Across the United States, clunky 4G cell towers are often “disguised” with regionally-prominent foliage. Evergreens are attached to sites in the Northeast. In the South, they’re decorated to look like palm trees. And then there’s the cacti out West. In some cases, the equipment is tucked into existing church bell towers, town square signs and on the side of historic landmarks. On farmland, 4G-enabled water towers are set up as props to give the impression they’re part of the landscape.
But with the rollout of 5G, the next-generation of wireless speed, cities like Scottsdale will rely less on elaborate cover ups and more on a piece of architecture that’s been a mainstay in urban and suburban environments for well over a century: street lights.
It’s not as creative as hiding technology in a faux plant but the shift is currently playing out all over the world. “Design will be just as important moving forward with the 5G installations, but we will have a greater focus on streetlights than the cacti,” said Keith Niederer, telecom policy coordinator for Scottsdale.
That’s because 5G radio signals for small cell sites operate at a higher millimeter wave frequency than 4G, making them more easily blocked by objects, such as wooden fixtures or leaves, and certain materials. Consequently, installations must be set up every couple hundred feet — and that distance will shrink even more as data-needy technology like self-driving cars hit the roads. They also need to be close to street level for people to access the signals and the antennas, for the most part, must remain exposed.
All this is to say, you can’t quite put 5G in a pretty box. The technology needs to be out in the open — on main streets, residential roads and frankly, everywhere.
“In Scottsdale, aesthetics are pretty important. Every street has a different theme and streetlights vary,” added Niederer, noting the technical limitations. “We want them to blend in as much as possible and not stand out.”
The wireless carriers in the Phoenix metro area, including Scottsdale, are working with Valmont Industries, one of the largest concealment companies in the world and the first maker of the camouflaged pine tree tower nearly 30 years ago in the Denver market, to ensure the colors, designs and use cases fit with neighborhoods. (Valmont just wrapped a similar project with the city of San Antonio, Texas, swapping its signature fluted poles with swooping arms…
Go to the news source: Inside the complicated business of disguising 5G equipment