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Restart - Implementing AREDN in Puerto Rico

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WP4QAJ's picture
Restart - Implementing AREDN in Puerto Rico

By the time I got electricity again on Christmas Eve after Maria hit Puerto Rico, I had already thinking about a minimal network for disasters. During the blackout, when we lost all telecommunication at my house,

it was a humbling experience that left me feeling super isolated. I made a promise to myself then, to never be disconnected from world and the Internet again.

At the time I did not recall that a late uncle used to be a radio aficionado. It wasn't until learning from a colleague soon after, that amateur radio could pass TCP/IP traffic that I really got hooked.

How could it work, I wondered? Soon I found myself sitting in a classroom listening to an instructor teach a class about amateur radio and what it took to get licensed. I was like I’m in. I can do this! And I did. I crammed, studied, and practiced the exam, and I passed.

To my relief, it wasn’t soon after passing the exam that I found the Tucson Amateur Packet Radio site (kudos) and quickly found AREDN. The relief I felt at that moment was profound. My dream of an amateur radio disaster network had went from a concept into reality in an instant.

Imagine if you will, a brand spanking new licensee who has never been on the air, and all I cared about was getting AREDN up in Puerto Rico. While I just bought my first radio today, a cheap handheld, for me, there is no point moving to a permanent radio until it can also be an AREDN node.

Here is a humble map that I created to move the conversation forward:
It was really difficult finding accurate repeater locations so I put the node locations on the highest peaks that I know of. Then I used the lines to estimate distance between nodes.

Map Background

Here was my process. First I split the island north/south and east/west. Then I mapped some potential nodes on the biggest mountains, just to see. Then I guessed at the distances using the shaded areas. While helping me, later, when I finally started plotting other nodes and measuring the distances, I realized that the shading significantly underestimated node coverage.

Once I mapped most of Puerto Rico, I got curious to see if I could daisy chain all the islands together and it seems possible. The final step I added was how could I connect my county Gurabo with our neighbor, and much larger county, Caguas. I’ve heard that line of sight is possible between the two urban areas. For me, this seems like the most logical step to start off with. I could also just start with a node on my property, but I don’t think I can get high enough to reach into the two adjacent counties. I can make it into the Caguas valley.

All of which is to say, man am I over my head. I could be making some real noob mistakes so I ask the AREDN community for their guidance to getting this done right.


To provide a resilient disaster data network based on AREDN in Puerto Rico before peak hurricane season September 2018.


To provide a resilient disaster data network based on AREDN for all islands in the Caribben by 2020. In addition, to connect all of these nodes into the CONUS AREDN through Florida.


I’m hoping that my experience in the IT and computer science industries has prepared me make a contribution. I have a BS and MS in computer science. I’ve worked in a variety of roles involved with software development, operations, databases, and networks.

After retiring with Crohn’s Disease in 2006 I’ve been volunteering as much as possible with the open source and Internet communities. Since 2012, I’ve focused on a Python chapter in Puerto Rico, PRPIG. While we garnered initial support, we couldn’t sustain the effort. After the hurricane I’ve been working to resurrect the group and mobilize some new support, but to be honest, AREDN is my focus.

WP4QAJ's picture
Seeking guidance on Approach

My immediate plan is to get two nodes working in Gurabo/Caguas, where I live. Gurabo is tiny and most of the people live around the urban areas, which are the flattest. There are many residents up the side of the mountain, but they will have to be phase two, or three, or whatever.  After those nodes are up and performing to expectations, then I'd like to put in the backbone nodes. If we can get clear line of sight, maybe we can get by with 2-4 nodes. The final action would be to install relay and local nodes to cover the highest population centers (San Juan, Bayamón, Carolina, Ponce, Mayaguez).  There is also the question of Vieque,  Culebra and Mona. These islands are still Puerto Rico, they will more crucial bridging AREDN to neighboring island countries.

So here are some specific things I'm struggling with.

  1. ​I'm working an angle for the relay and local nodes, it's the backbone nodes that have me stumped. How do I find out where there are shared repeater locations that are strategically located?  Are cell towers an option? When we put up the nodes, can I be the trustee?  How does one arrange/coordinate access to the nodes?
  2. The two sites I am considering are close enough for a relay node to keep them connected. Both have line of sight, so we could install a backbone node too. So here are my questions.  Both relay and backbone nodes can offer local service, right? Is it just a matter of providing an antenna for each of the services? 
  3. In order to get a handle on the budget, I'll be posting soon an equipment list. For that I'll be need a lot of help.  I have no concept of how expensive it is to install the nodes, let alone mounting a new tower, like at my house. Also to start with, we need two nodes. After those two, we can expand the network one node at a time, right?  What are ALL the pieces needed for each additional node?
  4. Time, how much time will be needed for the first two node installations? Each additional node?

​I apologize if some these questions have already been covered elsewhere on the forums. Please point in the right direction if a subject has already been covered.

K6AH's picture
Let's Talk...


Let's setup a time for us to talk.  I can get you up to speed fairly quickly on these.  I'll send you my contact info via email.

Andre, K6AH


The repeater trustee meetings are a good start for possible sites, I believe there are two repeater coordination groups.
Colocating with local WISPs could be an alternate approach, as they already have the infrastructure in place to provide tower space and "reliable power". The uphill battle will be getting them to cooperate.

BTW, I have 3 possible sites in Mayaguez, all with LOS to Monte del Estado in Maricao and Cerro Atalaya in Aguada. Im also very familiar with other hill tops and sites on the west side of PR.

WP4QAJ's picture

Great to hear, I have some kids at UPRM, so I have some knowledge of the west, but we're mostly east coasters. cheeky

​Got it, track down the trustee meeting and the repeater coordination groups. Just a little apprehensive about approaching as such a newbie. Or does that work in my favor?

​I got a lead to get us colocated with the WISP industry, but I have to have all my ducks in a row before I make that ask.

​Thanks for the help.

Try to engage the ham

Try to engage the ham organizations like  ,first. FRAPR already have the island wide repeater coverage to at least get the backbone started with less coordination per node install once their members get interested on AREDN. KP4DQC is the recently elected president, look for his contact number in I have been to their Monte del Estado site, they have their own tower, so no red tape involved to get equipment installed. From up there, they have line of sight to almost every town on the west side and southwest corner.


WP4QAJ's picture
Will do


KD2MLR's picture
Vieques Sites/Current Operations


I have been working with hams and local residents in Vieques to establish and train a contingent of operators in cooperation with the local FM station and a non-profit founded to make the island more sustainable. Would be glad to assist in deploying a node on Vieques and establish a backbone to hit the mainland, as I have secured a site overlooking most of the island that could be utilized for 

Will DM you my contact information.

-Matt KD2MLR

WP4QAJ's picture
Thanks Matt

A friend of mine just spent a big chunk of time building and repairing stuff in Vieques. Following his story has been heartbreaking even for local standards. I'm acutely aware of the needs and I totally agree.  I've been hearing some traction in making sure most churches have a licensed radio operator. I like that approach, maybe even further generalize it. Wherever there is a big group of people together, there should be one (or more) operators.  If nothing else, Maria provides an opportunity to start up a new conversation on the importance of radio for our safety. 

Thanks for stepping up for the Vieques node, it is a crucial one. Let me know what you need. I'd recommend a sat-link, but that is way above my pay grade. smiley

kp4rgd's picture
A dream came true

Hi Kevin and group,

Your dream about AREDN in Puerto Rico is almost a reality. There are already about 10 plus nodes in Puerto Rico, but AREDN map is not showing all them. They are aready connected to Florida also and many other states. Let's make it better. You may join the group by sending your email and telephone number to Manual, KP4MSR or to me We have a WhatsApp group with more than 20 people and are dsigning a website. Everyday we have new members. Even a member of the Negociado de Telecomunicacions de Puerto Rico is part of the group. Thanks for your interes in having a good mesh in PR. 73s Raul

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