A Truly Twisted Cell Tower

Attention creative wireless site planners:  A truly twisted cell tower has risen from a mesa in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This uniquely designed multi-carrier cell tower constructed in the Mesa del Sol area in Albuquerque, New Mexico, just south of the airport.

The architect for this site is Dekker/Perich/Sabatini.

This site isn’t quite complete, but it should raise the level of the discussion regarding turning cell sites into artistic visions.

The anchor tenant at the site is Verizon Wireless.  The site can handle up to seven carriers.

I have placed over 100 photos of this site in a dedicated gallery at celltowersites.com/gallery/


How to Spoil A New Mexico View

Here’s a gem of a cell tower that literally towers over an otherwise beautiful desert and mountain landscape along I-25 south of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This tower is 150 feet tall, and completely towers over everything in the view of the drivers along this stretch of I-25.  For those of you who want more information on this gem, visit this FCC web site.

<soap box>Sites like this are a black-eye on the wireless industry, and the planners who permit them. </soap box>


Elements of (Wireless) Style

(This post is another entry in an occasional series on Wireless Siting Design Style by Jonathan L. Kramer, Wireless attorney, planner, and advisor to hundreds of local governments in the U.S. )

In wireless planning, it’s often the little things that can make a big difference to the visual outcome of a project.  Above is an animated photo (and simulation) of a church in Santa Fe, New Mexico that contains a cell site in the bell tower.

The bell tower, however, does not contain a bell, but rather only an exhaust fan and three panel antennas.

Merely adding inexpensive RF transparent (FRP) material covers to three of the four bell tower openings would have effectively obscured the antennas and the exhaust fan cover, while still maintaining the ventilation and RF transmission functions of the structure.


G’day from Down Under

Report from Melbourne (pronounced “Mel-Bun”) Australia. Day 2 (since day 1 was mostly travel from L.A. to Brisbane (pronounced “Bris-Bun”).

Cell sites everywhere, but virtually none are camouflaged. Found only one today.

I’ll be posting photos in the gallery soon after returning back to the U.S. Maybe sooner.

-Jonathan (at 3:30 P.M. Sunday 10/11/09 Local)


CPUC Investigates Allegations of T-Mobile Sites Without Permits

As reported by staff writer Seth Rosenfeld in the San Francisco Chronicle (Aug 30, 2008, Page C-1), the California Public Utiltiies Commission is investigating whether T-Mobile has been constructing cell sites in Northern California without following local building laws.

The article quotes Susan Carothers, a CPUC spokesperson who said, “CPUC staff is looking into allegations concerning T-Mobile cell siting.”

This isn’t the first time the CPUC has investigated wireless carriers for putting up sites sans all required local permits.  In 1993, the Commission levied fines of up to $4,370,000 against other carriers for violating the terms of city building permits.

It appears that Glotel, the London-based international technology staffing and projects company with U.S. headquarters in Chicago, will be a target of the CPUC’s investigation.  Two former employees of Glotel were quoted in the Chronicle article, one of whom said that the activities being investigated by the CPUC “…happened every day” and specifically identified these activities occurring in Marin, San Franicsco, San Matel, and Santa Clara counties.   Brian Lynch, the other Glotel employee quoted in the article, said he was fired when he told Glotel that they were not following the proper process.

Stay tuned…this should be interesting!  Here is a link to the original story at SFGATE.com.



T-Mobile’s Plan to Construct A Cemetery Cell Dies

T-Mobile’s plans to construct a new cell site at an old cemetery in Stoneham, MA have died.  Omnipoint Communications, T-Mobile’s parent proposed an 80-foot tower in St. Patrick Parish’s cemetery at Broadway and MacArthur Road.  See the Google Street View map below for a photo.
View a Google Street Map of the Site

According to a printed report, T-Mobile’s project was opposed by some of the neighbors who were “concerned about the appropriateness of a tower near graves and about possible health risks for children at a neighboring sports field.”

At least there’s no fear of ghosts.


Does your cell phone give away your location?

That’s a common question, and the simple answer is, ‘sometimes yes; sometime no.’

Cell phones regularly transmit update information back to the mobile telephone switching office (MTSO).  This data is sent when you turn on your phone, at regular intervals while the phone is turned on but not in use, and when you turn off your phone.

So why would your phone silently transmit information on a regular basis?  Quite simply, when you turn your phone on, the phone transmits a handshake to let the cell system know that the phone is turned on, and where in the world you are. This is necessary so that the network will (a) stop automatically routing your incoming calls to voicemail, and (b) to let the network know where to find you to complete incoming phone calls.

If you’re roaming outside of your home area, this turn-on handshake will also sometimes initiate a validity check with your home area carrier to see whether you’re authorized to roam.  If you are, then you’ll be able to make and receive calls without interruption.  If not, when you try to make a call, you’ll be forwarded to an automated or manual system to collect credit card data for billing calls while roaming.

Once you’re ‘logged in’ to the network, the phone will regularly transmit a small snippit of data letting the network know that your phone is still turned on and within range.

When you turn off your phone, you’ll notice that it doesn’t immediately go blank.  In the few seconds between the time you press and hold the turn off button, the phone is communicating the shut-down request with the network so that incoming calls will be routed to voice mail.  This is why a caller will immediately go to voice mail when your phone is off, but if your phone is on it will ring a preset number of times before switching to voicemail.

The network technicians can also manually ‘ping’ your phone.  If it responds, the network tech will also be able to identify the cell site receiving your phone, and sometimes the general direction of the signal coming in from your cell phone.   This function is sometimes used to locate missing hikers. The cell phone is pinged, and the return data is used to estimate the location of the phone (and hopefully the location of the hiker).

The accuracy of the location data provided by your phone will depend on several things. The FCC generally requires cell phone operators to provide location information down to about 100 meters when you call 911, but that accuracy can be improved if your cell phone is equipped with a GPS receiver chip and antenna, and the network recognizes that data.

The use of cell phone records in court proceedings is a related discussion, and one that I’ll cover in a separate posting.