Longboat Key undergrounding issue

Guest Columunist

Below is a link to an article about Verizon using the 600-800 MHz frequency spectrum to expand their fast growing 5G network.


If you read the town emails, listen to the town’s underground fiber consultants and the advice of one local newspaper editor, all that is being discussed is what is called milli-meter backhaul, using the 26 GigaHertz spectrum and small cell deployment, where many small antennas are installed on 30 foot poles every few hundred feet along streets in neighborhoods and along GMD.

In the above article, other alternative 5G deployments are discussed, being used by 5G carriers such as Verizon, using lower frequencies (600-800 MHZ) that became available when the old national analog TV system was replaced with digital TV. Originally the 600-800 MHz frequencies were chosen for the national TV system because these frequencies penetrate trees and walls, and carry for long distances, two to three times better than the existing 4G system. All 5G cell phones will be able to receive both high and low frequencies.

The town commission is in the process of spending 5 million+ tax dollars to install an elaborate underground fiber network. To my knowledge, to date Verizon/AT&T/T-Mobil/etc. have not spoken to the town about using the proposed town underground fiber network or special street poles designed to accommodate cell phone antennas and electronics. If the town goes ahead with its fiber project, neighborhoods will see taller metal poles replace the present wooden street poles. I have no idea what will happen inside Harbourside.

We are told the town needs to spend the money on the taller poles to accommodate 5G antennas and equipment. Yet the town has no knowledge that the poles will ever be used by any/all of the 5G provider that might want access to our community. 2018 FCC legislation allows 5G companies to erect their own poles anywhere on public right-of-ways. And as Sarasota discovered, there is nothing a municipal government can do to stop the proliferation of antenna poles in a community. Each 5G company can have their own poles. There is no limit to how many 5G companies can create their own systems within a community. If the town poles can only accommodate 2-3 antennas, what happens if additional provides want access to our little community? More poles anyway?

The rational, being used by the 5G providers, for erecting many many antenna poles along neighborhood streets, is the need to have high capacity 1 gigabit wireless milli-meter, small cell backhaul service into every home. If one drives down Ringling Blvd. in Sarasota, some of the Verizon poles are visible in the center median. Sarasota tells me than Verizon intends to erect over 300 such poles in downtown Sarasota.

However, small cell deployment is expensive, as is ongoing maintenance of all the hundreds and thousands of poles and electronics that compose a small cell system. MM small cell backhaul systems are designed to service high demand markets such as commercial urban centers, large sports venues and high density residential markets willing to purchase high-end wireless services such as HD movies and gaming on their cell phones.

Longboat Key is not one of those markets. We are a low density, highly seasonal community with a high median age. We do not have, nor to residents want, an increased commercial presence on the island with its attendant traffic. So there is little likelihood that there will be high demand for premium 5G wireless services with their high costs, that cannot be serviced by existing to-the-premises fiber from Comcast and Frontier.

This leads me back to the above article. It is apparent that all the 5G providers will deploy wireless systems using all available spectrum, which ranges from 6 MHz to 60 GHz. Costly milli-meter backhaul will most likely be deployed only where demand is high enough to justify the investment in small cell poles every few hundred feet. Longboat is not a high density, high demand market. It never will be, thank goodness.

As the above article states, Verizon, and all the other 5G provider, can already supply gigabit wireless 5G data using the 600-800 MHz spectrum. As far as I can tell the existing 4G wireless infrastructure on the island could be upgraded to a 5G system, with greatly improved in-door reception, by replacing the current equipment with 5G hardware on exusting cell phone antenna sites on the island. Since small cell does not do well with moving vehicles, the lower frequency 5G would actually supply better service along GMD, without the need for hundreds of 5G poles.

It is my understanding that LBK is an ideal candidate for 600-800 MHZ 5G service, since we are a low density, seasonal community where most residents already have high speed internet in their homes provided by Comcast and Frontier. Using existing antenna sites, along with greatly improved indoor coverage provided by using the 600-800 MHz frequency bands, would also be the most cost effective solution for all the 5G providers.

If I was a 5G deployment design engineer, I would choose the most cost effective architecture that provided good service and the lowest cost. Perhaps that is why the 5G folks are not coming forward to discuss using the town’s 5 million dollar underground fiber network.

If Longboat can have good indoor 5G service from existing sites on the island, using new better technology, along with gigabit wifi service from Comcast/Frontier, and we do not have to have hundreds of 5G antenna poles throughout our community, do you really want to be able to download a 4K movie onto your cell phone in 35 seconds?

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1 Response for “Longboat Key undergrounding issue”

  1. ghostrider says:

    Unintended consequences, Sir.

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