Claro demonstrates 5G in Puerto Rico for its first deployment in the Americas
SAN JUAN – In the second quarter of 2019, wireless communications provider Claro will deploy its 5G wireless network in Puerto Rico, bury its “fiber-optic ring” to achieve resiliency and start replacing all its landline copper wiring with fiber optic, Claro President & CEO Enrique Ortiz de Montellano told Caribbean Business.
During an interview at the recent business encounter with Mexican and Puerto Rico businesses, Ortiz de Montellano said the company has joined with the Islandwide transportation firm as part of efforts to deliver new “plug and play” technologies to customers. This new technology does not require installation.
“After all that happened with the hurricanes, Claro’s network is now stronger and restored. We upgraded to 4.5G, reaching speeds of over 100 megabytes per second. We are currently increasing the capacity of 400 of our 800 antennas because data traffic is growing by 100 percent each year,” he said. The repairs total about $250 million.
Islandwide CEO Pedro J. Rosaly noted his company played an important role in helping Claro achieve the goal of growing into the business-to-consumer sector by delivering all of its equipment.
“Now we are just months from bringing 5G to Puerto Rico, which is the next generation of wireless technology that will reach speeds 10 times faster than the current ones,” Ortiz de Montellano added.
The new technology will first be tested in some areas before being expanded to all of Puerto Rico.
Claro announced Wednesday that it was selected by its parent, América Móvil, as the first place in the Americas where it will deploy its 5G network.
A demonstration was carried out at a San Juan hotel, where download speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) were reached, the highest achieved with wireless technology in Puerto Rico.
Claro has a license to operate in high-band, millimeter-wave spectrum, in the 28 gigahertz (GHz) needed to deploy 5G on the island. Its demonstration consisted of 5G radio bases, prototype devices, and included three components: simulated remote surgery demonstration with an additional benefit of distance training; video games; and 4K high-definition streaming.
As a prelude to the arrival of the 5G network, the company announced that as part of a $250 million investment, it will increase the capacity of its radio bases by 50 percent and deploy a new mobile network to provide high-speed broadband in remote and rural areas, and expand its fiber optic network to reach more homes and businesses.
Claro also announced that it will expand the capacity and speed of its 4.5G network, to support up to 250 megabits per second (Mbps) downloads.
“This means, among other things, that customers will be able to access internet content in a third of the time, and they will experience a dramatic improvement in quality and definition in video downloads,” the provider explained, adding that some of its customers already enjoy 4.5G depending on their equipment.
The 4.5G network will be completed island-wide as early as in January.
The aggressive “technological roadmap” being followed has the objective of expanding broadband connectivity, which the company described as crucial for the island’s economic development and to turn it into “The Gigabit Island.”
“Claro is preparing to carry out the first tests of its new 5G network during 2019,” Ortiz de Montellano said. “Claro’s 5G network will allow us to put Puerto Rico on the path toward a new future, supporting the development of new industries and the economic growth of the country. As our mission states, at Claro, we are investing to connect Puerto Rico to a better future and the future is in the network, the most powerful…Claro.”
The fifth generation of mobile communications known as 5G promises faster speeds, 10 to 100 times faster than 4G. But it is the low latency of 5G networks, of about 1 millisecond, that will result in the difference expected to revolutionize “the way we live,” Claro said in a release. “With the arrival of 5G, smart cities and cars, the explosion of robotics, the interconnection of things, telemedicine, etc., will be possible. It is also predicted that a wide variety of services provided by 5G will reach mass production in the next three to six years.”
While Ortiz de Montellano said he does not know the cost of 5G technology, the company generally invests $150 million in its infrastructure each year.
For his part, Elie Hanna, Ericsson’s president for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, said the test in Puerto Rico was a very significant event for the company.
“This is about a technological leap that will foster a digital revolution and open up unique opportunities for applications in different sectors. In addition to enhancing the functionality of previous generations, and driving the increase in data-exchange speeds, 5G will advance the transformation of society, serving the new needs of both end users and industries. It will initially improve mobile broadband services and will boost a significant evolution with regard to Internet of Things and Internet of Skills applications,” he said.
Regarding landlines on the island, Ortiz de Montellano said the copper wires will be replaced by fiber optic, which will double speeds and reduce theft.
“This will also bring more stability to customers,” he said. In addition, its entire fiber-optic ring will be completely buried.