Town leaders hosted a workshop meeting regarding cell service downtown.
Cell phone service in downtown Windermere could be getting an upgrade.
Representatives from Crown Castle outlined a plan to improve cell phone service on and around Main Street during a workshop meeting on Tuesday, June 26. Crown Castle is a company that provides wireless communications infrastructure.
Project Manager Ann Bradley said the company is looking to improve the cell service in downtown Windermere using small cell solutions, or SCS.
“Demand for mobile data is projected to grow,” Bradley said. “This wireless demand is creating a need for new infrastructure, and the new infrastructure is the components of a small-cell solution, which consists of a pole in the utility right-of-way. … (It) could be a utility pole, power pole, slim-line pole or a street pole with street lights.”
According to Crown Castle’s website, small-cell solutions consist of discrete nodes that sit on top of various types of utilities poles. The nodes improve cellular voice and data capacity within the area they are installed; however, they cover smaller areas compared to traditional cell towers. When the nodes are grouped closer together, they could potentially deliver more cell capacity to an area than a traditional cell tower.
Badley said the design being proposed for downtown Windermere is a street pole with one or two lights attached. She said five poles would be installed in the right-of-way along Main Street. The proposed locations each have an existing street light that will be replaced.
The company has installed many SCS devices in downtown Orlando, in all of the Orlando theme parks and many other locations throughout the country, she added.
The wiring for each node will be hidden underground, within the pole or within a nearby utility box. Each node will be able to support three cell carriers, Bradley said.
“You will not see any lines or coaxials or wiring or anything outside of the pole. It’s all inside (or underneath) the pole,” she said. “You would not have three different poles for three different carriers — It would all be on one pole.”
Town Manager Robert Smith said Crown Castle is covering all the costs of the project. He added the company has a statutory right to utilize the town’s right-of-way to install the nodes in downtown.
“It does change the aesthetics a little bit,” Smith said. “The right-of-way is going to look a little different. The lighting is going to look a little different, but it will enhance the services when it comes to cell service, streaming and stuff like that.”
Smith also said that Crown Castle does have to work with the town regarding the aesthetics of the nodes.
Mayor Gary Bruhn said he is not a fan of the state statute that grants telecommunication companies, like Crown Castle, the power to utilize the town’s rights-of-way; however, he also said he is glad that Crown Castle is taking the town’s character and aesthetics into consideration with the plans.
“(Companies like) AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, they went right to the state legislature and got the laws passed that they wanted,” Bruhn said. “They can do what they want on our rights-of-way. We cannot control. We cannot charge for it. And that left a bad taste in my mouth. … I appreciate (Crown Castle) actually sitting down (with us) and trying to come to some kind of an agreement — if you will — as to what they will look like and how they will be placed.”
Bruhn added the project won’t begin until early 2019. Once it starts, it won’t take long to complete.
“It probably won’t take more than a week or two to get it done,” he said. “They have got to go and negotiate and work out a deal with Duke (Energy). … The light poles that we have downtown — the ones that they’re replacing with these (SCS) poles — Duke actually owns them. We lease them from Duke.”