BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Journal staff

Badal

IT&E has begun introducing managed WiFi in the Mariana Islands.

Managed WiFi is secure free-to-user wireless access to the Internet. It aims to offer a superior tier of service and technical support to clients, also known as “carrier grade” service.

Pacific Telecom Inc., which does business as IT&E launched managed WiFi in February 2018 and now has clients in Guam and Saipan.

Mark Badal, chief information officer at IT&E said, “We consider ourselves the experts when it comes to this sort of technology.” Additionally, he said, “We understand the challenges businesses are going through when it comes to deploying WiFi infrastructure.”

 For managed WiFi, he said, “We do end-to-end support. It’s all monitored 24/7 in our command centers … by the same people that look at our cellular network.”

Badal said the service also offers system threat management and fault management. “It’s a fully managed service including monitoring and watching over your infrastructure. We always tell our clients technology should not be one of those things that you have to spend money and attention on; let us take care of it.”

The new offering is designed to overcome some of the physical barriers clients experience with concrete buildings in the Mariana Islands, Badal said.

“Some are very old; they are not designed for the new technologies that are being offered at the moment like … the hospitality grade for hotels for example — the smart room, hospitality-grade WiFi throughout the property.” Such buildings and the backbones of their networks were designed for telephone-based infrastructure, he said.

 Retrofitting a building for WiFi technology and cabling infrastructure is expensive, Badal said.  IT&E offers that as part of the new product, he said.  “We handle the CAPEX [capital expenditure] ourselves. We spend the upfront costs and then we amortize whatever cost for the build-out is for a certain period of years. … You don’t have to spend $300,000; $200,000; $100,000 upfront because IT&E will handle that cost for now and we will just spread the cost for a period of years, because we want to be long term partners with our clients and manage the infrastructure for them.”

Amortization is designed to suit clients and the size of the project.

“We just finished upgrading the infrastructure of a 500-room hotel project in Guam … and a 90-room hotel project in Saipan,” he said. Those properties are the Guam Plaza Resort & Spa in Tumon and the  91-room Aqua Resort Club Saipan, plus the Kanoa Resort Saipan.  “We are really flexible; we can go as small as 10 [rooms] or as big as 10,000,” Badal said. The service is available to any business, large or small that wants to improve its WiFi coverage, he said.

In addition, managed WiFi offers clients the ability to track usage — such as where and when the most usage occurs — and other data.

“One advantage of our platform is it has this analytics engine that analyses the data and the traffic that are being generated by all of our WiFi networks,” Badal said. “We can aggregate and generate it, to provide it to our clients to hopefully assist them on making decisions for their business.”  He said this was part of the value-added service that IT&E offered managed WiFi clients. “We’re offering them more.”

Clients can also tailor the product to meet user interests, he said, and use the product for promotions.

IT&E’s offering uses Passpoint — a “next generation” hotspot technology that allows people to automatically and securely connect to wireless networks.

 Badal said IT&E’s WiFi internet controls and access points are cloud-based. “It makes it easier and seamless for us to deploy all of this,” he said.

IT&E had begun its planning on the service from usage information, Badal said. “We realized that the majority of our data traffic — internet routing, streaming and any internet-based activities — pretty much 50% of the time is happening on the WiFi network. …You really need to have good coverage, the right technology, the right hardware, the right platform to have what we call a seamless experience of WiFi.”

IT&E had additionally invested in its own cloud-based infrastructure in the past year, he said, to prepare for the service. “For our WiFi service, Accurist Network is our partner,” Badal said.

The global managed WiFi market is expected to grow from $3.07 billion in 2017 to $6.11 billion by 2022 at a compound annual growth rate of 14.8%, according to a report by Research and Markets released March 2018.

 “North America is expected to hold the largest market size, and Asia Pacific is projected to grow at the highest rate during the forecast period,” the report said.

The strongest areas of growth are in transportation, logistics and hospitality (hotels and restaurants), the report said. mbj