AirTegrity Wireless aims to zone the world with fast access |

AirTegrity Wireless aims to zone the world with fast access

Pat Patera

“Half the people on the planet have yet to make a phone call,” says Greg Phillips, chief executive and chief technology officer, founder of AirTegrity Wireless, headquartered in Stateline.

The company plans to change that with the AirVantage family of wireless broadband appliances and WiMAX in a Box, a product for Internet service providers who purchase and integrate equipment from numerous vendors.

“Communications is the key to business development,” Phillips says.”But to put in traditional phone cables costs over $1,000 per meter.”Rural markets worldwide are ripe for WiMAX, the new broadband wireless voice and data networks technology.

AirTegrity has already established itself in China, and is establishing operations in Latin America and Africa, says Phillips.

Eastern Europe is also in its plans.

Locations lacking communications infrastructure can play catch up with wireless, Phillips says.

“In Guadalajara,Mexico, it costs $1 million to build a base station,” he says.Wireless costs just a fraction of that.”

In this country, anyone without good access to the communications grid will benefit from a wireless, says Greg Felton, president and chief operating officer,with a cost advantage to those outside business centers.

A pilot program is underway at Lake Tahoe and in Reno with commercial carrier companies.

The Reno trial,with up to 10 participants already signed up, starts in about a month and will run for three months.AirTegrity wants more area companies for the pilot program, says Felton.

“This is a fantastic test environment,” Felton says, due to desert heat and heavy snows.

AirTegrity teamed with Dr.Allen Gates, chair of the engineering department at the University of Nevada, Reno, for research and development.

A wireless zone covering several square miles, such as metro zones being pioneered in San Francisco, is not out of the question for Reno, says Phillips.

The planned Carson Business Park is another likely metro zone area.

Work began four years ago on the wireless system, and “we are shipping product for revenue,” says Felton.AirTegrity contracted with Vital Systems in Reno to build both pilot program devices and general production components.

The first commercial shipment went to Intel last October.

The market is not just for fast wireless phone and Internet service.

It is used for remote medical diagnosis and for distance learning.Homeland security officials are looking at it for surveillance and security applications.

Airwaves are the limiting factor.

Competitors for licensed frequencies include MCI,Nextel and Horizon while the public shares the unlicensed frequencies.

The AirVantage system operates in both licensed and unlicensed turf.

The challenges on the public airwaves are interference and security.

For security,”We use the highest level of commercial encryption service,” says Phillips.

A broader challenge is defining a standard to keep interference from occurring.AirTegrity executives participate in study groups in China, Italy and Atlanta, where about 200 industry manufacturers work to ensure technical compatibility between countries.

Wireless works when a signal is beamed from a base station over an area called a cell.

Theoretically, the maximum radius of a cell is about 30 miles,with typical deployments using cells with a radii of about two to six miles, says the Web site Unstrung.Any compatible device within the cell could tap into the beamed frequency.

“It used to take nine different complex pieces of equipment, comprised of several hundred thousand pieces to do that,” says Phillips.”Then a lot of different vendors had to talk together to make it all work.”

WiMAX in a Box, the trademark product of AirTegrity, replaces that model with a single piece of equipment, preconfigured by the manufacturer, that one technician can install.

Phillips cited high tech consortiums such as the Sierra Angels and the High Tech Alliance as helpful in relocating to Stateline from the San Francisco Bay area in 2000.

The privately held company operates with $3 million in angel investment from the Tahoe basin, says Phillips, the major shareholder.

Staff members also hold equity stakes, and the company is looking for investors to provide more capital.

The company’s 20,000-square-foot facility at Kingsbury Square Business Park is home to about nine of the company’s 20 staff members.

The rest telecommute from the Bay Area.With development of the international market, the company plans to hire 20 more engineers, technicians and sales representatives.

The Web site is Doing business in Stateline, off the beaten path of major metro markets, has not hindered operations, says

Phillips,who developed technology in Australia for 20 years and moved to the States to end long air commutes.

“San Francisco is within driving distance, but labor costs are 20 percent cheaper than doing business in the Bay Area,” he says.”It’s easy to entice people to move to the area.

Without the stressful two-hour commute, people also work longer hours.”

Company principals Phillips, Felton, Dave Kinley, Joe Keipert and Patricia Kimball managed international markets during the past two decades at high-tech behemoths such as Lucent, Siemens,Micom and Hewlett-Packard.

Phillips cites one regret over the Lake Tahoe location: “The work is so exciting, I don’t have time to enjoy the quality of life I moved here for.

I don’t have any time to go skiing.

I’ve gone just two quarter mornings all year.”