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FCC OKs T-Mobile petition to fund wireless indoor antenna systems

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved a petition from T-Mobile to allow the use of Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund subsidies to install indoor antennas to further strengthen telecommunications networks across the island.

Deploying the indoor distributed antenna systems (known as DAS), meets the agency’s “goal toward resilient and hardened networks in Puerto Rico…to protect against future natural disasters,” the FCC stated in a ruling.

The FCC allocated $1 billion in Universal Service Fund support to support the deployment of advanced fixed and mobile broadband networks in the island territories, whose telecom networks were obliterated by back-to-back hurricanes in September 2017.

The funding has been distributed in stages, and as part of the PR-USVI Stage 2 Order, the agency established a $250 million fund that mobile providers could use over three years to restore and expand high speed networks — 4G or 5G — back to, or better than, 100% of its pre-hurricane coverage.

On April 7, 2022, T-Mobile filed a petition asking the FCC to allow using Stage 2 funds to deploy DAS within buildings, saying it would “make its mobile networks more resilient in a disaster, consistent with the goals of the PR-USVI Stage 2 Order.” Its petition got support from the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Bureau and the Wireless Infrastructure Association.

The agency deemed appropriate granting federal subsidies to deploy DAS within specific facilities, headed by those that are public or accessible to the public.

In its determination, the agency established a series of facilities that are “categorically acceptable” for the DAS deployment, namely hospitals, Police stations, Fire stations, town halls, the Bureau for Emergency and Disaster Management or any municipal equivalent, and community centers.

Other facilities were included in the list of acceptable locations, such as emergency shelters at the Coliseo Arquelio Torres in San Germán and the Coliseo Raymond Dalmau in Quebradillas.

The list also includes government buildings like La Fortaleza, the Capitol building, and the Boulevard Plaza Office Center in Humacao, while municipal town halls in Caguas, Bayamón and San Juan are also identified as eligible emergency hubs.

The list includes 18 hospitals across the island: Manatí Medical, Mayaguez Medical, HIMA Hospital San Pablo in Fajardo, Caguas and Cupey, Pavía Hospital in Arecibo, San Lucas Hospital, the Puerto Rico Medical Center, Ashford Presbyterian Hospital, San Jorge Children’s Hospital, Metropolitan Hospital, Doctor’s Center San Juan, San Francisco Hospital, Auxilio Mutuo Hospital, Hospital General Menonita in Aibonito, Hospital General Castañer, Hospital San Carlos Borromeo, and Hospital Metropolitano de la Montaña.

“We conclude that Stage 2 support for indoor DAS deployment is appropriate only for public or publicly accessible buildings that protect the public during disasters where the market would otherwise not support DAS deployment,” the FCC stated. 

“Our presumptive list includes buildings responsive to the [Telecom Bureau’s] concerns, while also including all of the buildings listed by T-Mobile,” it added.

“We strongly encourage all Stage 2 fund recipients to work with local officials to determine the feasibility and viability of DAS deployments to the rural hospitals listed…in light of their importance of providing critical infrastructure and telecommunication services to rural communities during a disaster,” the FCC noted.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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