ERF Wireless: Oil Price Increases Pump Up Business
A "mobile broadband trailer" helps extend the reach of wireless networks to serve the oil drilling industry.
Texas is a BIG state. When I recently spoke with Dean Cubley, CEO of ERF Wireless, I had to visualize driving from Richardson to Tyler to recall how big Texas is compared to where I live in Maryland.
ERF Wireless Inc. is located in League City, Texas, and is the parent company of Energy Broadband Inc., ERF Enterprise Network Services, ERF Bundled Wireless Services, and ERF Wireless Messaging Services. The company specializes in providing wireless and broadband product and service solutions to enterprise, commercial and residential clients on a regional, national and international basis. Its principals have been in the wireless broadband, network integration, triple play FTTH, IPTV and content delivery business for more than 40 years.
ERF Wireless also offers a real niche service, called Mobile Broadband Trailer Systems (MBTS), to oil and gas companies that are drilling and operating in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Wyoming, Louisiana, Colorado, Kansas, North Dakota and Canada. In November 2010, they signed a deal with Skybeam Inc. to add more coverage in Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma, adding more than 25,000 square miles to their footprint.
The alternative to ERF's MBTS is VSAT and according to Dean, "even the best VSAT services which are more expensive, have limited bandwidth and still have 700-800 msecs of delay, and this affects the software that drillers use because it relies on real time communications."
The MBTS are 50 or 100-foot towers on a trailer that are provided to gas and oil companies on a day rate because after 7-10 days they move operations. The MBTS operates 15-20 miles beyond ERF's coverage footprint. I asked Dean whether or not federal stimulus money or the FCC broadband initiative has helped ERF Wireless and he said no and that most stimulus monies and initiatives that received funding were for the fiber companies and middle mile. According to Broadband.gov:
These high capacity, multi-megagbit per second connections can be tens, if not hundreds of miles long-and can be very costly. As a result, any plan to ensure broadband access for all Americans must examine closely whether these on-ramps are adequately available, reasonably priced, and efficiently provided in all areas of the country.
As the per-barrel price of oil increases and pumps more business to ERF Wireless for MBTS because drilling is up; the downside is rural America is still suffering from lack of service availability. ERF applied for over $31 million in grants and loans for “last-mile” projects under the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and received none. Dean said, “Rural towns have three things in common: a bank, a school and a medical facility."