New cell towers increase coverage area

Residents in Sutton and Mercer Lake area get service upgrade

Sept. 1, 2018 — Cell phones have become an essential part of the human experience.

Statista, a company that collects and analyses data from more than 20,000 sources, reports that 87 percent of Americans under 70 have a cell phone.

That number rises to 96 percent when considering individuals under 29 years of age, while global mobile phone usage topped 62 percent in 2016.

These numbers indicate that more than 5 billion people will be using cell phones by 2019.

The convenience of mobile phones, combined with improved ease of use and the lowering costs of equipment and usage plans, have made the technology affordable and ubiquitous.

There remains one major limitation to the use of cell phones and that is the “coverage” areas available to consumers.

The coverage area is determined by the availability of a cell site, usually mounted on a tower, that allows consumers to connect with receivers and transmitters on the tower to send a signal from a particular phone to another tower and eventually to another phone.

The progression cannot be completed if there are no towers or cell sites available in the transmitting or receiving phone’s geographic area.

This situation has unfortunately limited some local cell phone customers’ ability to connect to a network on the outskirts of Florence.

Many people are familiar with the “No network available” message sent from our phones when they are out of range of a cell tower, usually in the outskirts of Florence.

Fortunately, there are two new cell towers, one completed and operational and one in the final stages of assembly, that will address the “No network” problem for many residents of the Mercer and Sutton Lake sections of town.

Rebecca Fain and Rick Olson live in the Mercer Lake area and have recently entered into a long-term agreement with Verizon to lease the company a plot of land on their property on Spindrift Way, specifically for the placement of a new cell tower.

“About two years ago, a guy was up here wandering around on the roads, looking for a spot for a potential tower. He asked if we would be interested in leasing them some space for the tower and we decided to go ahead and do it,” Olson said. “They were going to put it in a more obvious place and I said, ‘Let’s put it up in the trees because it is kind of a large edifice.’”

He said the tower is 140 feet tall and the base took 17 truckloads of concrete, equaling approximately 170 cubic yards of cement, and 13 tons of rebar — all within the 45-by-45-foot base.

 The process involved in the placement of a cell tower is challenging from both technological and geographical perspectives, as there are many factors that have to be taken into consideration to install a functioning and safe structure.

 The functioning range of a cell site is not fixed, but dependent on a number of variables including the height of the antenna over that of the surrounding terrain; frequency of the signal in use;  geographical or weather conditions; reflection and absorption of radio energy by buildings and vegetation; directional characteristics of the antenna array; and the uplink/downlink data rate of the consumers device

Fain detailed why Verizon looked to put a tower on their property.

“They selected this site because they had a giant hole in their service area and they were looking for the right spot to put a tower to fill that hole,” she said. “This tower will extend their coverage area down to about Sea Lions Cave.”

 Thursday’s installation of the new tower on Spindrift Way required the preparation and placement of a strong foundation to hold up the tons of metal that now arch skyward.

“We get a lot of wind in this canyon, as it comes directly off the ocean,” Olson said. “The tower needs to be really sturdy. I’m sure their engineers and designers have taken that all into consideration when figuring out what is required to make this work.”

Chris Allhands is one of the owners of M&A Construction, the company that is doing the site preparation and coordinating the installation of the tower, and he described the steps taken to assure the stability of the new structure.

“This was a fairly large project. It’s got an impressive retaining wall and it’s got a footing beneath the retaining wall with a bunch of rebar in it. The hole we dug to anchor the tower was 36 by 36 feet, with 37 cubic yards of concrete and 22,000 pounds of rebar added,” he said. “That’s what the tower will sit on and the massive base will act as a giant ballast to hold the tower in place.”

The new Verizon cell tower still needs to be connected to the region’s electrical system and a number of tests and adjustments will have to be undertaken before the cell site is completely operational, but those tasks should be completed within the next month.


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