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Alphatel

join:2013-08-02

Suggestions for Caribbean WISP

Hey guys,

I'm new to the forum and I'm pursuing the idea of starting a WISP in the Caribbean. The island I'm looking to deploy is very small...about the size of a quarter i.e. 5sq miles. The topography is very challenging with elevation changing by 100m in less than 0.5km and very heavy vegetation. We're basically the top of a dormant volcano rising to over 800m from sea level. There's no active fiber optic connections (a submarine cable has been laid to the island). So all communications are via microwave radio to nearby islands some 30-40 miles away. All frequencies are regulated and licensed. Having said that I still want to start a WISP and I've been working on a business plan. I'm not technically inclined but can handle the business end. My key issues are cost of bandwidth. The cheapest offshore quote I've gotten thus far is USD$500/Mbps and that's including back hauling it to my island (about 30 miles over Caribbean sea), licensing fees, infrastructure, etc. I'm going to need to hire a techie to manage this network while I handle the business end of it. Population is about 2,000 people and we have a monopoly telephone company offering ADSL.

Do any of you guys have any experience in situations such as these? At this point I'm considering satellite but I know the pricing can be ridiculous. I'm considering offering 2 service plans, 2Megs/256kbp s and 4Meg/512kbps but I'm having some difficulty determining the correct size pipe. Any suggestions would be appreciated.



Inssomniak
The Glitch
Premium
join:2005-04-06
Cayuga, ON
kudos:2

5 hundred dollars per megabit?
And you want to offer 4 meg plans?
Heavy vegetation?
Hilly terrain?
You want to hire someone out of the gate?

Sounds like suicide.
Wire the island with fibre probably easier.
--
OptionsDSL Wireless Internet
»www.optionsdsl.ca


lutful
... of ideas
Premium
join:2005-06-16
Ottawa, ON
kudos:1

1 edit
reply to Alphatel

said by Alphatel:

There's no active fiber optic connections (a submarine cable has been laid to the island). So all communications are via microwave radio to nearby islands some 30-40 miles away. All frequencies are regulated and licensed.

When is the fiber supposed to become active?

said by Alphatel:

Having said that I still want to start a WISP and I've been working on a business plan. I'm not technically inclined but can handle the business end. My key issues are cost of bandwidth.

You can become more "technical" while waiting for fiber.

If you must do something right away, deploy 2 separate point-to-point links: one going to the fiber landing location on your island and the other going to a nearby island which has fiber landing.

If you can get them working, please come back for help to design a WISP to provide fabulous blanket coverage of your tiny hilly island.

*** »en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECFS_(cable_system)
Based on your island description, perhaps you are in Montserrat? I once helped a eager/stubborn entrepreneur deploy a really expensive DS3/45mbps capable VSAT node in Jamaica ... just one year before the island got a fiber link. You have to watch out for such eventualities/calamities in your business plan.

Alphatel

join:2013-08-02
reply to Inssomniak

Well I've been experimenting with software like cloudrf and the software from Ubnt and my longest links are less than 1km from the AP and averaging 0.5km. So yes, I think it is doable. The local ISP is charging USD$900 for a 5Mbps connection.


Alphatel

join:2013-08-02

1 recommendation

reply to lutful

No, it's not the ECFS and Montserrat is south of me (I live on the island of Saba). See »www.globalcaribbean.net/pages/en/home.php. Our Federal gov't is funding to connect three smaller islands to this fiber however they ran into some inter-governmental issues with getting approval for the landing of the cable on one island so the entire project right now is stopped until further notice. It's been more than a year already since it was supposed to go live. I don't see the incumbent dropping their prices just because they get access to government funded bandwidth because they are the monopoly here. In my opinion I think this would be an appropriate environment where a WISP is called for and NOT spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to deploy fiber. When I say I'm not a techie I mean I'm not an engineer or a Comp Sci Major. I a majored in Business that's why I am focused on reducing my largest MRCs which is bandwidth. Yes, I will need to hire some technical assistance because there's no driving to an island in the Caribbean if/when something breaks. Everything is licensed here so I cannot set up any PtP or PtMP links here without first going through the regulatory approval process and spectrum is not free. before doing all of that the regulatory needs to see my business plan, network diagrams, etc. So...that's what I'm working on here. I appreciate the help and suggestions however do bear in mind that I'm coming from a bandwidth/infrastructure deficit situation here. So what may seem crazy to some of you guys is a necessity for someone else (like me).


lutful
... of ideas
Premium
join:2005-06-16
Ottawa, ON
kudos:1

said by Alphatel:

I live on the island of Saba) ... I don't see the incumbent dropping their prices just because they get access to government funded bandwidth because they are the monopoly here. In my opinion I think this would be an appropriate environment where a WISP is called for and NOT spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to deploy fiber.

OK, I looked at the detailed map of Saba. It is challenging topology, but you can have very good coverage of all populated areas, airport and coastline using only 10-15 solar powered nodes.

You will probably only get permission to make a point-to-point link to St. Maarten, which is also Netherland jurisdiction? I suggest getting permission to install your own 50-70ft tower on Maskehorne hill (near Windwardside) to avoid the headache of putting the dish on the very congested SATEL tower on Mt. Scenery.

Alphatel

join:2013-08-02

There's a tower located a few hundred feet from that hill. There's an existing microwave link to St. Maarten on that tower as well. The bandwidth quote of $500/Mbps was from St. Maarten. That's why I'm considering sourcing from nearby St. Barths (different fiber system). The link analysis I ran last night with LINKPLanner from Cambium suggests it's a good link at low 6GHz. I plan on using Ubiquiti equipment for PtMP. You can see the tower I'm referring to in pic 10 on this site »www.michaelwalkerphotos.com/Cari···-HWGGvfB. The mountain in the background is Mt. Scenery. I'm really trying to stay away from incumbent towers and use island topography to my advantage. Can you point me in a direction to research these solar powered nodes?


lutful
... of ideas
Premium
join:2005-06-16
Ottawa, ON
kudos:1

I re-arranged your comments a bit:

said by Alphatel:

I'm really trying to stay away from incumbent towers and use island topography to my advantage.

Yes, that is exactly what I was suggesting. You can cover the whole island using a dozen nodes by taking advantage of the clear view towards some of the hilltops from lower elevation slopes.

Staying away from existing towers is also a good idea. They probably have one or more 5.8Ghz dishes already pointed towards St. Maarten and/or St. Bart. Even if you get permission to operate in same band (but different channel) other license holders may complain that your link is causing problems. You may also encounter interference from their equipment.

said by Alphatel:

I'm considering sourcing from nearby St. Barths (different fiber system)


There may be special permission required to set up a link to another country. You should investigate this option right away.

said by Alphatel:

The link analysis I ran last night with LINKPLanner from Cambium suggests it's a good link at low 6GHz.


In my opinion, more affordable and widely available 5.8Ghz equipment will work fine at 40-50km range.

said by Alphatel:

I plan on using Ubiquiti equipment for PtMP.

Your potential competitors will also use Ubiquiti because it is cheap and ubiquitous. Please keep an open mind.

said by Alphatel:

Can you point me in a direction to research these solar powered nodes?

I had in mind custom setups with low power embedded platforms running Mikrotik RouterOS.

When you have to install at a remote hillside or hilltop, a single platform with 3 or 4 radio cards. Two of them running at 5.4-5.7Ghz for implementing a ring topology around the island. The other 1 or 2 cards running at 2.4Ghz for customer access.

But when you have AC power, you can have a separate CPU board for the 2 5Ghz radio cards and 1/2/3 2.4Ghz radio cards.