Denver’s 5G cell-signal future will rely on hundreds of 30-foot poles spread across many blocks – and that has rankled some residents

The next generation of blazing-fast cellular data speeds hasn’t arrived yet, but the major wireless carriers are hard at work in Denver laying the groundwork.

So far, Verizon has led the pack by planting its flag in dozens of spots, in the form of 30-foot poles topped with antennas that boost signal strength in a one- to two-block radius. Hundreds more, or perhaps thousands, are likely on the way, city officials say.

The installations are turning heads — though not always in a good way.

Residents of The Riviera, a 36-unit condo building at 1175 Emerson St., protested last month after a Verizon contractor, with no apparent notice, installed a pole footsteps from the main entrance of their building, along with an in-ground access box for the antenna’s fiber connection. To some, the green pole marred the street view of the building, as though a permanently unused flag pole had been installed right out front.

“The general concern was just aesthetics,” said Kevin Logan, the homeowners association president. “They didn’t pay attention to the fact that it’s the entrance to our building.”

A similar story is playing out across the country, as the carriers’ attempts to accommodate growing data needs and new technology clash with more traditional neighborhood concerns. (A recent New York Times headline: “5G Cell Service Is Coming. Who Decides Where It Goes?“)

In Denver, a Capitol Hill neighborhood group and a city councilman put pressure on the city’s Department of Public Works, which confirmed it has asked Verizon to move the Riviera pole elsewhere.

That stance followed Denver’s recent adoption of more stringent rules for where newly permitted poles should be placed — preferably closer to street corners, for starters — and a requirement that the companies notify adjacent property owners before installation. In part, the city was responding to months of questions from surprised property owners and landlords.

City officials have asked Verizon to relocate a new 30-foot "small cell" pole it installed recently near the entrance of The Riviera condos at 1175 Emerson St. in Denver, photographed on March 8, 2018.

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

City officials have asked Verizon to relocate a new 30-foot “small cell” pole it installed recently near the entrance of The Riviera condos at 1175 Emerson St. in Denver, photographed on March 8, 2018.

Fifty-two “small cell” poles, have already been installed by Verizon in the last year or so across some of the city’s most densely populated neighborhoods, next to sidewalks, alleys and streets from Highland to downtown to Cheesman Park. AT&T and companies working for other carriers just recently started applying for permits.

City Councilman Wayne New, who helped The Riviera residents, said Verizon launched its data expansion before neighborhood groups knew what was happening.

“I think it’s going to be a lot better now,” he said, adding that city officials “should have caught it earlier” and alerted neighborhood groups. “It’s not that we’re against it. Five-G is coming, so we’ve got to help (the carriers). But we’ve got to make it work for all residents as well.”

Cellular pole locations

Verizon has installed 30-foot poles topped by “small cell” antennas in more than 50 locations.

With 175 more poles in the pipeline, the city says it anticipates Verizon and competing carriers will install hundreds, or even thousands, across the city in coming years. Several suburban cities also are preparing for forays by Verizon, AT&T and other carriers in places with high customer-data demands.

Though New and some neighborhood advocates suggested Denver was slow to react, Public Works spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn said the new placement rules could serve as a model for other cities. “From my perspective,” she said, “the team has done an excellent job creating a new program to respond to a proliferation in requests for small cell towers, developing requirements that are mindful and respectful of our residents and communities.”

New and neighborhood advocates from Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods have pushed the carriers to attach antennas to existing utility poles and traffic signals — both owned by Xcel Energy — as much as possible. New says they’ve received no firm commitments. They also hope multiple carriers will share poles, a scenario that presents technological challenges that a Panasonic unit in Denver is attempting to solve.

An Xcel spokeswoman said the utility has allowed some carriers to use its power line poles since 2015, and it’s been talking with several about negotiating access to traffic signal poles in Denver. Verizon, for its part, says it hopes to reach an agreement soon.

“When and if there are no poles available to us, and we have to build a new pole to house a small cell, we make every effort to integrate it into the look and feel of a community,” said Meagan Dorsch, Verizon’s market spokeswoman.

What’s behind the surge in standalone poles?

Two major factors are driving the rise of small cell antennas: Carriers need to keep up with fast-growing mobile data use — it has more than tripled nationwide between 2014 and 2016, according to an industry association, and is expected to surge even higher in coming years — and are preparing to offer faster fifth-generation (5G) mobile broadband service. According to varying estimates, 5G will offer data speeds at least several times faster than current service, possibly by a factor of 10 or more.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *