preferable to having no service at all.

In a nutshell, the article suggests, in my opinion, that you better know what you are doing if you are going to provide a high quality, highly reliable FBWA network. In my mind, if you are operating a commercial prepaid FBWA network, the demands are even greater and potentially commercial WiFi hotspot operations present the greatest challenge if you are serious about your service levels (and if you are not, thankfully in South Africa there is the Consumer Protection Act or the old fashioned way, consumers voting with their feet).