Fixed Wireless Access: An alternative to connect and transform rural Latin America
- The arrival of internet connectivity is transforming local businesses, tourism, and education for communities in rural Latin America, helping to bridge the digital divide in the region
- Developed with the Costa Rican National Telecommunications Fund (FONATEL) and Claro Costa Rica, the purpose of the project is to bring universal telephony and internet access to rural communities of Costa Rica
- 15 schools and around 4,000 residents are now connected thanks to Fixed Wireless Access, a connectivity solution for difficult-to-access areas or where fiber is not available
A few hours trip on a river boat is the only way to access some of the most remote areas in this part of the world. Once lacking any form of telephony or internet access, rural communities in Costa Rica are now benefiting from high-speed internet access, which is helping to close the digital divide with the rest of the region.
Due to the geographical separation of these communities, most have historically lacked any kind of connectivity with the outside world, leading to a growing isolation from the rest of Costa Rica, the region, and global digital society.
With the goal of bridging this digital divide, the Costa Rican National Telecommunications Fund (FONATEL) finances projects to build telecommunications infrastructure in these communities, providing low-income families with free internet access. Universal connectivity has a transformative impact on the quality of life and opportunities of people living here, including better access to education, health services, financial services, innovation, information, among other benefits.
Gilbert Camacho, Chairman of the board of SUTEL, says: “Reducing the digital divide in Costa Rica is a significant contribution to the social and economic development of the people in these communities.”
With the connectivity necessity of El Colorado, Limón, and the potential of the national park Tortuguero as touristic attraction, FONATEL in collaboration with Claro Costa Rica committed to install networks in the area to provide connectivity to the community and tourists as a strategy for social development. The area where Tortuguero is located is considered a rural area with low or inexistent access to connectivity.
Ericsson, with presence in Costa Rica for more than 35 years, enabled the connectivity not only for the national park but also for 12 neighboring communities by deploying solutions based on the Ericsson Radio System portfolio, which includes providing Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and mobile services, and being strategically positioned by taking into consideration the geographical conditions of the zone.
Alonso Castelló is a river boat operator in Puerto Lindo, who has experienced the immediate benefits of internet connectivity. The arrival of wireless connectivity means he can now talk to his mom, who lives in their home village of Samay Laguna, while he is at work. Alonso can now also offer card payments for his river boat service, making his business more seamless and accessible to tourists and residents.
Andrea Campos, the principal of a local school, Barra del Colorado, describes how the arrival of internet access has enabled new opportunities for her students. Access to online services such as Google and YouTube have not only enriched the learning curriculum of these schools but has also made administrative tasks for teachers faster and easier.
Seth Artavia, Spokesperson for Claro Costa Rica, says: "At Claro, we always look for initiatives that allow us to contribute to reducing the digital divide, generating a positive impact on local development using the internet to better access education, health services, and innovation of financial services and the information. (…) All this is possible thanks to allies like Ericsson who contribute their knowledge, and thus, we can fulfill our purpose."
The residential FWA infrastructure utilizes Claro’s existing 4G FWA is a cost-efficient and easier to deploy alternative to wire connections and suitable for this challenge since it enables service providers to deliver scalable, high-speed, low latency broadband services to suburban and rural consumers in areas where installation of fiber is difficult.
The project involved the deployment of 12 Radio Site Solutions, some of them powered by solar energy to provide FWA and Mobile Services for a 1.2-2.0 km2 coverage area on average. Around 12 communities are now connected, and the community started a digital transformation in their daily activities, many of them related to the touristic sector, meaning that local businesses have now the opportunity to link to markets and new business models.
Now there are more than 15 schools connected and around 4,000 residents benefited. Chafic Nassif, President of Ericsson LATAM North and Caribbean, says: “We’ve seen a significant improvement in access to education, and the capability of these communities to reach out beyond the borders of their towns, attracting more tourism to these areas and enabling new entrepreneurial endeavors.”
Claro is a leading brand of Cable and Mobile services operating in 18 countries in America and seven in Europe. Since its origin in América Móvil, Claro focuses its business on digital lifestyle, entertainment, and communication, including music and video platforms for streaming.
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