Half the world’s population remains offline, according to the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, but Telefónica SA, Spain’s largest telecommunications company is working on a project to open access. The company is testing battery-powered microwave networks in remote parts of Latin America, aiming to connect the more than 100 million people who are offline. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the off-the-grid towers intend to bring internet and cell service to remote areas without wired connections.
The innovators behind the project are 34-year old Juan Campillo and 33-year old César Hernández Perez. Telefónica agreed to set up their Internet Para Todos project with 20 full-time employees in 2016, reported Bloomberg. Telefónica won’t say how much it’s investing the project, but Perez says the company is focused on projects where a nationwide investment of $50 million to $300 million makes sense.
Telefónica brought its first reliably 24-hour gridless cell towers online in Peru late last year. They serve 25,000 people in the Amazon rainforest, according to Clear Blue Technologies International. Perez noted that customers there pay no more for service than in grid-connected areas.
The infrastructure works like this: each tower receives microwave transmissions from the adjacent tower in a chain leading back to a grid-and-internet-connected network operations center. They rely on solar panels, batteries, and specialized control hardware and software to operate. Each tower maintains cell coverage within a radius of 2.5 miles, reported Bloomberg.
February 14, 2019