Down-the-Islands’ gets full mobile and internet coverage via bmobile network and solar energy

Solar array at bmobile cell site on Chacachacare

You might think Chacachacare is remote and rustic but like many other communities that are off the beaten path in Trinidad and Tobago, it’s not too far for blink / bmobile to outfit it with the latest in mobile and wireless broadband technology. The cherry on top for Chacachacare is that the company has also deployed one of the island’s largest solar-powered deployments to facilitate clean energy and an environmentally friendly operation in this delicate ecosystem.

This development is indicative of the innovative thinking that is powering the development of blink bmobile as a customer service and solutions driven company. The Chacachacare project is part of blink bmobile’s roadmap for its mobile and wireless broadband expansion program to improve broadband coverage to reach 95% of Trinidad and Tobago and to continue leading the way in bringing the most advanced communications technology to every corner of the country.

BLINK Broadband installed infrastructure to support its new LTE wireless network and powered the equipment with a stand-alone solar photovoltaic system at Chacachacare Island to provide full voice and internet coverage to the seaside areas along the north coast of Trinidad. The stand-alone solar photovoltaic system is the largest solar-powered system in the country and now provides a reliable and uninterrupted power supply to the mobile and wireless broadband network at Chacachacare Island. Thanks to harnessing of the energy of the sun, numerous vacation villas and homes located Down-the-Islands and the fast growing yachting, tourism and recreational industries at Chaguaramas will now enjoy advanced mobile and data services. Persons travelling on the fast ferry service between Trinidad and Tobago will also benefit as they now have strong mobile and data service throughout the duration of ferry ride to Tobago.

Chacachacare Island is part of the Bocas Islands that lie between Trinidad and Venezuela, in the Bocas del Dragón (Dragons' Mouth). Locally they are referred to as ‘Down-the-Islands’. Thousands of ‘staycationers’ go to Chacachacare Island, as well as Monos, Huevos, Gaspar Grande and Centipede Islands for day trips, hiking, camping and sight-seeing tours. Chacachacare, the most westerly point in Trinidad does not have an electricity supply or other utility infrastructure. Islanders, vacationers and businesses rely primarily on generators for an electricity supply and prior to the installation of the 4G wireless network at Chacachacare, voice and internet service was dependent on weak and often intermittent mobile signals from a cell site on the mainland in Chaguaramas.

LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is the name for a wireless broadband technology standard used for fourth-generation or 4G wireless networks. Blink bmobile has pioneered the introduction of LTE wireless broadband service which can provide access speeds up to ten times faster than currently available. BLINK bmobile’s new LTE wireless service is being deployed in areas Down the Islands which have been difficult and/or costly to serve using traditional wired communications.

The solar photovoltaic system deployed by blink | bmobile and is the largest known OFF-GRID photovoltaic power system in Trinidad and Tobago. It is monitored remotely by the company via a server from Port of Spain. The solar-power equipment was installed in July 2014 and includes a battery system that can store power and provide (7) days of uninterrupted electricity to the mobile and broadband equipment in the event there is not sufficient sunlight on the solar panels.

The solar-power system consists of three (3) main components: a photovoltaic (solar) array 39 feet (11.8 m) by 17.4 feet (5.3 m); a battery bank consisting of 48 deep cycle batteries to store the electrical energy; and an online monitoring server and software to enable blink | bmobile engineers to receive performance data via e-mail or SMS text about its operations. This ensures blink | bmobile will always have accurate knowledge about the state of the battery charge and overall performance of the photovoltaic system while at the same time also monitor its communications network performance.

Bertram Hughes, D.C. Power Engineer at TSTT supervised the installation, acceptance and commissioning of the solar-power system. “This was truly an exciting time for me. The solar-power system is the first of this size installed in Trinidad and Tobago and it was a fulfilling experience to have worked on this important project.” Hughes pointed out that the installation was carried out under stringent conditions in a very logistically challenging location, at the interior of Chacachacare Island where there is no access to electricity and water. “I am quite proud of my team for the hard work done to bring this project to full fruition and through the wireless broadband access it powers, customers Down-the-Islands are on par with the rest of Trinidad and Tobago. It makes me proud of my company to see that we are providing such a high level of service to our customers in an environmentally conscious way.”

Hughes noted that before the new solar-powered wireless network on Chacachacare, “We had to visit the island every few days to work on the systems there and provide maintenance support. Now with the technology to support remote monitoring and self-sustaining powering supply, we have a feasible way, both financially and technology-wise to improve the mobile and data service Down-the-Islands. This ranks as one of the most modern technology deployments in Trinidad and Tobago. blink | bmobile has invested not only in cutting-edge new services to increase the satisfaction of our customers but has also invested in its staff, providing the required training to ensure our customers receive continuous, uninterrupted service.”

Chacachcare's eco-friendly Off Grid solar powered energy supply for bmobile