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Posted on Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Downtown Ann Arbor to get new wireless 'cloud' from new 4G WiMAX Internet network

By Nathan Bomey

An Oakland County-based communications provider is creating a high-powered wireless Internet network that will blanket downtown Ann Arbor in a new wireless cloud, giving businesses an option to subscribe to a service based on 4G WiMAX technology.

The Southfield firm, Internet 123 Inc., otherwise known as, is spending about $300,000 to $400,000 to create WiMAX-powered networks in a few pockets throughout southeast Michigan. The network in downtown Ann Arbor emanates from equipment based on the top of the 26-story Tower Plaza condominium building on East William.


Tower Plaza, located at East William and Maynard in downtown Ann Arbor.

Businesses that are located within line-of-sight of Tower Plaza can subscribe through's sales agent, Ann Arbor-based 20/20 Communications. 4G WiMAX, which stands for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is essentially a higher-powered version of typical WiFi networks that experts say will become more common as costs come down. earlier this year acquired the 20/20 Communications customer base, including the 500 residential customers who pay monthly fees to access the Wireless Washtenaw network that 20/20 operated on behalf of the county.

The new 4G WiMAX network, not available to residents, is separate from the Wireless Washtenaw initiative. But President Dan Irvin told that his firm is considering investing in WiMAX technology to expand the Wireless Washtenaw network, which currently covers about 100 square miles of rural land in western parts of the county.

"We've been investing heavily in the WiMAX stuff, not only in Ann Arbor area but throughout the metro area," Irvin said. "We're pretty excited about it. It's working. It's a little business that works for us."'s investment comes as the country's major cell phone service providers -- Verizon, AT&T and Sprint -- are all investing in 4G networks to improve their wireless data service.

Irvin said the WiMAX network in downtown Ann Arbor would be targeted at downtown businesses at price points ranging from $150 a month to more than $1,000 a month for download speeds ranging from 1 megabit a second to 100 megabits a second.

He said it would provide a competitive option for businesses that don't want to pay for fiber access through AT&T or cable service from Comcast.

"We're little, we have to compete with them and, in the process, we're driving down the costs, making it so that people can really do business here in Michigan," Irvin said.

Mike Horning, director of sales for 20/20, which now sells services on behalf of, said he is hoping to land about 100 business customers with the new service. has estimated that 12 percent to 16 percent of Michigan business will be relying on 4G wireless within five years.

"Eventually there's going to be a couple different options that customers can choose from," Horning said. "What the WiMAX really brings to the community is a whole new product where you can essentially get higher bandwidth solutions for a lower cost."

The new network comes after also upgraded existing equipment for the Wireless Washtenaw network and acquired some additional local fiber from Zayo Enterprise Networks to improve the network's reliability. The network's equipment is based on government buildings throughout the country.

Horning said the hope is to revisit the possibility of slowly expanding the Wireless Washtenaw network sometime next summer. has acknowledged, however, that Wireless Washtenaw's initial goal of blanketing the entire county with wireless Internet service was unrealistic.

“Some of those areas are not commercially feasible," Irvin said in March.

20/20 Communications sold its customers to in the weeks after its application for federal economic stimulus funding was rejected earlier this year. As part of the deal, responsibility for managing the Wireless Washtenaw network shifted to

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


Rod Johnson

Thu, Oct 28, 2010 : 10:26 a.m.

Linda Diane--get together with a few of your neighbors and set up a coop. You can share a megabit of bandwidth among several people. Where I live we have such a setup (with 37 households) and it costs me about 8 bucks a month for broadband access.

Joe Hood

Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 11:31 p.m.

@Ryan Munson I spoke to the guys on the phone today (they seem adept), as I'm interested in higher bandwidth for our downtown office. Business class data rates are fixed, which is why business class is so much more expensive than consumer grade. 123 has other wireless options beyond WiMAX. They seem to be tapped into the AT&T fiber link that connects to the downtown telco central office opposite the Police and Courts building. @Seasoned Cit I think 20/20 was out their mind to promise WiFi to rural areas, especially with public frequencies. 2.4GHz is not only used by WiFi but microwave ovens and cordless phones. Microwave ovens use 2.4GHz because that wave frequency bounces off water. I think 20/20 had a lot of hope of using Wifi meshing but it didn't pan out on the public frequencies.

Seasoned Cit

Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 10:57 p.m.

If they hurry they might be able to get some Federal $ from Congressman Dingell as he's passing out cash for votes. Wireless Washtenaw was either a scam or a project headed by uninformed folks who hadn't researched the problem before telling folks they could solve it. At least these guys aren't promising free service and have come up with a realistic fee for businesses only!

Ryan Munson

Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 10:23 p.m.

This is great there is an offer of up to 100 Mbps, but what is the actual throughput that an SLA would provide for minimum rate of transfer?

Joe Hood

Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 3:47 p.m.

@bruceae Are they dismantling the Wifi network or just adding WiMAX to the mix? $1000/month for 100 megabits is a good deal for business class bandwidth (assuming that's around what it costs--the article isn't clear there). Consumer class bandwidth clouds the price points for a lot of folks (consumer class: think party line).


Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 12:32 p.m.

So now the FREE wireless all over the county is really $150.00 a month? These guys just jump from one scam to the other once the money runs out.


Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 12:19 p.m.

Sorry, but WiMAX is not true "4G":


Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 11:26 a.m.

Wireless Washtenaw is a FAILURE. They got all kinds of concessions from local government and were not able to deliver a low-price alternative to cable. A waste of OUR money. Then the original company bailed and sold to Digital services is the next Big Oil; these companies are sweetheart deals and skipping town, or achieving monopolies and bleeding the citizens. Watch out!

Linda Diane Feldt

Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 9:47 a.m.

It sure would be great if residents on the Old West Side who also have line of sight to Tower Plaza could subscribe for about 1/3 of the price listed. I would love to have a good alternative to Comcast. $50 a month or less for high speed internet would be lovely and really doesn't seem to be too much to ask for. Or maybe as a special rate for small home businesses near downtown?