Better Coverage, Faster Speeds to Meet Consumer Demand
Every day, more people are using more wireless services in more places. Americans certainly use more wireless minutes and text more than ever before, but it’s not just about making calls anymore. We’re also using more advanced, data-rich wireless services such as email, high speed Internet access, gaming, and sharing of digital photography, songs and video. You can just look around and see so many people using smartphones, tablets and wireless cards for laptop PCs, which are all signs of how much wireless use is growing.
The substantial increase in demand and devices means we need more wireless facility sites (such as towers and antennas) to handle the load. We need more spectrum, too! It’s made up of frequencies that carry the wireless signals from the hundreds of millions of mobile devices being used in the U.S. The need to continually build out our wireless infrastructure is similar to expanding our highways as more drivers take to the roads. In the case of wireless, providing more customers with better service, in more places, means adding more wireless towers and antennas.
How Do They Decide Where to ‘Site’?
In order for new wireless facilities to do their job (basically improving capacity and coverage for customers) they have to be placed in precise areas. Whenever possible, wireless providers and local government officials will simply add new equipment (such as an antenna) to existing facilities (such as a tower). Constructing brand new facilities is also an option, but it can get very expensive.
Preference is normally given to adding onto existing structures. Specific requirements for location, height and aesthetics are always taken into consideration, and companies work closely with local communities to reasonably balance historic preservation, environmental and other concerns with the desire to keep pace with rapid consumer demand for wireless services. Today’s towers can even blend into its environment like never before, such as on trees, church steeples, rooftops, water towers, or billboards.
What You Should Know
Typically, determining when and where to add new facilities is a collaborative effort based on continual monitoring and research. Engineers constantly analyze signals and consumers’ usage on local wireless networks, in order to improve quality and coverage for all wireless users living and/or traveling through an area.
- Network statistics measure performance. This gauges the amount of consumer traffic on wireless sites.
- Consumer surveys and customer feedback are used to help providers gauge the quality of wireless services throughout busy and slow periods of every day.
- Drive tests simulate the actual customer experience, while providing critical signal strength, call quality, and clarity data to your wireless providers.
- Field technicians collect real-time data by canvassing service areas with wireless phones, wireless laptops and tablets, and other equipment to test network quality.
- This information is compiled to identify locations where wireless coverage and/or capacity could be improved, and where to add-on or to build new facilities.
Your wireless providers are the technology experts, and your local city, county and state officials are the experts on bringing new infrastructure and development into your area. If the local zoning authority or public utilities/service commission is acting too slowly, don’t worry, the FCC has acted on behalf of wireless consumers to ensure a proper ‘shot clock’ for petition decisions — 90 days on whether a company can add on to an antenna, 150 days on building a new tower.