Industry Pitches Mitchell, S.D., on 5G Infrastructure

Representatives from communications giant Verizon presented the city council with several options for small cell antennas. According to the company, data demands are projected to sharply increase in the near future.

by Sam Fosness, The Daily Republic / August 20, 2019

(TNS) — As the city of Mitchell, S.D., prepares to welcome 4G and 5G technology, representatives of Verizon Wireless made their pitch to construct small cell facilities to the Mitchell City Council Monday at City Hall.

Sarah Meuli and Jeff Armour, representatives of Verizon Wireless, presented several options that the large cell phone carrier can provide for implementing technology in the city of Mitchell. Small cell facilities is the term used for 4G and 5G small cell antennas and equipment that’s typically mounted on utility poles or other support structures, generally under 30 feet.

Meuli emphasized the need for South Dakota municipalities with denser populations such as Mitchell to implement small cell facilities, citing the growth of cell phone usage and the data it requires.

“Data demands are increasing on a daily basis at a rate that carriers are really fighting to keep up with,” Meuli said. “With people snapchatting, tweeting and downloading in highly populated areas, the need for small cells helps cities keep up with the growing data demands.”

According to Meuli, over the next three years, the increase in data usage is estimated to increase five times more than what is used today.

In order to implement the technology that Meuli and Armour pitched, Verizon is mandated to pay the city a cost to install the small cell facilities. Should the council choose to use Verizon as its small cell facility provider, Armour said the city has to choose the cost per pole. Armour noted that the state of South Dakota has not adopted any state regulations; thus, the carriers such as Verizon will need to work with each city.

“Many communities see the 4G and 5G technology as an economic driver, because it gives communities faster wireless speed,” Armour said. “The bottom line is that we’re asking the city to come to a price range that we can actually make a capital investment as a company, while boosting your community.”

Armour broke down the cost of the implementation of small cell facilities, which he said is figured by the Federal Communications Commission. He said the cost per pole is based on actual fees for the construction and maintenance of the small cell facilities. Armour used Yankton’s $100 per pole fixed price as an example of what a similar-sized South Dakota community pays for the small cell facilities.

As of now, Mitchell has the cost set at $270 per pole, which Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said was decided based off the FCC's reasonable price suggestion. In response, Armour said $270 is the FCC’s maximum price it sees as reasonable.

Armour pitched a price that Verizon sees as a reasonable option for the small cell facilities, which ranged from $85 to $100 per pole.

Everson suggested the city continue discussions among the council before meeting with Verizon, and bring a cost estimate of the price range.

“We still don’t know who pays for the power for this,” Everson said. “When you say you want unmetered power, well, who’s paying for that?”

With the uncertainty of Everson’s concerns, the council agreed to further discuss options of welcoming the technology.

Meuli provided examples of how larger metropolitan areas have implemented the small cell facility antennas throughout larger cities such as Minneapolis and Des Moines. Meuli provided photographs of small cell facility antenna installed on existing light poles in Minneapolis.

Meuli highlighted how the small cell facility antennas have the capability of blending into utility poles and light poles, and said hiding the antennas as much as possible is the goal for the aesthetic look. According to Meuli, the size of the antennas is roughly 2-by-3 feet and they can be placed in areas selected by the city.

“We are able to have the small cell facilities be hidden in plain sight, and we pride ourselves on that,” Meuli said.

Meuli reiterated existing cell phone towers will remain in place. However, the installation of the small cell facilities would pave the way for allowing quicker downloading times and increased data usage. While the city has yet to decide whether it will implement 4G and 5G technology, the ordinance the council approved in December 2018 paved the way for the city to choose a wireless carrier to bring 4G and 5G technology to the community.

Armour highlighted a statistic that explains the need for small cell facilities and 4G technology, as he said 90 percent of households in the nation use cell phones for their primary home phone service. He noted how 911 emergency phone calls are impacted by 4G technology, adding better wireless service impacts public safety.

“We saw people increasingly needing to use their wireless phones in a time when it was needed most with the recent floods on Interstate 29,” Meuli said.

Editor's Note: This article was trimmed for relevance.

©2019 The Daily Republic (Mitchell, S.D.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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