First, an introduction and clarification are in order.
Introduction: I’ve been involved in the Fixed Wireless world since early 2011, working at SPITwSPOTS, a WISP operating in Alaska. My primary area of expertise is the Operational and Technical aspects of business however I have also spent some time in both Marketing and Finance.
Clarification: This write up is not about hard technical specifications, speeds that can be achieved through the ALTA switches or access points, PHY rates, etc. This write up is more focused on how I perceive ALTA labs as a company, what they bring to the table in the WiFi as a Service and Enterprise networking space, and where I anticipate they will be in the next 3-5 years.
Now, on to my actual thoughts!
While we certainly can’t take credit for pioneering managed wifi as a service for residential users, SPITwSPOS was an early advocate for this type of service, presenting at WISPA shows on our experience with offering managed wifi services to customers, and broaching the topic of how fixed wireless providers were leaving money on the table and providing less than stellar support to their customers by not managing what we consider “last inch” or WiFi connectivity within the home. These days there are many players in the WiFi as a Service space, with a multitude of different offerings at varying price points.
Over the years our offerings have increased in scope, both as to what we offer to manage (going beyond just WiFi) as the customer expectations changed, as well as the level of customer experience as products evolved to the point where we can leverage prosumer/enterprise-lite offerings to residential and small business customers. We continue providing our customers with peace of mind when it comes to their connectivity to the internet, as any ISP (fixed wireless or other) should strive to do, but we are also always on the hunt for what the next platform will be to turn this offering up to 11.
Enter ALTA Labs. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk home/small business/enterprise WiFi and switching with @Matt during a recent WISPA show, gaining a better understanding of what ALTA was putting together in terms of marrying their high build quality hardware with some unique software offerings. When you first pick up an ALTA product, you can feel the attention to detail that has been put into the product, it is akin to a certain phone manufacturer in build quality.
However, picking a product up does not give you any indication of what the software behind it is capable of. This is a v1 software build for both the AP, as well as the Switch that I later received for testing, and in some areas it shows. There is definite work to be done to the UX, but the ALTA team is very responsive in their forums, communicative in ways that other companies in this space have been lacking in recent years. Indeed some feedback that I have provided doesn’t fit with ALTA’s core focus, and that is fine, even expected (you can’t be everything to everyone in business, it simply doesn’t work). But in other areas (probably the ones that matter most) they are open to constructive feedback, and are constantly working to bring improvements on both the back and front end to provide a constantly improving product at the end of the day.
The ALTA forums are active, and will continue to grow as they gain exposure to more entities that can make use of their product. I for one expect to see continued growth from hem over the next 3-5 years, and very much look forward to them releasing a routing platform, as a unified offering from them would enable some fantastic synergy between routing, switching, and wireless connectivity that is much needed in this day and age.
Finally, what excites me most about ALTA… truly is a technical thing, my clarification aside. The execution from ALTA Labs of having a single SSID, where the password that you enter controls which backend network you connect to (IOT, Guest, VLAN, etc), while not a novel idea, is what I hope is just the first in a series of game changing offerings. No more having to deal with guest SSID’s, or a different SSID per department, simply spin up a new password for whatever network you need.
Also… what other network vendor out there is Doc Brown approved?!