You Can Hear Me Now


mean lost business, not to mention frustration, for the millions of wireless subscribers who conduct business over their phones.

The problem intensifies inside certain buildings, such as hospitals or company campuses, where high-grade construction materials block or disrupt cellular signals. An ideal way to solidify customer loyalty and generate additional revenue, then, is to sell signal boosters alongside cellular service plans. Wireless dealers can source such appliances from companies such as Wi-Ex (formerly Wireless Extenders Inc.) and Spotwave Wireless.

The Wi-Ex device increases indoor cellphone signals.

Wi-Exs basic booster covers 2,500 square feet and carries a suggested retail price of $299. It sits on a shelf or can mount to the wall or ceiling, much like a wireless access point. The company offers upgraded antennas that can increase coverage by several thousand square feet, says John Davis, vice president of sales. Its aesthetically pleasing and has a price point that is very attractive for that demographic, he says, citing SOHO and residential users as primary targets.

Wi-Ex offers the YX500CEL booster, which works with the 800MHz spectrum, and the YX500PCS version that is compatible with PCS (1900MHz) phones. The hardware works with carriers including Cingular Wireless LLC, Sprint Nextel Corp., T-Mobile USA and Verizon Communications Inc.

Spotwave Wireless offers the SpotCell2500Xe in two configurations.

Meanwhile, Spotwave Wireless is targeting users upmarket small and medium businesses and enterprises. It also has a new device for the residential segment.

Spotwave describes its appliances not as boosters but as repeaters because they contain software that amplifies a signal. A repeater has some level of intelligence, explains Sam Baumel, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

The company says it has been certified by all North American wireless carriers. The SpotCell 2500Xe for enterprises reaches up to 50,000 square feet for $4,995; a smaller configuration works for up to 25,000 square feet for $1,000 less. Like Wi-Exs devices, Spotwaves hardware is designed for the 800 and 1900MHz spectra. The SpotCell 100 and 200 Carrier Series includes remote monitoring and lets carriers sell repeaters to corporate users, while the SpotCell Home & Small Business appliance covers up to 5,000 square feet. The new Zen for residential users blankets up to 2,500 square feet and retails for $399.

Both companies distribute through indirect channels, although Spotwave also employs a direct sales force. Spotwaves Baumel says there is plenty of opportunity to go around, citing research showing there are more than 4 million high-ARPU subscribers needing reliable coverage We see this as a business opportunity that is just starting to blossom, Baumel says of the in-building signal-boosting market. Lets say youre a dealer that wins a 50-member account, he adds. One of the best ways to attract new subscribers and retain old ones is to add into the sale a solution that ensures coverage in the primary facility.

Wi-Ex provides two levels of pricing. The first is for dealers or agents buying fewer than 50 units at a time. Prices start at approximately $229 per unit at that level, but lessen as volume goes up. The other tier is for distributors such as large master agents buying 100 or more units at a time. Those agents can pass on the high margins to their subagents, Davis says, so its profitable for both distributors and dealers. Spotwave usually sells to distributors including Tessco Technologies and Somera, which have large VAR channels, but also deals directly with VARs, too. Baumel declines to discuss margins, saying Spotwaves products bring in incremental revenue.

Adding on signal-boosting devices to cellular sales gives wireless dealers a competitive advantage, helps them reduce churn and enhance customer satisfaction, says Wi-Exs Davis. He notes it also allows those dealers to focus on providing solutions for their customers, rather than pushing a specific brand.

Spotwave Wireless Inc.

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