Startup Hexvarium thinks better data can close the broadband gap

Freshly launched startup Hexvarium is hoping to make it easier for service providers to understand the long-term costs and revenue associated with prospective broadband builds using a new software mapping tool. CEO Gerry Lawlor told Fierce the tool will provide detailed data insights that have hitherto been lacking in the industry, and, ultimately help close the broadband gap. But Hexvarium isn’t just looking to sell software. It’s also putting its money where its mouth is with a $500 million broadband investment fund.

The company’s HexMAPP software breaks the entire U.S. down into hexagonal blocks. These are color coded based on build desirability, which is calculated by combining a range of inputs gleaned from U.S. Census, FCC and proprietary data. By clicking on a block, service providers can get a detailed view of not only the mix of people and businesses in an area, but also income levels, what types of products and price points a location might require, forecast demand over time and the competitive landscape.

Hexvarium has also already mocked up a network design to push fiber to every home in the country. That means it can cross reference this design – which includes information about the expected mix of aerial versus buried construction, the total number of route miles needed, take rates, etc. – with the aforementioned data to yield a detailed cost/benefit analysis for each hex block.

Interestingly, the company’s software is also built to reflect the relationship between blocks.

“We realized that you can’t just build perfectly good hex bins and ignore really bad hex bins,” Lawlor explained. He added this relationship feature helps companies better understand not just where they should go, but also when. “We maintain a sequential build ability. If I’m only building so much, I’m able to reevaluate each hex bin to see what is the best sequence let alone the best physics, the physical realities of every area because the sequence is really important also.”

Lawlor, who worked in the financial industry before jumping into telecom, said the idea behind all this is to help service providers avoid stranding capital. Rather than using HexMAPP for one-and-done insights, Lawlor said the idea is for service providers to use the continually updated data to make adjustments to their plans along the way. And better data will also help service providers manage consumer expectations in the areas they’re looking to serve, he said.

Service providers today broadly broadcast their entrance into new markets. While that message hits home for some, there are others in the community “that I may never get to.” “So being able to have that conversation logically we think is something that will help turn marginal into great and really bad into marginal to help change the economic outlook,” he said.

When you put it all together, Hexvarium believes the ability to provide better data about the 40 to 50 million homes in the U.S. that are riskier to cover will help convince service providers to take the leap into less desirable areas and ultimately close the broadband gap.

Lawlor noted the company plans to sell its software as a service and is already engaged with four utilities, seven municipalities and four private equity firms. But it is also looking to make its own investments in broadband builds.

The CEO said Hexvarium is working with an investment bank in San Francisco to raise money for what it hopes will be a $500 million broadband fund. Its goal, Lawlor said, is to use money from the fund to connect 1 million homes with white-labeled networks over the next five to seven years.