MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Over the past couple months, US Internet has quietly released a new method of transmitting wireless internet that it says is as fast as broadband but significantly cheaper.
The Minnetonka-based company’s new network is now available in parts of downtown and south Minneapolis and boasts speeds of up to 75 Mbps for $25 to $35 per month.
So far, about 250 customers have signed up for the service, but USI co-founder Travis Carter said that’s just the beginning.
“I really feel like we’ve cracked that municipal wireless nut that’s been plaguing the industry for years and years and years,” Carter said. “We think Minneapolis, over the next few years, will be the model city for this type of technology in the country.”
The new TDM network involves a device, called a time-division multiplexing node, which is attached to the side of a user’s home and can send an internet signal at broadband speeds through the walls to the user’s router.
Developed in-house over the course of two years of research and experimentation, the TDM network is separate from USI’s fiber-based service, which is also expanding.
Carter said he has been very pleased with the TDM network’s performance, which has had “almost zero problems” and meets the FCC requirement for broadband internet.
“They get the full, Hi-def Netflix experience,” Carter said. “No buffering, very low latency, very low jitter. It’s a spectacular experience.”
The TDM network currently has installed more than 60 TDM nodes and offers two tiers of service — 75 Mbps for $35 per month, and 25 Mbps for $25. The 75 Mbps option is only available in south Minneapolis; the 25 Mbps is live in downtown and expected to expand to north and northeast Minneapolis by the end of the summer.
Carter said TDM is much easier to upgrade than other forms of wireless internet.
“This network will never be done because as technology changes we’ll be coming back around the horn and updating things,” he said. “It’s like if you had a network switch and you could plug whatever you want into it.”
The TDM nodes can also broadcast Wi-Fi directly, and they will eventually replace USI’s existing Wi-Fi network. Carter said Wi-Fi speeds in coverage areas have shown dramatic improvements in speed and reliability.
USI says the fact that the technology has been working well in the middle of summer means speeds should be high year-round.
“It’s the peak of ‘forest season,’ it’s when all the trees are in full bloom,” Carter said. “Trees provide radio interference in spring through summer. If you just tested a wireless network in the winter, you’d have really good success; you have to test it in the summer, also.”
This winter, the TDM network is expected to expand into southeast Minneapolis, as USI redirects crews installing fiber.
“It’s going to take a number of years to get everything done,” Carter said.