Ocean City Today

Council approves new cell system with disguised look

Equipment to be placed on light poles, hopefully to boost signal on Boardwalk
By Katie Tabeling | Jul 13, 2017
Courtesy of: Crown Castle The City Council signed off on a proposal to install new cell towers. Some of them will be on the Boardwalk, and will take the place of existing light posts, if possible.

(July 14, 2017) There will be small cell phone poles on the Boardwalk after all, as a City Council majority concluded this week that those locations were the only possible way to cater to visitors and residents’ mobile needs.

Although city officials first ordered mobile operator company Crown Castle to find alternatives to installing 12 out of 19 proposed cell poles on the boards, the council voted 5-2 to move forward with poles that would be like existing light poles. The remaining seven poles will be installed on Baltimore and Philadelphia Avenues.

Crown Castle’s equipment include an antenna on each pole, which is used to boost the cell phone 4G and 5G data coverage in a 500-foot radius. Crown Castle engineer JD McCloskey said they did look to see if the pole-mounted nodes could be installed on west side of the Boardwalk, but the nearby buildings would weaken the signal.

“The technology doesn’t penetrate the buildings, and if we moved them behind the building façade, it doesn’t get onto the Boardwalk,” McCloskey said during Tuesday’s work session. “The high frequency signal doesn’t bend around buildings, and to move it on the west side would still have an antenna outside them.”

Crown Castle’s strategy is to install low frequency systems to pinpoint users in a densely populated area to compliment the city’s service provided by larger cell systems, like what is installed on the First Street water tower.

“The goal is to be as close to the user and provide low power transmission for quality signal,” McCloskey to the council. “They’ll be overlap with a more powerful signal in these locations.”

To fit the resort’s aesthetic, Crown Castle representatives said they could replace the existing light poles with one of their 20-foot-tall systems that would cater to several mobile providers. The poles also provide opportunities to work with Ocean City’s surveillance system, like installing additional cameras.

Instead of installing a four-foot utility box with each cell pole, the company looked to integrate their technology with existing city equipment or to put it in the pole’s base. That option would put the cell tower’s base to 2 feet in its diameter.

Crown Castle also looked to install their technology with lights in areas city officials looked to illuminate on the Boardwalk. Two lights could be installed on the poles, but representatives were unsure if the antenna could be lowered to be between the bulbs.

Councilmen Tony DeLuca and Matt James were unimpressed with this proposal, and DeLuca said that it did not follow their directions issued by the council during their last meeting.

James put his disapproval in blunter terms.

“Your carriers aren’t our concern, our visitors and property owners that paid a lot of money for an ocean view are,” James said. “I don’t think people want a taller pole in front of their house, and I think this is step in the wrong direction for Ocean City.”

McCloskey explained that smartphones have been growing in popularity the last four years, with 4.5 billion people using them today. Trends show that in 2018 the amount of data used will be six times what was used in 2013.

“This is the way 4G and 5G mobile devices are going. Engineers look at that data and plan for the future, to keep up and give the visitors of Ocean City the quality they expect when using a cell phone or tablet like they do in everyday life,” he said. “We’re here because we need to make sure networks are ready for that bump.”

“I understand that. I just don’t care,” James responded. “We told you we didn’t want them on the east side of the Boardwalk.”

Councilman Dennis Dare said that the proposal on the table was a good compromise between customer needs and the city’s desires.

“I understand their constraints with line of sight, and they did look to replace poles,” he said. “I don’t see it as aesthetically displeasing as blocking… I only have concerns with having a big panel on the ground. I’d like to see them all with a bigger base.”

The council voted to accept the proposal, with Crown Castle using intergraded bases, and installing light fixtures and security cameras to support Ocean City’s current surveillance system, depending on each location. James and DeLuca dissented.


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