Residents and police officers in West Lake Hills, Texas, have complained about areas without any wireless service, prompting the company to boost capacity by deploying small cell nodes throughout the city.
(TNS) — West Lake Hills is exploring ways to improve wireless connectivity throughout the city after complaints of "dead zones" have been reported by residents and police officers, officials said.
AT&T has begun to install new technology called small cell nodes that helps boost capacity and expands range in places around Austin and in Rollingwood. During a meeting Jan. 23, an AT&T spokesman gave suggestions to the city council on ways to improve reception in West Lake Hills. The suggestions are preliminary, so a cost to the city has not been determined.
Mayor Linda Anthony said low and sometimes no connectivity has been a problem, and that the biggest issue is public safety.
"Its a public safety issue not only for our residents but for our police officers," Anthony said. "We've gone to a great deal of trouble and expense to bring our police force into the 21st century with best-available technology, and there are places in the city where they can't use it because they're in a dead zone."
Wayne and Kelli Stickle, residents who live on Yaupon Valley Road, said they often experience dropped calls or dead zones, which affect their daily routines. Both work from home and have said they sometimes have to work from Starbucks or other places that offer Wi-Fi. The Stickles also pointed out that when that happens, there is no way to make calls, including to 911.
Anthony said it is another sign of changing times.
"More and more people are dropping landlines and work from home," Anthony said. "We're getting more smartphones and technology. Water District 10 is installing new smart meters. So all around us we see the need for more connectivity."
According to AT&T officials, a small cell node includes a small radio transmitter and an antenna. It helps provide wireless connection to small, very focused areas and can be affixed to utility poles and street lights.
In preliminary research, AT&T is recommending at most 15 small cell nodes throughout the city. The company is recommending starting with six and then installing more as needed. AT&T officials said the idea is to install the devices in the areas where customers experience the most dropped calls, such as along Redbud Trail near Old Hedgestone Street.
Representatives plan to do a survey of all infrastructure, including light poles and street lights, to find the best places to install the nodes so that they do not affect the aesthetic view of the road or area.
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