Sprint Builds Out Its Network Using Honolulu’s Infrastructure

Small cell installations are being placed on city-owned light poles to boost network capacity on the island.

by Andrew Gomes, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser / July 9, 2018

(TNS) — Some city light poles around Oahu are being equipped to produce more than street lighting.

A contractor representing mobile phone service provider Sprint is installing data transmission equipment on 67 poles largely concentrated in Honolulu’s urban core but also in Central Oahu, Leeward Oahu and Laie.

The equipment turns the light poles into miniature cell antenna towers that eliminate service coverage dead spots and increase data transmission capacity as more phone users consume more data, largely by watching videos.

The city, which earns revenue from licensing use of the poles, expects more mobile phone service providers to follow suit.

Mobilitie LLC, a California-based firm working on behalf of Sprint, was the first to strike such an agreement with the city.

The company inked a deal to pay the city between $167,500 and $268,000 per year to use the 67 poles, based on a licensing fee of $2,500 per pole in neighborhoods with lower population densities and $4,000 per pole in higher-density neighborhoods. The arrangement, which also includes a one-time permit fee of $500 per pole and a 4 percent annual licensing fee increase, is good for five years and can be extended for two additional five-year terms.

Mobilitie’s first set of equipment, which the industry refers to as “small cell” infrastructure, was attached to a light pole on Bishop Street in downtown Honolulu recently, after the City Council approved the arrangement in April.

Allen Kam, a Mobilitie representative, has told neighborhood board representatives around the island that additions of small cell equipment is a nationwide initiative by competing mobile phone carriers.

In a presentation to the city, Kam cited statistics from Cisco VNI Mobile that 64 percent of mobile data is video and that a 500 percent increase in mobile data use is expected from 2016 to 2021.

“Small cells are a vital component to the overall telecommunications network as they increase capacity,” Kam’s presentation stated.

AT&T also has been in contact with city officials through a representative over its desire to install such equipment.

Ross Sasamura, director of the city Department of Facility Maintenance, added that other parties are interested. “The City and County of Honolulu is supportive of the deployment of small cell infrastructure on Oahu,” he said in a statement.

Wireless Policy Group LLC, a Seattle-based firm representing AT&T, expressed concern that the city’s licensing fees are too high.

The company noted that annual fees for small cell equipment attachments are $150 in Minneapolis, $787 in Los Angeles and $1,700 in Seattle.

“Honolulu’s proposed pricing would be a deterrent to the development of small cells in areas of Honolulu where network capacity is needed,” Ken Lyons of Wireless Policy said in a December letter to Brad Kitsu in Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration.

At that time the city was contemplating pole use rates of $2,000 and $4,000 for different neighborhoods.

Wireless Policy noted that demand for data is soaring and that data use on AT&T’s network increased by 250,000 percent since 2007.

“To meet the skyrocketing demand in residential areas, better serve businesses, and enhance public safety, carriers need viable options for siting new facilities in a way that will provide meaningful coverage and capacity and high-quality service,” the company’s letter said. “Small cell facilities can add much-needed capacity, and in some cases, coverage, to targeted areas with minimal impacts to the community.”

©2018 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.