By Lily Lim, Associate Planner at M-Group
There once was a time when wireless technology did not exist. In the last two decades, we have become dependent on the accessibility we have to each other, social media and the internet. I recall the days of having to look at a map to figure out how to get somewhere, but now, all I have to do is wait for the map app on my phone to reroute if I've taken the wrong turn.
What is wireless? Has it become necessary infrastructure? We use our cell phones for voice calls, text messaging, emails, internet and navigation. We have generated a need for this service based on our usage, yet we can’t seem to come to terms with the baggage that comes with it. There is a constant struggle between the demand for better service and the proliferation of wireless facilities.
Many cities and counties in the Bay Area have wireless ordinances in place, while others consider each project on a case-by-case basis. The ordinances not only help jurisdictions regulate wireless development. Ordinances can also help wireless carriers design a site that will meet the siting and design regulations of each jurisdiction.
Wireless design has evolved from monopoles and faux trees with sparse branches to architecturally integrated features and faux trees with full, realistic fronds and branches. Some cities prefer to have the antennas architecturally integrated into a building, while others prefer to treat them as utility poles. Although many designs appear to be feasible, often times, carriers encounter construction issues such as: structural limitations and reasonable distance to power and telephone connections.
As technology evolves, different types of wireless solutions can help achieve the overall goals of the carriers. Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) provide coverage in areas where one site may not be able to cover an entire area. DAS is a network of small nodes, often located on existing infrastructure such as utility or light poles. Rather than one large site, DAS can be spatially separated to achieve similar coverage objectives. Similarly, larger sites can also be located on existing infrastructure such as utility poles, light poles, larger lattice towers, public communication towers, etc.
Different types of wireless designs:
Although wireless carriers are out to make money like any other business, they aren’t the only ones to benefit from such infrastructure. More and more, emergency services and first responders are moving towards using their cell phones as their main communication device. Many people are choosing to migrate towards not having a landline in their homes. The decision to move in that direction increases the need for solid coverage areas.
Due to the increased number of users and smart phones, there’s an immediate need to increase capacity. Each wireless facility is intertwined into the entire network of sites, which allows each site to “talk” to each other. For example, John calls Jane on his way home from work (handsfree, of course). As John is traveling along Highway 280 in bumper to bumper traffic, his call is being passed on from one site to another. Suddenly, John’s call drops. There is likely plenty of coverage along Highway 280, but each site can only handle a certain capacity.