Airwaive connects operators with vertical infrastructure

Airwaive is a startup that helps wireless operators find new locations to site radios and other telecom equipment.

The three-year old company has a database of around 1.5 million fiber-ready cellular sites. A lot of its data comes freely from the databases of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). And it also gets data from partnerships it has with some tower companies and owners of other vertical assets such as billboards and buildings.

“We provide operators with a toolset to identify, vet and engage with hosts in areas they’re looking to deploy radios,” said Jeff Yee, CEO of Airwaive.

Since Airwaive’s marketplace launched in early 2022, it now has 131 registered operators using the site.

Yee said he and his co-founder got the idea for Airwaive when he was working on 5G at ZTE. “I realized the small cell impact was going to be very dense and placed on rooftops.”

In a company video, Yee says, “With 5G and new frequencies, millions of new sites are needed to densify networks. New types of sites, including commercial and residential rooftops are expected to fill the gaps.”

The company already has some big operator customers in the U.S. It’s working with an unnamed operator, which purchased CBRS spectrum and wants to offload some of its MVNO traffic onto CBRS. Airwaive is helping it to locate vertical infrastructure to place its radios.

It’s also doing a lot of work in the southern part of the U.S. to help another new MVNO locate radio hosting sites.

Airwaive also works with distributed network operators such as Helium, which uses the Airwaive marketplace to find new locations to deploy its equipment.

Outside of the U.S., the company is helping operators in India and Ghana, and its next market is Nigeria. It gathers information about existing vertical infrastructure in those locations from operators as well as from Android phone-usage data.

Wired operators can also use Airwaive’s marketplace to determine the best fiber route between two points, based on the existing fiber between wireless towers.

Airwaive marketplace

Airwaive not only helps operators find existing hosting locations, but it also accepts new applications from potential hosts.

Operators use its interactive map to filter and home in on areas where they want to place new wireless equipment.  The operator than submits offers to prospective hosts, via the marketplace. If the value of the offer is appealing, hosts will then apply for the job.

Beau Peters, Airwaive's SVP of strategy and partnerships, said, “It’s up to the operator what they want to offer the host.” The average cost per hosting site via Airwaive’s platform is currently about $450 per month.

To-date, Airwaive’s revenue has been generated through transaction fees on lease agreements engaged through its platform. But the company is pivoting to remove itself from any lease agreements. Instead, it’s introducing subscription-based advanced features available as part of a new “Pro” offering it will unveil soon.