After more than 25 years of experience building and operating telecommunications networks, Peter Murray is redefining himself as sort of an Eco-warrior with a profit motive. To wit, he has become CEO of a new company, SWGinc.net, which sells new, used and surplus wireless network equipment, as well as assisting with properly recycling and repurposing components. He spoke with AGL Link about the mission of his company to keep telecom network equipment out of the landfills and turn a profit as well.
AGL Link: What is the need that you are filling in the telecom marketplace?
Murray: The lifespan of technology used to be about seven years, but it has dropped to three to five, which means a lot of equipment gets ripped out every year. Old equipment is often sent to a warehouse, where it sits and gathers dust and eventually ends up in a landfill. SWG is providing ways to deal with end of life, legacy carrier and telecom tower equipment.
Remember Open Range, the rural wireless provider that went bankrupt in 2011 and liquidated its WiMAX equipment? Well, the equipment’s sitting in warehouses around America, and people don’t know how to put the equipment back into play.
AGL Link: How do you do that?
Murray: If it is functional and can be repaired, the equipment should be re-used where it makes sense economically. In a developing country, where they don’t have fiber everywhere, they are happy with a 2G system, WiMAX or microwave broadband. Give them the radios and antennas and they can put up a tower and cover a village.
AGL Link: What if the equipment cannot be refurbished and resold?
Murray: We repurpose the equipment and extract the valuable metals and harvest spare parts. We engage in responsible recycling and disposal of the equipment.
AGL Link: What is your biggest challenge?
Murray: Most environmental laws deal with consumer electronics disposal, so recycling network equipment is voluntary. We believe it is time that carriers begin leading in the disposal of gear, but it is going to take a lot of education. Besides the environmental impact, carrier need to know there are financial returns available.
AGL Link: What would you like the wireless industry to know about used network equipment disposal?
Murray: Right now, electronics and network equipment represent 2 percent of the new electronic waste going into the landfills, but it brings 70 percent of the toxins. I want to increase the visibility and the message that the regulation is going to come, whether it’s this year or five years from now. As responsible citizens of the planet, carriers need to get ahead of the regulations and do the right thing. There are ways to do it properly that provide a return on the investment.
AGL Link: How do you influence carriers to do the right thing?
Murray: We work with certain manufacturers and distributors to offer a buy-back program for companies that are upgrading their networks. It doesn’t have to go to a warehouse and end up in a dumpster one day. That is the piece I am most personally involved with. I am trying to build programs that make it easy for companies to be conscientious. The first rule of responsible recycling is reuse.
AGL Link: What markets do you sell to the most?
Murray: Rural markets in the United States make up 70 percent of SWG’s business. Outside the United States, Ireland and Scotland have been big customers for backhaul equipment, because they don’t do a lot of fiber and need wireless broadband. Other big markets are Africa and Central America.
AGL Link: What kinds of equipment do you sell?
Murray: Wireless broadband, mostly microwave, and WiMAX equipment. We’ve seen demand for Wi-Fi as well. We sell new and refurbished licensed and unlicensed sector antennas, licensed and unlicensed access points and subscriber modules. Some of the equipment we sell was offered to us unused, still in the box.
AGL Link: Who are your customers?
Murray: WISPs and rural cellular companies are probably the mostly likely customers. Backhaul is the hottest use for this equipment. The need is mostly felt in rural areas, and WiMAX and fixed microwave broadband is very effective there, solving small market issues. We are seeing more demand in the higher education and energy sectors as well.