IT Science Case Study: Bringing Connectivity Without Fiber to Old San Juan

eWEEK IT SCIENCE CASE STUDY: Building a multi-gigabit connectivity solution for high-speed, high-density deployments in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, was a big challenge, due to many historic properties in the area that had to be handled with extreme care.


Here is the latest article in an eWEEK feature series called IT Science, in which we look at what actually happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.

Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.

These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them are success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.

Today’s Topic: Bringing Wireless Access to a Historic Site 

Name the problem to be solved:

Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan includes a historic district called Old San Juan. Parts of Old San Juan date back 500 years, which leads to significant challenges with implementing technology infrastructure. For instance, due to digging restrictions, the amount of fiber cables laid in the area was very limited, which made fiber or cable broadband connectivity nearly impossible. With the lack of proper infrastructure, the tourist area of old San Juan was not able to meet the communications and technology needs of its population.

Describe the strategy that went into finding the solution: 

The town needed a solution that would bring modern broadband to Old San Juan without the need to lay new fiber. With the recent launch of Facebook Terragraph, Aeronet, a Puerto Rican provider of high-speed broadband internet, determined that a trial utilizing Cambium Networks’ Facebook-certified technology would help them determine if fixed wireless was a viable path in Old San Juan and beyond.

List the key components in the solution: 

Old San Juan and Aeronet are using:

  • Facebook Terragraph, a high-bandwidth, low-cost wireless architecture that connects cities. Rapidly deployed on street poles or rooftops to create a mmWave wireless distribution network, Terragraph is capable of delivering fiber-like connectivity at a lower cost than fiber, making it ideally suited for applications such as fixed wireless access and Wi-Fi backhaul.
  • Cambium Networks’s 60 GHz cnWave , a Terragraph-certified outdoor multi-gigabit solution designed for the kind of high-speed, high-density deployments needed in Old San Juan. Aeronet has been working with Cambium for 18 years.

Describe how the deployment went, perhaps how long it took, and if it came off as planned:

The initial trial ran on a mesh system consisting of 14 nodes. Deployment was completed in a mere four weeks. It worked so well that broader deployment has been planned across the island.

Describe the result, new efficiencies gained, and what was learned from the project:

The deployment brought cost-effective, multi-gigabit connectivity to a centuries-old walled city that lacked fiber connectivity. The test numbers were excellent, with asymmetric bandwidth tests yielding 1.7 Gbps+, symmetric bandwidth yielding 1.25 Gbps, and latency of only 1 to 2 milliseconds. “By building a fixed-wireless network based on the most advanced technologies and latest standards, we have made multi-gigabit connectivity possible,” Aeronet founder and president Gino Villarini said.

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