Cell poles installed to boost signal

New cellphone towers are going up in Greenwood, but these aren’t the 200-foot structures that cast a shadow on neighbors.

By Thanksgiving, Greenwood will have a total of 10, 30-foot poles installed next to other utility poles along Emerson Avenue, County Line Road and Main Street. A company that works with all major cell service providers has already installed poles along streets on the outskirts of subdivisions and neighborhoods to enhance reception and cell signal for the many residents who use smartphones and tablets.

Poles have gone up at places such as the intersection of County Line Road and Meridian Street and along Smith Valley Road near Grassy Creek Lane to service nearby neighborhoods and subdivisions.

For decades, the only way to boost signal was to build a 200-foot-tall cellphone tower or add to an existing one. Those towers were never popular with residents, who often would speak out against them being erected in their neighborhoods.

New technology allows for smaller poles. Because of the size of the equipment, many of the poles can be installed in a concentrated area where reception is bogged down due to the number of smartphones and tablets in the area trying to work off the same cell signal.

The cell poles work with large cell towers to provide better reception. Lightower Fiber Network cell poles work with four major cellphone providers.

Traditional, large cell towers are built on a hill or in open land and serve every cellphone user within 5 to 10 miles, Lightower senior vice president of development Drew Mullin said. The poles going up in Greenwood are shorter than the typical utility post and will improve service for smartphones and tablets nearby. For example, a pole installed near the entrance of a subdivision would improve cell reception for the homes in the neighborhood.

“This is the next phase of wireless service,” Mullin said. “Better download speeds, reception — big towers are slowing down, and most of the big four wireless providers are really moving toward small-cell technology.”

Generally, Lightower will have its engineers determine where most of the cellphone use comes from in a geographic area to determine where to put small cell poles to increase reception. Recently, the major four cellphone providers have made a push for more small cell towers because larger towers aren’t providing the service customers need, Mullin said.

This month, three poles were installed on Emerson Avenue, between Main Street and County Line Road. Other areas where poles have been installed include Smith Valley Road and Meridian Street. The Greenwood Board of Public Works and Safety approved the installation this summer.

The cell poles can be installed more quickly and more easily than traditional cellphone towers. Residents shouldn’t expect to see fewer cell towers, though. Towers are still the primary source for reception and will be built as needed, Mullin said.

But smaller poles will become more common in areas where there is not room for a large tower to increase bandwidth, or capacity, of cell service, Mullin said.

And it’s not just subdivisions and other neighborhood areas that are receiving the new technology. Hospitals and sports venues such as Lucas Oil Stadium use the cell poles to provide better cell signals and reception.

In Indianapolis, Lightower has more than 400 route miles of the new wireless infrastructure. Route miles are the area of coverage, and they are configured by measuring the distance between all of the company’s cell poles.

“Some cities are very forward thinking in trying to find ways to get better cell service in the community,” Mullin said. “It’s evolved over time. As technology gets better, reception gets better. This is a clear benefit for the user.”

Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at celliot@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2719.