By MORGAN FRISCH
Recorder News Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM — Town of Amsterdam Planning Board members are in the preliminary stages of reviewing a plan to install a small cell 50-foot wood utility pole intended to fill voids in cell phone data coverage.
After a discussion during Wednesday’s monthly meeting with John Britz, permitting manager for Mobilitie LLC, the planning board determined they would prefer to co-locate a small cell on an existing National Grid pole versus building a new one.
Mobilitie is an infrastructure company that works with cell phone carriers to help them build their networks. According to Mobilities’s website, small cell solutions expand network coverage and capacity at discreet locations for the wireless carriers. The small cells have a shorter range than large towers and antennas are sometimes installed on existing utility infrastructure, such as National Grid poles.
Britz was proposing to place a 50-foot wood utility pole in the right of way of Tessiero Square. He explained that Mobilitie uses propagation maps to figure out where there are data shortages.
“I call it boosters, it actually boosts the signal,” he said
Britz said that small cells are put in to alleviate that problem.
“Basically, our society is going towards data. Data is going to up 500 percent in probably the next three years, 90 percent of people have cellphones, of that 50 percent only own cellphones,” he said. “The trend is going that way and our society is getting into a data society where everybody texts and sends data.”
Britz said the small cell would gather data and send it to a tower. The one Mobilitie is proposing would be a Sprint carrier.
“We are going to 5G eventually, they are saying 2020, 21, and 5G is a big leap from 4G,” Britz said. “5G will have capabilities like being able to drive cars and do different things like that. That’s the technology that’s coming and in order to do that you have to do build outs in communities. It basically helps the community, it handles the data and it’s good for business, it gets information out there.”
Britz told the planners Mobilitie likes to work with the jurisdiction and if they would prefer to put one of these small cells on an existing pole that would be fine.
Planning board chairman Brent Phetteplace told Britz there are National Grid polls across the street from where he was proposing to put the small cell. Board members also mentioned to Britz his original drawings had the utility pole placed on private property.
Planning board member Thomas Flanagan asked Britz how many more small cells he could see coming into the greater Amsterdam area.
“Right now that’s the only search ring that I have in Amsterdam,” Britz said. “My guess is that these are going to continue. You will probably get other areas, but I wouldn’t say a lot.”
Britz said there would be more small cells in bigger cities.
Flanagan also asked about the effectiveness of this device with regards to height.
“Initially when [Mobilitie] started this, and I don’t know if it was with the town, but they wanted to put a 120-foot real roaming tower,” he said. “To tell all of you, that project is dead it’s something we are not doing anymore. We are doing it in very rural areas where that’s the only chance they have of getting service.”
Britz was referring to a proposal Mobilitie made to the town zoning board in April regarding a 120-foot cell tower near Golf Course Road. Mobilitie also appeared before the City of Amsterdam in early April with a proposal for two 120-foot cell phone towers within the city.
Phetteplace also asked about Mobilitie’s previous proposal and if they were at all related, to which Britz said no.
Britz said the new tower being proposed is small cell while the other was called macro.
“They are totally two different animals,” he said.
Planning board member Mike Anostario asked if there would be equipment at the base of the poll. Britz showed him some photos and explained parts of the equipment are on the poll. He said there are different designs, and ways to go in regards to what is actually on the structure.
The municipality will receive a stipend if they end up putting a small cell in the town, according to Britz.
Town engineering consultant Kathleen Tatara, of Delaware Engineering, asked Britz to return with propagation maps.
“You are supposed to show why you need it in this location,” she said.
Britz told the planners if they co-locate on a grid pole, if that pole is 100-years-old with cracks, they would replace the pole with a brand new one. He also mentioned the town would still receive a stipend by putting a small cell on an existing pole.
“I will actually recommend that [Mobilitie] recycle this, get rid of it basically and try to find an existing grid pole in the vicinity that would work to co-locate,” Britz said.
Britz said he will return to the board when he has a new “candidate” location for the pole and will bring propagation maps.