Three Companies Have Plans to Improve Internet Accessibility
On Wednesday, January 16, 2019, the Yeshiva University Wall Street Group, a professional networking organization created by the YU Office of Alumni Affairs, presented “Israeli Companies Transforming the Broadband Industry,” hosted by Shiboleth LLP.
Jay Jubas, senior partner at McKinsey & Co., moderated a panel discussion among Dudi Baum, co-founder and CEO of Sckipio, and Izik Kirshenbaum, co-founder, chairman and president of Siklu (both of which are Israeli-based), and Alfred West, chairman and COO of Skywire Networks (based in Brooklyn).
In their wide-ranging discussion about broadband, internet access and the state of the telecom industry, they saw two significant challenges for the future, one narrowly technological, the other dealing with the telecommunications market more broadly.
The technological challenges involve what is known as the “last mile”: running connections from a central juncture into buildings that most likely are not outfitted to handle the connections, such as older structures with only copper wiring installed.
Each company has unique solutions to this problem.
Baum explained that Sckipio’s approach, its “g.fast solution,” has been to invent a mechanism for apartment buildings that “links the fiber optic we can run into the basement to the internal copper wires so that the customers can use a special device to access broadband service.”
Siklu’s approach, explained Kirshenbaum, is to use fixed wireless equipment that enables multi-gigabit connections for buildings and companies that are otherwise expensive to reach by fiber. “We consider fiber optic cable the ‘highway’,” he said, “and use our technology to build the ‘byways’ into the buildings.”
Skywire Networks, said West, employs similar approaches but focuses primarily on older buildings outfitted with copper wires and uses proven technologies to keep costs down. “There are 240,000 buildings in New York City like this,” he noted, “and each of these are gold for us.”
On the broader economic front, all the panelists bemoaned the digital divide in the United States and did not see the current telecom companies, like Verizon, being able to narrow that divide, given their current investment strategies and plans for building out infrastructure.
They also noted that the United States government does not invest in infrastructure upgrades at anywhere near the level of countries like China, leaving it with an aging system that cannot adapt to meet the needs of its population and economy.
This does give smaller companies like theirs an opportunity to serve untapped markets, but while they may prosper, the lack of a national digital investment strategy leaves the larger questions unanswered.
“The YU Wall Street Group is focused on having more Israeli-themed events in 2019,” said co-chair Lawrence Askowitz ’87YC, “including companies focused on real estate technology like CrediFi and those changing the video industry, such as Wibbitz. Our goal is to familiarize our 2,500-person group with the amazing companies coming out of Israel and for the Israeli companies to benefit from our top-tier talent on Wall Street. These events enable and extend the YU-Israel connection for the undergraduates to the professional level. We expect a future in which many Israeli companies not only hire YU undergraduates but will use the banking, investing and legal talent from the YU professional networks as well.”
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