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Old Buildings In The Modern Age: Preparing Historic Cities For A Connected Future

San Miguel de Allende

Travel to central Mexico, and you might stumble across the city of San Miguel de Allende. Tucked away in the eastern part of Mexico’s Guanajuato state, the UNESCO World Heritage Site has been around for almost 500 years. Today, much of the city remains the same. Its historic architecture looks like it did hundreds of years ago. But behind the well-preserved colonial facades, San Miguel de Allende’s digital infrastructure is as modern as any gateway city.  

Developers and planners have begun to realize the growing importance of cellular connectivity. In popular tourist destinations, increased cellular usage has driven demand for connectivity. In an attempt to balance historic preservation with modernization, old cities have prohibited cell towers and conspicuous outdoor infrastructure. Instead, these cities have had to turn to alternative solutions that support enhanced wireless coverage that do not interfere with architectural aesthetics. 

For San Miguel de Allende, this solution was a Distributed Antenna System. The city brought in InproTelecom, Mexico’s largest DAS Integrator, to design a customized plan for improved cellular connectivity in the city's historic locations. After conducting in-depth, on-site research, the InproTelecom team found several problems. San Miguel de Allende's main challenge was that it did not have enough coverage and capacity to support residents and visitors. Installing large cell towers was not an option because planners and developers feared they would distract from the existing architecture. Instead, the city would have to install a fiber network to provide a backbone for cellular services.

Optical fiber underground installation

The InproTelecom task force partnered with global DAS solutions provider SOLiD to build the optical and radio access network. The SOLiD team supplied and installed its ALLIANCE-TR Multi Carrier-DAS, a solution designed to support commercial wireless services, including 2G and 3G cellular and 4G LTE services, over a single strand of fiber. 

InproTelecom and SOLiD deployed 35 DAS remote radio units across San Miguel de Allende. They painted each unit to blend in with the city’s distinct colors. InproTelecom installed optical fiber underneath San Miguel de Allende’s cobblestone streets, sustaining the city’s walking paths and main roads. These integrated connectivity solutions have equipped San Miguel de Allende with the tools to support a smart city future while preserving its historic charm. 

Connected street in San Miguel de Allende

While San Miguel de Allende is the first city in Latin America to implement outdoor DAS solutions, historic cities in other parts of the world are following suit. Copenhagen recently implemented outdoor DAS solutions at the Carlsberg City Center, and Berlin introduced plans to implement similar infrastructure across the entire city. 

There is a tension that exists between historic preservation and modernization, but the two do not have to be mutually exclusive when it comes to creating an attractive tourist destination. Architecture and scenery draw in visitors, but today’s tourists have modern expectations. By marrying connectivity and preservation, old cities are entering a new age.

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