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Puerto Rican Cell Infrastructure Devastated by Hurricane Maria

Carl Weinschenk

Smartphones are the main means of telecommunications in Puerto Rico, and the network, like everything else on the island, was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

The fracturing of the electric grid means, of course, that the cell towers more or less are all off line. The Reuters story, which was posted on September 29 and thus most likely relying on numbers from the beginning of the week, says that 90.9 percent were inoperable. Hopefully, that number has shrunk.

The bulk of the story describes the mad rush of people trying to find a signal:

The search for the elusive sliver of places now capable of providing a signal has become a frantic treasure hunt. Across this U.S. territory, motorists desperate to communicate are herding on the sides of highways, bridges and exit ramps, hoping that their cell phones will come back to life.


There are reports of the theft of diesel for backup generators and copper from cabling.

Facebook is sending connectivity teams to the island. Other companies, including carriers, are helping in Puerto Rico as well, according to Triple Pundit.

Great Days Ahead for Fixed Wireless

A report from The Carmel Group paints a rosy picture for the fixed wireless sector. The category, according to a story on the long report at Telecompetitor, will double from 4 million to 8 million subscribers between this year and 2021. Revenues during that period will rise from $2.7 billion to $5.2 billion.

The category will be pushed by heavyweights that are jumping in. These include Google, AT&T, Verizon and Windstream. The study sees seven reasons that fixed wireless will expand so rapidly. They range from much lower deployment costs compared to wired infrastructure and spectrum costs to the emergence of new markets such as home automation and home security.

The growing strength of fixed wireless was illustrated this week by AT&T’s announcement that it has made fixed wireless service available to homes and small businesses in nine additional states. This doubles the number of states where fixed wireless is an AT&T connectivity option. In all, it is available in 160,000 locations. That number is expected to grow to more than 400,000 by the end of the year and more than 1.1 million by 2020.

The states added are Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

SK, Samsung Link 4G and 5G

5G is a moving target both in terms of technology and demand. The two points are clear. There is a lot of new science involved and it all won’t be ready simultaneously and the avalanche of capacity won’t be needed, especially by consumers.

That is why a demonstration by SK and Samsung is important. The two companies have linked 4G and 5G networks. The former was operating at 2.6 GHz and the latter at 28 GHz and 3.5 GHz, according to ZDNet. The goal is to evolve into 5G:

The technology, Multi-RAT Interworking, will allow faster commercialisation of 5G networks. Users of 4G networks will be able to switch back and forth between them as soon as 5G begins deployment.

The story says that the companies successfully tested in two scenarios involving a moving car. One was use of a 4G/5G handset. The other was streaming to a 360-degree virtual reality video.

CenturyLink May Bring Fiber to Rural Colorado

CenturyLink has made a lot of business moves recently. For instance, it is offering a guaranteed “price for life” to subscribers who don’t change their service level or address.

The company is also working to expand its rural fiber footprint, according to The Colorado Business Journal. The site reports that the carrier is negotiating partnerships with communities on Colorado’s western slope and at least one on the northern front range to bring fiber to areas that it previously thought were not financially viable.

CenturyLink receives Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Connect America Fund subsidies to provide service in rural areas. Some areas do not qualify for the subsidies, however. The plan would be for the government of these municipalities to identify neighborhoods in which 30 percent to half of homes want services and are willing to put down a deposit.

Sprint Upgrades Its Magic Box

Sprint, in conjunction with CyPhy Works, is using the Sprint Magic Box to provide network coverage via drone. The drone, which in essence is being used as an aerial small cell, is being upgraded and tested in Midlothian, Texas, according to Wireless Week. The goal is to use the approach to offer coverage during disasters or at large events such as concerts. The Magic Box was launched by Sprint in May. That device, manufactured by Airspan, is designed for homes and offices.

The Magic Boxes use Sprint's 2.5 GHz or 1.9 GHz spectrum to reach the carrier's macro network. They connect to a cell tower if it is in the device's proximity, a cell on wheels or satellite cell site on light truck (COW or SatCOLT).

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


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