San Francisco’s New Cell Phone Transmitters are Now Just Above Our Heads

Back in the day, you’d need a big, tall, ugly (or not so ugly) monopole tower reaching up to the heavens to get your cell phone to work. But these days, cellie transmitters are mounted just above your heads, just like this one recently installed on Fulton Street in the Western Addition / NOPA area.

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These new-school transceivers that our corporate overlords at AT&T and T Mobile have seen fit to use rely heavily upon fiber optic cables. And That’s A Good Thing, per NextG Networks, which adores these things

See their sign? It’s alarming and reassuring at the same time: 

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[Nitpick Mode=ON] NB NextG: The plural of antenna is “antennas,” not “antennae. [Nitpick Mode=OFF]

But is it safe what with all that RF floating around? I don’t know. Probably. Do the NIMBYs know about all these boxes being mounted on existing telephone poles? I don’t know, probably not.

If you’re in a mood for reading, take a gander at City and County of San Francisco vs. NextG Networks of California, Inc:

The City and County of San Francisco (CCSF) claims that NextG is violating the terms of the certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) granted in Decision (D.) 03-01-061, because NextG:  1) has failed to timely exercise its authority to offer competitive local exchange or interexchange services, and 2) is representing to CCSF that it is authorized to provide radio frequency transport services, a service the Commission has not authorized it to provide.  CCSF further claims that NextG is violating the terms and conditions of its CPCN because the Commission has not authorized NextG to install either:  1) microcell and antenna facilities in the public rights-of-way, or 2) any equipment or facilities on existing utility poles.

I’m thinking NextG won that little dustup, based on this pithy entry from Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP. It looks like NextG can put their little boxes where they want, whether you like it or not

All you can do is just sit yourself down and read this cheery FAQ from the Gs at NextG.

Q. What safety codes does NextG comply with for its installations and site operations?
Q. What is so unique about the RF energy produced by NextG’s equipment?
Q. What benefits does NextG provide for the community?
Q. To start the process, what does NextG submit to the City?
Q. Is the City’s relationship with NextG similar to the City’s relationship with the incumbent local telephone company?
Q. What facilities does NextG use to provide service in the community?
Q. What type of company is NextG Networks?
Q. What kind of service does NextG provide?

Q. What safety codes does NextG comply with for its installations and operations?
A. NextG’s installations and site operations comply with all applicable regulations and safety codes, such as the National Electrical Safety Code. The company also works closely with all appropriate entities to ensure a safe installation and operating environment.
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Q. What is so unique about the RF energy produced by NextG’s equipment?
A. NextG’s DAS sites produce RF energy at levels 50 – 100 times below the FCC’s maximum allowances. In fact, these levels are so low that they don’t even meet the FCC’s minimum threshold that establishes the need for conducting routine RF energy testing. The FCC has exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of RF energy.
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Q. What benefits does NextG provide for the community?
A. NextG’s facilities and services are less intrusive than traditional cell towers. Whereas wireless providers have typically relied on large towers or monopoles, NextG’s service is based on discrete fiber optics and small, unobtrusive equipment located on existing utility and/or streetlight poles. In addition, NextG’s solution allows wireless providers to rapidly improve their networks’ coverage, capacity and performance, which leads to new and/or enhanced service opportunities for consumers. Finally, NextG’s solution can accommodate multiple service providers, which helps drive more service choices and more competitive prices for consumers.
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Q. To start the process, what does NextG submit to the City?
A. NextG applies for the right to design, permit, build, operate and manage telecommunications system in the public right-of-way of the City, in compliance with the City’s ordinances and permitting requirements. NextG typically submits a right-of-way use agreement that seeks:

  • the right to enter into the public right-of-way to provide telecommunications services;
  • the right to use City-owned streetlight poles and traffic signal poles for the collocation of NextG’s facilities;
  • the right to use third-party-owned property (utility poles) in the public right-of-way for deployment of NextG’s system;
  • the right to use any available City-owned fiber for the collocation of NextG’s facilities; and
  • the right to use any available City-owned conduit for the collocation of NextG’s facilities.

In addition, NextG provides information related to the physical construction in, and occupation of, the public right-of-way.
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Q. Is the City’s relationship with NextG similar to the City’s relationship with the incumbent local telephone company?
A. Yes. Local authorities must treat competitive providers, such as NextG, in a competitively-neutral and non-discriminatory manner. As a result, local authorities cannot impose on NextG requirements or fees that are not imposed on the incumbent local telephone company. In addition, local authorities are not permitted to regulate the activities of telecommunications providers in the public right-of-way.
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Q. What facilities does NextG use to provide service in the community?
A. NextG provides its service with a combination of fiber optic lines connected to a DAS site consisting of small wireless antennas, optical repeaters, and associated equipment. Thus, it must generally install a certain amount of fiber optic cable, either underground or on existing utility poles. In addition, NextG must install small wireless antennas and associated equipment on utility poles and/or streetlight poles, typically located in the public right-of-way. In areas where NextG needs to install its own utility poles, the company complies with local regulations governing such installations. When possible and appropriate, NextG may lease capacity on existing fiber optic facilities owned by the City or other providers, thus diminishing the physical impact of NextG’s installation.
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Q. What type of company is NextG Networks?
A. NextG Networks is a next-generation communications company that provides managed RF transport and backhaul services to wireless communications carriers. The company is commonly known as a “carrier’s carrier” since it is not licensed to provide wireless services and does not control wireless spectrum, but rather provides services to the carrier community. NextG’s innovative and cost-effective RF-over-fiber transport solution enables wireless carriers to expand their coverage, capacity and performance throughout metropolitan regions and in dense urban and isolated suburban areas. NextG Networks is headquartered in San Jose, California, and operates wholly-owned regional subsidiaries throughout the United States. The company is certified to provide telecommunications services in the states it is active.
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Q. What kind of service does NextG provide?
A. NextG provides telecommunications services—physical access, via radio frequency signals, to the wireless carriers’ licensed services. Specifically, it carries voice and data traffic handed off to it by wireless providers. It carries that traffic via its fiber optic lines from DAS sites located on utility and/or streetlight poles to a central location where is it connected to the wireless service provider. The service providers support their customers using a range of frequencies, such as cellular, SMR, PCS, AWS, BRS and 700 MHz with a variety of technologies such as iDEN, CDMA, GSM, EV-DO, 1xRTT, LTE, and WiMAX.
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But, as always, You Make The Call:

What’s the frequency, Kenneth? Is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh

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3 Responses to “San Francisco’s New Cell Phone Transmitters are Now Just Above Our Heads”

  1. joseph says:

    I don’t suppose they could put one of these near me so i can actually *get* coverage in my apartment in the castro!!? damn at&t…

  2. Janet C says:

    Yup, big dead spot on the west side of Bernal ’cause of complaints from the people who think RF causes cancer. “What about the children???”

  3. sfcitizen says:

    Wow, did not know that.

    Sprint seems to do just fine all over town, cepting for maybe some elevators and the basements of some buildings.

    One of these boxes mounted around your hood would be just the ticket. Maybe you can call the toll-free number and ask for one – they’d probably enjoy hearing from you. Srsly.