Ubiquiti Faces Tech Giants in Internet Push

By Andy Meek

Some of the biggest technology companies have begun making moves toward the same goal being pursued by Ubiquiti Networks Inc., the wireless communications company founded by Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera.

Pera’s Ubiquiti is trying to “close the digital divide,” a phrase the company often employs, by building network communications platforms for use by almost anyone around the world. The company is especially targeting areas outside the U.S. that are underserved by Internet connectivity – while companies like Google and Facebook in recent weeks have announced their intention to do the same.


In different ways, both Google and Facebook have publicly embraced their own versions of the goal of connecting more people to the Internet. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is pushing a concept called Internet.org – an initiative involving a group of tech and telecommunications companies helping bring Internet access to the few billion people who don’t have it now.

In early 2013, Google launched “Project Loon,” its effort to provide Internet access in remote parts of the world by using balloons that will beam down wireless Internet signals.

Ubiquiti’s penetration of its own potential customer base keeps growing. The company – ownership of which gave Pera the wealth he used to buy the Grizzlies last year – already has more than 10 million devices deployed in more than 180 countries.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company announced this week that it has shipped its one millionth UniFi enterprise Wi-Fi access point. In celebration of that milestone, the one millionth UniFi access point is plated in 24-karat gold.

“Enterprise buyers have quickly discovered that cutting-edge, high-performance Wi-Fi technology doesn’t have to be expensive,” Pera said in a statement released about the milestone. “Ubiquiti is proving that by eliminating inefficient business practices, we can disrupt incumbents in a highly competitive market and deliver great value to customers.”

A Forbes article this month noted that Ubiquiti’s latest earnings report was met “with exuberant buying on Wall Street” and that the company’s revenue has grown “dramatically” over the last four quarters.

In a kind of manifesto about the Internet.org project Zuckerberg posted to Facebook, he wrote that only 2.7 billion people are online today, or a little more than one-third of the world’s population.

“Even though projections show most people will get smartphones in the next decade, most people still won’t have data access because the cost of data remains much more expensive than the price of a smartphone,” the Facebook founder wrote.

As an example of that same kind of work performed by Pera’s Ubiquiti, his company recently helped equip the Universidad del Azuay, among the top universities in Ecuador. It educates about 6,000 students and has in the past had problems with wireless equipment and technology from other manufacturers.

The school’s wireless network was down frequently, according to Ubiquiti, and its management was complicated. So the school turned to Ubiquiti to help cover the campus and its public areas with reliable wireless access – one more victory in what’s becoming a race to wire the rest of the unwired world.