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  • Guest: Chadd Giles

  • Company: Resound Networks

  • On this edition of The Broadband Bunch, we visit with co-founder and COO of Resound Networks, Chadd Giles. As a Wireless Internet Service Provider focused on maintaining high standards and consistent service to customers, Resound Networks has quickly drawn the attention of economic development commissions all across portions of the Texas Panhandle and adjacent states. Giles talks about their explosive growth and how technology often used in the gas and oil industry has made a big impact in pre-deployment testing for eventual permanent tower sites starting with their very first build out.  We also talk about the tremendous demand for new Wi-Fi hotspots to serve independent school districts all across their footprint, driven in part by the current need for distance learning. Hope you enjoy our discussion.

    Craig Corbin:

    Our guest today co-founded a communications company which has in four short years become a driving force in the economic development of cities across the panhandle of Texas, West Texas, Eastern New Mexico, and parts of Western Oklahoma. Based in Pampa, Texas, Resound Networks is a Wireless Internet Service Provider for commercial and residential broadband. Members of the Resound Networks family include everyone from ranchers and farmers to lawyers and businesses. The co-founder and COO of Resound Networks, Chadd Giles.

    WISP Resound Networks’ Corporate Mission is All About the Customer

    Craig Corbin:

    Chadd, the Resound Networks story, which has grown in fairly short order, and I’m sure that a big part of that growth is because of, in no small part, your corporate values, which I saw on your company website.  I love the quote, “We work 24/7 because our customers depend on us 24/7. We know our best was good for today. We will do better tomorrow.” That is a phenomenal corporate value or mission statement. Tell us about how that all came about.

    Chadd Giles:

    So just being in the communication industry for all my professional career, it’s all about the customers. They’re the ones providing for us. So we hit the ground every morning for them, and it’s all about keeping the network up, and keeping our customers connected to the internet, for sure.

    Craig Corbin:

    In fact, you’re just minutes away from another Wi-Fi hotspot installation, am I correct?

    Expanding Broadband Connectivity Across Communities for Distance Learning During COVID-19

    Chadd Giles:

    Yes, sir. In our coverage area, we’ve been contacted by multiple ISDs [Independent School Districts] that are scrambling to figure out how they’re going to connect the kid that doesn’t have internet at their home today. So they can come up to the schools and get on their Chromebooks and download their studies for the day, and then come back the next morning and upload those studies to keep the kids connected to the school and keep the learning continued. We have teams scattered across our whole coverage area putting in Wi-Fi hotspots, also helping with any type of networking for the local schools that don’t have networking engineers, they help them set these networks up to secure their network and also keep the kids connected.

    Brad Hine:

    Chadd, considering where we are right now in the world, reacting to COVID-19, that’s a tremendous service that you’re offering your community.  At the Broadband Bunch, we talk a lot about our passion to connect folks and keep them connected.  It’s never been more crucial and important than it is right now.  Can you comment a little bit on that?

    Chadd Giles:

    When this first happened, our corporate office is in Pampa, which is the hometown of myself and Brian Waldrip, our CEO. We were contacted by the [school] Superintendent and also by the city to figure out what can they do? They first wanted to put Wi-Fi on buses, and we explained that that wouldn’t work, when you’re trying to cover 400 kids that have no internet, to huddle around a bus. So we’ve been in multiple meetings with them. We identified core infrastructure in each town, meaning fiber assets that they currently own, so we didn’t have to back out to each one or bring any type transport into these areas. We’re simply catching a network device on their network and doing the Wi-Fi access and giving these kids connectivity. And also where we can monitor these connections remotely because there’s going to be so many nodes in the field that we can see if anybody’s abusing it, or they’re having trouble, or we get any type of any interference, we can manage all this from our corporate office in Pampa.

    Brad Hine:

    That’s such a tremendous service that you guys offer, and not just trying to connect the underserved and the unserved, but everyone especially now in today’s environment.  I’m curious a little bit about your background. I know you’re a founder of Resound. What led you to this point and actually getting into a startup? I mean, what did you do in your previous career?

    WISP Resound Networks – Providing Better Broadband Services Based on High Standards

    Chadd Giles:

    I started in the mid ’90s with a small regional carrier, Dobson Communications out of Oklahoma City. They were a telco and they launched the first analog AMPS [Advanced Mobile Phone System] network, Nortel Networks, in the Texas Panhandle. I started there, moved around a little bit, went to work for Sprint in Oklahoma City and the CDMA build out, went through the AMPS TDMA, CDMA. And then when I left Sprint, I went to AT&T, worked for them for a little bit in a data center as a network engineer. And then in 2000, I left and went to work for Alltel, which then was acquired by Verizon Wireless.

    Chadd Giles:

    So from 2000 to 2016, I was a performance engineer for Verizon, looking at KPIs and keeping the network under wraps in certain areas. So I was part of a huge team across the US that took care of the Verizon network. In 2015, in the hometown that I live in, there was just a need for internet, 15,000 people. We have cable plant here, a couple other WISPs, but we just thought that we could deliver it better really based off of Verizon’s standards. Took those standards and came home to Pampa. We built one site in Pampa on a fiber drain, which is Dobson fiber drain. Put friends and family on it for about six months, added two more sites in Pampa, put more friends and family on it.  Just to make sure we were testing technologies, testing five gigahertz, testing LTE. Then in 2016 first quarter, we installed our first customer and took off from there.

    Chadd Giles:

    It’s something I’ve done all my life. I enjoy communication. I enjoy engineering, and we’ve seen a need for it. And once we launched, it was a huge ramp in Pampa with internet that I could say was good internet. The cable company, there’s nothing wrong with them, we just felt like we could do it a little differently and better, and that’s what we did. And the surrounding towns east of us here, Wheeler and Shamrock, heard what we were doing, and we were asked to come build that too. And at that point, that’s when I brought Bryan Waldrip in as an investor, and we ramped it from there.

    Flexible Broadband Services for the Community Including Schools, Remote Oil & Gas Sites and Rodeos

    Craig Corbin:

    Chadd, you made mention of the background and performance engineering… and one of the things that   is in oil and gas country, there’s a big role that communications play in that industry. And as it turns out, I think you guys are utilizing some of the technology from that industry with what you’re doing at Resound Networks with regard to using Cell Sites On Wheels or COWs for pre-deployment testing. Talk a little bit about that.

    Chadd Giles:

    We use that in a couple of different ways. One, we’ve used it in areas that we’re wanting to target, say a community of 100 houses, a private community, or a pocket of homes that we don’t currently cover. So we’ll deploy the COW, we’ll put different technology antennas, different vendor antennas that deal with noise better than others, LTE technology on it. We’ll connect it to our network. And at that point, once we deploy this COW, we can start to sniff there and hear what’s out there and analyze the data and bring that data back in to our tools that we’ve built in-house to look at KPIs, SNR, at your levels that you’re seeing out there. So then at that point, when we do the build, we know exactly what we need. And we’ll put a permanent tower in and go ahead and build that area.

    Chadd Giles:

    Secondly, we’ll use it in the oil fields where their very remote access to internet’s very little. We’ll deploy these COWs. It may be that we deploy two COWs off of our main site. So where we terminate our fiber at, we may go to one COW with the license back haul from that COW to another COW and then at the end COW, we’ll put our access gear on that COW, and then deliver multiple access out to multiple drilling rigs, completion sites. We’re doing gas plants. New plants that they’re building, we’ll put the COW right on site and provide Wi-Fi off of the COW. Pretty much what we’re doing for the ISD is we just do it for a construction site out in the oil field. And then we’ll also use them for doing concerts, rodeos, and things like that. We’ll provide free Wi-Fi for events like that as well with them.

    Craig Corbin:

    To me, that sounds like the ultimate flexibility of being able to provide service anywhere you need. And from a standpoint of your pre-deployment testing, a huge time saver, and it enables you, I would assume, to be extremely precise in positioning the permanent location of your towers.

    Deploying Rural Broadband Services Faster

    Chadd Giles:

    Yeah. And then we have tools, our propagation tools that we can look at the design from an RF perspective on software. But once the RF engineers do that prediction, then we take the prediction and we put that prediction on the COW, we put it in the real life, put it in an environment that is going to be sitting in. And then we can then go out and drive test it. So we go out in vehicles, we drive test those sectors, we collect the data, and we analyze the data not only from what the antennas are seeing or what the clients are seeing, but what the clients will see once they’re installed. So we analyze it from both sides just from the access tower to the customer end as well.

    Brad Hine:

    And Chadd, looking back over your business since your inception, it looks like you guys have grown pretty rapidly over the last many years. So can you speak about one of, what are some of the main success points and keys that allowed you to grow organically that way?  I’ve seen that Resound Networks has grown quite rapidly in the last many years. So what would you say are some of the key factors that has led to that growth and that success?

    Build the Network Right, Build the Network Once, Achieve Maximum Network Reliability

    Chadd Giles:

    When we started it in Pampa, like I said, we built Shamrock and Wheeler which is two communities of about 2,400 people suffering really bad on copper. So when we built those communities, we seen we had a take rate of almost 30% penetration when we got into those towns with the competition that was there.

    Chadd Giles:

    So our business plan in 2016 moving forward was to build those communities of 1,000 to 5,000 was the sweet spot. Because we come in delivering off of fiber, we do LTE. You can’t get five gig, so we’re building it right. We’re running the fiber up the tower. We build it based on kind of what we learned in Verizon over the years. So we just scaled down, obviously, what Verizon is doing, and we put it in something that makes sense for us as a WISP to deploy.

    Chadd Giles:

    So deploying sites that your up times are, we try to go for five nines, just like we did at Verizon. We want the network on the air. We don’t want to be fighting it every time a storm comes in. So some of the success is just build it right and build it once and move to the next town.

    Chadd Giles:

    Second, I think is really scaling it. I know when we were littler, when we didn’t have the funds, we might build one side, it costs us $50,000 to build it, so we could build one maybe once every six months. Well now, to scale it, in 2017 we built 47 sites in about six months. So it was more of making the plan of, okay, we have high penetration rates in these types of communities, but then going and building 15 and 20 of them at one time, it really helps scale the numbers for sure.

    WISP Model – Utilizing Tools and KPIs to Maximize Quality of Experience at the End Device

    Brad Hine:

    That’s fascinating. I have to say, you mentioned an acronym a little earlier when you answered another question, KPI, Key Performance Indicators. I can say that being a Product Director and a product guy for many years, focusing on analytics solutions, that’s something very near and dear to my heart. Can you talk a little bit about a WISP model and what you might need as critical KPIs to understand and manage those networks throughout your days and weeks?

    Chadd Giles:

    Yeah, so it was kind of a shock when I came out of Verizon because at Verizon, obviously, you see everything that was happening. You knew everything that it was happening by looking at trending. So when we came in, and at first we didn’t have those tools, but then shortly after that, we couldn’t see nothing, and it’s scary. So we put the tools in place. Our in-house tools are built by a coder that we have in-house. We also have tools made outside vendors.

    Chadd Giles:

    And it’s more about the quality of service instead of the quality of the experience. So we want to know what’s going on in the end device. The model is sometimes, “Hey, we’re delivering 100 megs or 50 megs to your roof. I don’t know what’s going on inside.” And that’s not what we want. So our tools dive all the way down into the TCP traffic of what’s going on in the iPhone or the Roku device or the computer in the back bedroom. We want to know what was going on there because you can deliver 50 megs to the roof, but if their Roku don’t work in the back room, they’re not happy. So our tools dive right down into the end devices and that’s important. The industry, we hear 90% of your issues are Wi-Fi related. That’s what we see. So our tools and KPIs are studied all the way to the end of eyes.

    Brad Hine:

    What goes on in the house is indeed important and crucial obviously to your end user, your subscriber. And I do know, to that end, there’s some new Spectrum that’s going to be available this year, especially for service providers like yourself, I know. Can you speak a little bit about CBRS and what’s coming down the pipe about mid-year?

    Transmitting over CBRS  – WISPs Competing with Tier 1 Providers

    Chadd Giles:

    We have around 90 LTE nodes across our whole network. We’ve been full Google SaaS for about three months now. So we chose Google to be our SaaS provider. One, is they’re obviously a big player in the mapping industry. We use Google Planner to also plan our LTE network down to three meter data, and some even lower than that clutter data. So with that tool, we can really hone in on what the signal is going to be on the roof.  So with the CBRS, things like that are helpful that we can drop a sales side on this planning tool. We can apply the antenna files. We can set our hots, our transmit power, our vendor, and we can zoom right down on the roof, and the sales people can then see, okay, on this roof right here that they want internet, our SRP is going to be neg 98, SNR going to be 30, it’s perfect. Put the antenna right here. I mean, Google has got it so precise so that you can really know where to put the antenna before your truck even gets there. So that’s a big thing with CBRS, and also getting into a somewhat license territory where you have more control of the RF and provide a good clean service out of the five gig networks.

    Chadd Giles:

    The challenge that we’re fixing to have is the cost of this. You got the big players that want CBRS, and it’s going to be a big push for all the tier ones, and companies like ours as well to get into this. But we’re definitely will be involved heavily in the Spectrum coming in mid year, towards the end of the year. We’ve got a team put together in-house that’s dealing with the FCC and with Spectrum. So we have CVRs calls every Monday at 9:00 AM to discuss what’s changed from the day before because it’s moving quickly.

    Craig Corbin:

    We know that’s going to keep you busy. And with the current situation that Brad referenced earlier with the nation and the world dealing with the coronavirus and how that has put an emphasis on an activity, you’ve had to sort of retool how your staff is working because of the demand for Wi-Fi on the schools that you talked about hotspots all over the place. You’ve actually taken some of your engineering teams, and they’re now working alongside your normal tower crews. Talk a little bit about that.

    Widening Broadband Connectivity – Rapid Response to Coronavirus Caused Demand

    Chadd Giles:

    Yeah, so first quarter of this year we had five new builds slated to build, which they’re still in process, the leases have been done. Fiber circuits have been ordered. So we are right in the middle of that. We’re moving over equipment, entire crews are deployed.  When this happened, we were contacted by all the Pampa ISD first, then as days, not weeks come by, we seen how severe it was fixing to get. So at that point, we have two four man crews on our tower crews. We pulled them in, pulled them off all of our projects, our network engineers, our system performance engineers, we’ve pulled all of them in. And in the middle of this, we’ve remote all of our employees to home. Our corporate office, there’s two people there now of about 50. So we’re in the process of moving phones to people’s homes. So we’re just trying to take care of our employees, at the same time getting ready for this ramp up. But we’ve moved 100% of our engineering team and our construction teams, and they’re spread out in different towns every day until we complete.

    Craig Corbin:

    You’re responding to what the demand is in the area. And we talk about the footprint that you guys are serving. It’s phenomenal how you’ve grown into parts of western Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico, west Texas, the Panhandle. Obviously, the sky’s the limit for Resound Networks. Take us five, 10 years down the road from your perspective on what the footprint will look like at that point.

    Resound Networks WISP Growth – Organically and Through Good Acquisitions

    Chadd Giles:

    Yeah. So we’re doing organic building as well, but also, we’ve come into an acquisition side as well. To date, we’ve acquired three smaller WISPs. What you usually see is a WISP will get to three, 500 customers, and then they’re to the point they got to start buying trucks. They got to hire a network engineer. They got to put a core in a data center somewhere. They got to start doing peering and things that you just can’t do because you’re usually a one man shop or you and your friend or something like that.

    Chadd Giles:

    So right now, we were going into a time of we’re going to look at good acquisitions. We’re not just buying anybody. We’re buying companies that fit us. That’s deploying the same technologies. That our fiber assets make sense. In the next coming years, for sure, we’ll be deploying new sites and continue to build our organic builds, but we’re going to have another focus on acquiring smaller WISPs to bring them in as well.

    Chadd Giles:

    With LTE coming, we’re getting into the small cell deployments. Today, we’re deploying in eastern New Mexico, in Hobbs, New Mexico, we have two sites there, we’re right now deploying nine small cells, getting closer to the customer with LTE on them, giving millimeter wave back haul to them. So we’re really going to penetrate the areas that we’re already in. We’ve doubled in size year over year, and we expect to keep doing that.

    Advice to Start Up WISPs

    Brad Hine:

    That’s amazing. So doubling every year is quite a feat. You started as a startup, and you’ve been acquiring some other WISPs along the way. You talked about having to add special teams for operations and more visibility into the subscriber homes. So clearly you’ve run the gamut on running a business from the operational side and from the business side. But what kind of advice could you share over the last many years growing through acquisition, and then maybe to somebody actually just starting up with a WISP today?

    Chadd Giles:

    We get a lot of calls from WISPS that are starting up all the time over LinkedIn and things like that. And the biggest struggle that they have is capital. I mean, it is what our struggle was at first. But if you got a good plan together, and you get some people that that’s done it before, so you don’t go out and you put all the equipment up and then you realize it don’t work and you got to take it down. And next thing you know, you spent 3 or $400,000 that now you just had to go flip the whole network.

    Chadd Giles:

    So the biggest advice is put a plan in place, get your fiber assets managed where you can look out. Because we didn’t, when we put our first fiber connection in, it was in Pampa, it was at a tower site. And it was the worst place in the world. You got lightning and all sorts of environmental issues to deal with. But if we would have had it through our… We had to put our core in Dallas where it is today, where we can aggregate with Netflix, Amazon, and do direct peering. And it cost us money to move that, but the problem is at first you don’t have that money and you have to do what you have to do.

    Chadd Giles:

    So if I were to have a do-over or to start over, to put a perfect plan in place and get the funding that you need to push it and not set still long because if we would have set still, we’d be in Pampa today and that’s probably where we’d still be. But Bryan Waldrip and Tyson Curtis, the business partners, there’s three of us, and those guys have built big oil companies, and they know how to scale. So there’s guys like that, they come in and they’re friends. We went high school together. But they took the financial side of this business, and they scaled it to get to where we’re at today. So I think it’s just a good solid plan. Find your targets, find your sweet spots, and get the funding you need to move quickly.

    Craig Corbin:

    This is The Broadband Bunch, and we’re visiting with the co-founder and COO of Resound Networks, Chadd Giles. And Chadd, as we begin to wrap up, I do understand that there is an exciting development going on with regard to you made mention of your corporate office, and I think that in very short order you’re going to be in some brand new digs there in Pampa. Tell us that story.

     

    WISP Community Involvement – Bloom Where You Started

    Chadd Giles:

    When we started out, we started out in a little shop that Bryan Waldrip owned. We started out there in one little room, and we kept building on to that shop and building it and building it. And we got to a point where we had to rethink what we were doing. So we were hiring engineers. We were bringing people in from Canada, California, different places in the US to bring talent in, to take care of the network that we’re building, and also to help to move quickly.

    Chadd Giles:

    So we’re in the process of moving our corporate office to Lubbock, Texas, where we do have a small regional office now, but we were looking to move our corporate office to Lubbock where we could hire talent. Getting people to move to Pampa was pretty tricky. So in the process, the EDC and the city came to us, said, “We’d like you all to stay here.” There’s a bank building downtown that we were already looking at. It’s a First National Bank that was built in the 1800s. It’s 12,000 square foot building, really historic. It’s a historical marker as well in Pampa.

    Chadd Giles:

    So we had multiple meetings with the city and the EDC, and came to agreement if we would keep the corporate office here that they would help us with certain parts of this. And so now in April we should be moving into it. It’ll be our NOC, our network operations center will be there 24/7. Our tech support group will be there 24/7. The building will be open 24/7, which doesn’t happen in a town like Pampa, Texas. So it’s exciting for us in the community as well because we agreed to bring the higher paying jobs that we were after to Pampa, and it really helps the communities here to bring those type of jobs here.

    Craig Corbin:

    Chadd, congratulations on that. And a phenomenal story with Resound Networks. I’ve very much enjoyed visiting with you. Continued success. We look forward to circling back at some point down the road and finding out how much more your company has grown, but keep up the good work.


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