Wireless Internet Access in Nicaragua

Just wondering what people think about the accuracy of an article about... "Wireless Internet in Nicaragua"

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good synopsis of a long report

I rent space to a telecomms expert; he's over in Puerta Cabeza setting up satellite links for some international NGO. He told me weeks ago the same story this article describes.

Its the old 'last mile' story from the states. Enitel towers that beam signals to the next tower; that broadcast cell signals and that operate 2.4Ghz locally all look the same but are vastly different inside. Jinotega has 2 Enitel towers but only one does 2.4Ghz local Internet at 512kbs. I can't tell the difference by just looking. On a test I witnessed, an (illegal) 2.4 antenna some 5km from the tower was able to communicate easily.

All that lovely bandwidth comes in and goes out of the average tower, being remixed and multiplexed along the way. It could pop out to a 2.4Ghz antenna for the local villages with line of sight but quite a few snags. Money, equipment, foreign exchange, technical smarts, revenue stream and electric supply. There is no question whatever that as the article and report describe, broadband is within reach of 93% of the country and, just as they both say, not going public any time soon.

Why would Enitel install an antenna to serve a small village without electricity or indeed computers? If they have electricity, would they have the smarts or interest to use the Internet? If they had the smarts and interest, would they still be living in the campo?

If the village does have

If the village does have electricity it doesn't take a genius to use a computer. The curious young ones can probably figure it out through curiosity. The computers and internet can also be used by schools to teach. Being smart doesn't necessarily equate to living in the campo or not. Some people would rather live in the campo because they might like their safety zone or they like the sense of independence and autonomy of the campo.

revenue for Enitel

Ricardo in the campo can learn a computer, no question, my 2 kids did just that. Now Ricardo needs a PC, a reliable power supply, antenna, $20,000 of hardware and software installed at the local Enitel tower, and a revenue stream to support all of the above.

Somehow, Enitel needs to recover the cost of that expensive machinery and make their normal profit margin. That recovery doesn't come from the average Nicaraguan living in a pueblo, it comes from several rico gringos prepared to pony up say $200 USD a month for a service and sign a 5 year service contract with the first year paid in advance. THAT would get Enitels attention; Ricardo doesn't stand a chance unless D.O. mandates a community Internet project on Enitel.

Imagine that. D.O. mandating a loss-making community service onto Enitel - I can hear the screams from Key West clean through to Jacksonville.

p.s. no, the gringo price would NOT come down if you got 10 or 20 of them together. When gringos are in the habit of buying hundreds of manzanas at a time, a tower can only 'see' so many gringo fincas. If gringos were buying 5 manzana plots in the campo then maybe - but thats not the buying pattern.

Misleading is my opinion

The article says

The eNicaragua study found that an astonishing 93% of the country's municipalities have the infrastructure necessary for a broadband fiber-optic or digital-radio link.

The implication I see here is that "it's there". Well, what is there is a (new) fiber backbone connecting most Enitel cel sites. That's a good thing and, yes, there is a lot of bandwidth there. What's missing is that Internet connectivity means a lot more than in-country bandwidth. That connectivity costs and costs in foreign exchange.

In addition, talks about TELCOR's regulation of wireless bandwidth and, then talks about how a Wifi radio on each cel tower could offer 15-30 km coverage. Well, first of all, TELCOR requires licensing of what, in the US, falls under FCC Part 15--a license-free clause. But, I know of no cases where TELCOR doesn't let you license the equipment. Hell, TELCOR requires you to license a telephone you bring into the country. That licensing is basically a revenue stream.

Now, if Part 15 license-free usage was permitted here, that would not allow anything close to the 15 km coverage suggested. Part 15 devices are designed to cover an office--not the countryside.

There are some accurate statements in the article but, all in all, it seems to be on the editorial level that I was used to seeing in the Tico Times for years. In other words, disappointing.