August 31, 2014

Work in Wichita area fuels growth of Buhler company

A contract with a national wireless provider has boosted the payroll and business fortunes of Ideatek.

Buhler-based Ideatek has landed a contract with a national wireless provider that has meant a major expansion for the 15-year-old area company – with only more growth on the horizon, company officials said.

While unable to identify the carrier, Jill Droge, director of sales and marketing for Ideatek, said the contract has allowed Ideatek to add two dozen employees this year, with a similar number likely to be added over the next year or two.

The company is installing a 30-mile fiber-optic ring around the city of Wichita, as well as small cell antennae to attach to the ring.

It’s also installing similar systems around a number of smaller cities in the state, including Hutchinson.

It is both burying and stringing the fiber-optic cables overhead, depending on the area involved, Droge said. As it’s laying the contract cable, it’s also installing its own lines for future service expansion.

“Since we already have the cost of installing there, we might as well install more than we need at the time,” she said. “With that fiber ring around the city, that helps from a connectivity standpoint for potential businesses coming in.”

Besides the cables, the company is installing 100-plus small cell antennae to fill in gaps between larger cell tower sites, which “helps with capacity and coverage, while being less intrusive,” she said. The antennae can intercept signals from wireless devices to lighten the load on existing, large cell towers, and fill in gaps that may pop up between them.

The small antennae are on poles generally less than 35 feet high.

“A lot of times, depending on each site location, we’re using poles already in place, such as a light pole or power pole,” she said.

With the contract, Ideatek is doubling the size of its regional office in Wichita, which houses permit coordinators, project managers and engineers, Droge said.

“Once we establish the fiber ring around the city, it will give us an opportunity, at some point, to possibly place sales teams in there,” she said. “On top of what we do for wireless carriers, we have the ability to provide Internet, phone and video for schools, governments, commercial and enterprise businesses.”

“If the fiber path happens to be where it needs to be, we'll work with U.S. Cellular, Cox, Verizon or Sprint.”

The company is exploring, once the contract is completed, installing rings around other communities, such as McPherson, Salina, Junction City, Manhattan, Pittsburg and Liberal, Droge said.

Ideatek, founded by CEO and President Daniel Friesen of Buhler in 1999, originated as a local telephone and Internet service provider. It has about 1,400 miles of fiber optics installed around the state, from Kansas City to the Colorado border, Droge said.

“We originated as more of a residential product company, but we’ve gone through a lot of changes through the years,” she said. “From computer repair and residential business providing Internet, phone and TV to residential customers in Buhler, we’ve grown into providing fiber backhaul for wireless carriers.”

Besides offices in Buhler and Wichita, at 4031 E. Harry, the company employs a number of people who work remotely around the state. The company recently made the Inc. 5000 list, which recognizes the top 5,000 fastest-growing privately held companies in the nation, for a third consecutive year, Droge said.

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