Technology 5G Towers: “What Are Those Mysterious New Towers Looming Over New York’s Sidewalks?”

Technology 5G Towers: “What Are Those Mysterious New Towers Looming Over New York’s Sidewalks?”

Photo: A new 5G tower on Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown – Amir Hamja for The New York Times

“As the city upgrades to 5G wireless, the streetscape is changing. Not everyone is impressed.

A curiously futuristic tower recently appeared on the corner of Putnam and Bedford Avenues in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. A gray column topped by a perforated casing, at a whopping 32 feet tall, it reaches higher than the three-story brick building behind it.

Sixty-year-old Marion Little, who owns Stripper Stain & Supplies, the hardware store that has operated on that corner for 17 years, said that he and his neighbors had received no warning. One day there were workers outside; then the tower materialized.

‘We were shocked because we had no idea what it was,’ Mr. Little said. Since it’s right outside his store, people keep asking him about it. ‘They’ve been emailing me, calling me weekends, Facebooking me, like, ‘Yo, what’s that?’ and I’m sitting there like, ‘I have no clue.’’

The object in question is a new 5G antenna tower erected by LinkNYC, the latest hardware in New York’s sweeping technological upgrade.

New York City has an agreement with CityBridge, the team behind LinkNYC, that involves installing 2,000 5G towers over the next several years, an effort to help eliminate the city’s ‘internet deserts.’ Ninety percent will be in underserved areas of the city — neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and above 96th Street in Manhattan.

Once the towers are activated, residents will have access to free digital calling and free high-speed Wi-Fi as well as 5G service. Many of the locations were previously home to pay phones.

According to officials in the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation, 40 percent of New York City households lack the combination of home and mobile broadband, including 18 percent of residents — more than 1.5 million people — who lack both.

The 5G towers, as well as fiber cables underground, will make up an infrastructure that carriers like AT&T and Verizon can use to provide better service to customers. Most of the towers, including the one on Mr. Little’s corner, have not yet been activated… Mark Malecki, 26, who moved to New York City in mid-October from Richmond, Va., has an intimate view framed by his third-floor bedroom window. ‘I wasn’t even quite sure what it was,’ he said.

PHOTO: Amir Hamja for The New York Times

Just down the street lives Renee Collymore, a 50-year-old Brooklynite who said her family is ‘four generations deep in this neighborhood’ and who serves as the Democratic liaison for the 57th Assembly District in Fort Greene. She has been wary of the tower since it appeared this summer.

As the head of the Vanderbilt Avenue Block Association, Ms. Collymore said, ‘Never have I heard one mention of residents asking for a tower to be placed where we live.’ She plans to hold a meeting about it.

‘Before this tower came, I had fine service,’ Ms. Collymore continued. ‘What, a call dropped every now and then? So what. You keep going.’

In Manhattan’s Chinatown, where a tower cropped up on the corner of Mulberry and Bayard Streets, one resident of a nearby building declared it a ‘monstrosity.’

‘Who wants to look at something like that?’ she asked.

The towers are not the only 5G antennas being installed in New York City. Others are going up on city property, like traffic lights and streetlamps.

At the end of September, jackhammering could be heard outside of the six-story brick building on the Upper East Side where Chelsea Formica, 32, lives with her husband, Joe, and their infant son.

Ms. Formica was in New Jersey visiting her mother when Joe called. ‘He was like, ‘Hey, you know, they put something up outside of our window. I’m just laying here on the couch and it’s pretty big.’’ Then Ms. Formica got home. ‘I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’ freaking out. It’s huge. It’s so big.’

Workers for the telecommunications company ExteNet had installed a cylindrical object roughly the size of a human being: a 5G antenna that is 63 inches tall and 21 inches in diameter, according to the company. It is accompanied by a box that is 38 inches high, 16 inches wide and 14 inches deep — about the size of a filing cabinet or a night stand.

The imposing antenna is mounted on top of a slender pole, three stories high — more than 30 feet in the air — and right in front of Ms. Formica’s living-room window. It’s also just steps away from where their 5-month-old baby sleeps, which makes Ms. Formica uncomfortable.

‘People say that it is safe; the F.C.C. says it’s safe and everything,’ she said. ‘We’re just worried that it’s so close to my son’s bedroom.’

Alex Wyglinski, the associate dean of graduate studies and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, said residents need not worry. He noted that 5G is non-ionizing radiation, on the opposite end of the spectrum from ionizing rays that people need protection from, like UV rays and X-rays.

In addition, Dr. Wyglinski said, the tower ‘cannot just blast energy everywhere. It’s going to be hyper-focused points of energy going directly to your cellphone.’

And while the towers are tall, ‘you’ll get used to it,’ he said. Just like streetlights and traffic lights, he added, ‘this will get integrated into the cityscape.’

Ms. Formica and her next-door neighbor Virginie Glaenzer, whose window view is also dominated by the antenna, took a measuring tape to the sidewalk and discovered that the newly installed pole is slightly less than 10 feet away from the building, a distance that typically triggers a community notification process, according to the agreement between New York City and ExteNet.

Virginie Glaenzer, dressed in a black top and gray sweater, looks out her window at a new 5G tower. 

Ms. Glaenzer and Ms. Formica contacted their local representatives and handed out fliers urging their neighbors to do the same. They would like to see the antenna removed — or at least moved across the street, alongside the Asphalt Green turf field and not next to a residential building.

Julie Menin, the New York City Council member who represents Ms. Formica, Ms. Glaenzer and the rest of District 5, said that she has, on behalf of her constituents, asked the city to hire a third party to conduct emissions tests on the antennas to ensure that they comply with federal regulations, and the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation has agreed to do so.

Ms. Formica said she wouldn’t feel comfortable living next to it once it is turned on. She isn’t sure she would move out, she said, but she would consider her options. ‘I think I would look into a lawyer…'”

— Dodai Stewart, New York Times

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“5G coverage coming to Orlando, bringing potentially 20,000 small-cell nodes”

“5G coverage coming to Orlando, bringing potentially 20,000 small-cell nodes”

Photo: A small cell tower across the street from the Orange County Courthouse. The corresponding radio equipment is located in a portion of the adjacent garbage can. Ryan Gillespie, Orlando Sentinel

“…Orlando’s planning department has projected carriers will need about 20,000 nodes to bring about 60% coverage, with the most needed to bring strong coverage to dense downtown and touristy International Drive. At a City Council workshop this month, officials said they and the municipally-owned Orlando Utilities Commission were studying how to encourage carriers to attach their antennas and radio equipment to the same poles, preventing equipment clutter on Orange Avenue.

‘What we have beginning to happen is a lot of nodes occurring on Orange Avenue. If you were to line them all up, you’d be looking at a node every 90 feet,’ Chief Planner Doug Metzger said. ‘In my perfect world, I’d love to get two providers on every node.”

For that to happen, carriers would need to either agree to share new poles installed throughout the city or reach an agreement with OUC to install equipment on the utility’s tower. OUC has some small-cell agreements for antennas to be installed on its poles, though they currently don’t yet have 5G antennas, utility spokesman Tim Trudell said.

The study is underway, and Metzger said he hopes a plan is developed by early October.

Florida cities maintain limited leverage over carriers in Florida, as state legislators pre-empted municipalities from regulating wireless infrastructure in 2017 and further restricted it in 2019.

The 2017 legislation, sponsored in the House by state Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, is being challenged in a lawsuit filed by the Florida League of Cities, along with Naples, Port Orange and Fort Walton Beach, which contend the law allows private businesses to take over city property, with a $150 per pole cap as a fee.

‘We felt the Legislature’s actions were pretty egregious in those two narrow areas,’ said Kraig Conn, general counsel for the League of Cities…

Elsewhere in Central Florida, Winter Park could also see early interest from 5G companies. The city has had talks with carriers, though its city commission hasn’t formally reviewed policy on 5G.

However, Winter Park shares aesthetic concerns, as it has spent millions in recent years burying its power lines, while state law now allows carriers to build poles in the public right of way…”

— Ryan Gillespie, Orlando Sentinel
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Forbes Analyst Overview of 5G Cell Tower Providers

Forbes Analyst Overview of 5G Cell Tower Providers

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
“In the July edition of the Forbes Real Estate Investor (monthly newsletter) I explained that “major telecommunications companies will soon begin to roll out ‘new’ 5G technology in the U.S., and I’ve been reviewing the issues, reliability and impact—for REIT investors.

For investors, Connected Real Estate’s Rich Berliner says, ‘Delivery of 5G service will require wireless carriers to invest in more cell towers, as well as in small cell and fiber networks to broadcast 5G signals into specific areas. Implementation of 5G should be a massive home run for cell tower REITs and is expected to buoy revenue growth for the better part of the next decade. Companies with a specific focus on small cells may benefit the most.’

American Tower told Bloomberg ‘(that) ‘single tenant’ towers have gross margins of 40% from rentals… two tenants have 74% margins…three tenants have 83% margins…”

— Brad Thomas, Forbes
For a summary of the top providers of 5G towers read article