Know Your Area Cell Phone Mini Towers – They’re Just Above Our Heads – The Great NoPA Cylinder on Fulton

Now the first time I posted about these cell phone box / antenna things mounted on our telephone poles in the Western Addition / Western NoPA, people from Bernal Heights and the Dogpatch wrote in to say, “Like, where’s our box, man?” ‘Cause, you know, they wanted their mobiles to work more better.

Since then, we’ve gotten more phone stuff above our heads transmitting and receiving,* but I don’t know if people are happier now.

Anyway, leave us review the sitch from last year at Fulton and Central and then get an update from this week.

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 AdditionNOPA area.

Click to expand:

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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. Go ahead and call them up, they’ll answer. I don’t think they really want you to call them over there (I think it’s Delaware or someplace) but they’d prefer that you give them a ring if you’re totally freaking out or something. The last thing they want is you starting a new NIMBY group:

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[Nitpick Mode=ON] NB NextG: The plural of antenna is “antennas,” not “antennae, unless we’re talking bugs, which we aren’t. [Nitpick Mode=OFF]

(I don’t know how people are supposed to read the fine print on these signs if they’re mounted so high.)

And here’s the mise-en-scene with a recent photo from the boys at Google (I’ve never seen a woman driving a Google Maps car, wonder why…) Can you see the white warning sign and then the gray PowerWave box down low? Well that box is connected to the Giant Beige Cylinder of Death jutting out over the street. See how somebody took care to make sure it didn’t get blocked too much by the building on the corner? And NIMBYs, how would you like to open your third floor bedroom window only to see a GBCOD antenna hard at work?

Say hello to my little friend. Didn’t know what this thing was at first, but, in context, it can only be an antenna. This is new part, I’ve figured out where / what the antenna is – hadn’t noticed it before…

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

All right, that’s it, including the update.

If you’re fretful, see you after the jump for ever more deets.

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

*Were these bits from SF Weekly supposed to be funny? I generally get this kind of humor, but the whole SFW series about the SFBG’s cellie towers seemed a bit on the petulant side.

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:

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6 Responses to “Know Your Area Cell Phone Mini Towers – They’re Just Above Our Heads – The Great NoPA Cylinder on Fulton”

  1. Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

    Those cylinders may be antennae (I reject the biological/radio spelling differentiation), but for WHAT? Not cellular, certainly, since we have one directly across the street from our house and still can’t get a fucking cell signal.

  2. sfcitizen says:

    Well, those spellings are direct from Wiki, thot most people write antennas as antennas.

    That cylinder may be it’s for a different provider….

  3. grog says:

    Doktor, just because it doesn’t provide service for YOUR particular carrier doesn’t mean it’s not for cellular.

    Before we start, let’s clear up some common misconceptions. MetroPCS, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile all have _separate_ equipment, and do NOT share their cabinets with anyone unless they support a NVMO (virtual network operators, like Credo and the now long-gone “Helio” operated on Sprint in the past, and boost operates over the older Nextel hardware that Sprint now owns – if you aren’t confused yet…). However, NextG DAS gear is the only way any of these carriers can expand their coverage and patch some of the nasty holes in cities like SF where they have no other options available to them. No, not all the carriers have agreed to use the NextG systems that are installed in many parts of SF now.

    That said, the NextG gear has “head end” locations for feeding the system. Multiple participating cell carriers will install their full-sized cabinets in these locations, turn down or attenuate the output RF signal for the cabinets to a level that the systems can handle then interface the cabinets with the DAS gear. The equipment translates the signal into a high-speed stream of 1′s and 0′s then transport it through fiber to the pole-mounted nodes throughout the area. The nodes convert it back into an RF signal at a very low power level and re-transmit it through the nifty “cylinder” antennas. The cylinders are just protective covers over the actual antenna electronics inside of them.

    The cell carriers don’t play nice with each other in most cases, so not all carriers may be on the network. When the system was first being installed a few years ago, MetroPCS was the only carrier at the time that had totally committed to using the NextG system as it was the only way for them to expand coverage in the city. I believe at the time Sprint was also interested in sharing the system with them, but that may have changed as such relationships can be very volatile and often fall apart at a moment’s notice. Having worked closely with Sprint on systems in the past, I can tell you from first hand experience that Sprint is very against sharing any DAS networks with any carriers. If NextG’s system in SF is an exception, it’s a rare one and probably was done out of desperation.

    You can thank the foil hat wearing NIMBY whackos in SF for there being poor cellular coverage in the city in general. They long ago screamed and cried about their non-existent brain tumors to put a grinding halt on any new cell site construction in most of the city. There are areas which are unaffected by this or have cells being constructed on private property without the citizens knowing about it. That said, when the NIMBY crowd complains, they’re often going off of half-baked information from some so-called “expert” who did studies designed toward proving a favorable outcome for their particular point of view. To date, there still aren’t any conclusive tests proving one way or another that RF energy (don’t call it “radiation”… cellular sites don’t emit energy from radio-isotopes) from cellular phone usage is causing brain cancer or any other type of ailments.

    Bottom line, if you are pissed about cellular coverage for your particular carrier in your part of the city, complain to the city about it and start going to some city council meetings. In almost every case for SF in general, the cell carriers aren’t at fault. Be thankful you have any at all… the NIMBY’s have a higher level of psycho to them in Berkeley. There’s a huge RF hole for most of the carriers in the middle of Berkeley as a result of their knee-jerk over-reaction. And yeah, most of the carriers receive complaints about this area, but of course there’s nothing they can do.

    I liked the practice one carrier I worked for used to use. When a site was going up in an embattled neighborhood, sometimes they’d install the site with no power to run it and no telephone carrier lines to backhaul the data to the switching office. The site would be left there, “dark”, for 3 to 6 months. With the NOC number and cell site ID prominently displayed on the site door where it should be, slowly the whackos would come out of the woodwork and call to complain. Complaints always ranged from “I have headaches all the time” up to their children having mysterious illnesses (which, of course, could ONLY be the result of the offending cell site). The NOC would receive calls from these jackoffs and direct them to show up at a particular city council meeting in the future to voice their concerns. At the meeting, we’d drop the proverbial bomb on them… the site isn’t functioning, isn’t on the air and we’d have the paperwork from PG&E and AT&T to show that there’s no way it could be in operation the past few months. The city council would dismiss the issue and politely tell the foil-hat crowd that they weren’t welcome to show at future meetings for related complaints since they were obviously a bunch of hypochondriac liars.

    I always enjoyed seeing a few of them in the back of the room start screaming and crying when they realized they’d been duped and exposed for who they really were. Usually made my day. :-)

    There were a few instances where representatives for a cell carrier would be called to a school where a cell had recently been installed on or adjacent to school property. The parents would be freaking out that their children were going to grow an unwanted third arm. RF monitoring equipment would be brought in to show just how little energy was actually in the air 40-60 feet below the antennas on the mast. As a nice little bonus, a trip to the teacher’s break-room with the monitoring equipment was usually on the agenda. A glass of water being heated in the microwave and watching the meter scream about the high level of RF leakage from the microwave oven was often more than enough to silence some of the toughest critics.

  4. sfcitizen says:

    Wow, you are really up on things…

    Learned a lot, thx.

  5. sharon says:

    Thanks for posting a picture of the phone number. The equipment outside my mom’s house sounds like a dryer 24/7. She wants it moved but I asked them to come and fix it as 311 is no help. Best regards.

  6. sfcitizen says:

    Good luck – hope that works!