By Terry Burry
It’s going to be tough getting Conservative votes in this province now, especially in St. John’s.
That crowd down at city hall in St. John’s — their political hides may hang in the balance, based on a cellphone tower on Topsail Road.
St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe says it would be a sign of disrespect for Bell Mobility to forge ahead with plans for a cellphone tower without the city’s approval.
First, it was St. John’s MPs driving to Gander airport during the strike at St. John’s International Airport. Then the fence racket down at St. John’s harbour. Now it’s a cellphone tower on Topsail Road — all federal bashing. Those townies are always on the warpath about something or other.
I hear the cellphone tower was given the green light by federal Industry Minister James Moore because the proposed tower in question is under 15 metres in height. A choice between good bars and poor bars on your cellphone reception. Hmm, can’t stop progress, I guess — all that texting, those townie kids are doing.
St. John’s South NDP MP Ryan Cleary who is, no doubt, running for re-election in 2015, says city council should write a letter of non-compliance to Bell Mobility to illustrate their unease with the proposed tower.
In that far greater bay in Glovertown, where we live, our cellphone tower sits on a 680-foot hill — about two miles to the west of our living room window. Also, a CBC Radio tower 101.5 FM sits on the same hill. Perfect reception. Our cellphone and radio reception is up on bust all the time. The radio reception is so good, we can almost smell Ted Blades’ aftershave underneath his beard.
On a more serious note, maybe part of the reason to install the tower in the location where it is proposed has to do with access to the tower site for equipment maintenance. Most unionized crews nowadays don’t want to walk up a hill on a trail with all sorts of test gear, spare parts, etc., strapped on their back, or have to take an ATV along (especially in the wintertime) if it can be avoided by, instead, driving your van right up to the tower site door where a front-end loader has the snow already cleared. It’s much more convenient, especially if there is some equipment failure after dark.
Hence, the need for redundancy by having additional backup cellphone towers to rely on. Also, remote sites may carry a higher risk of sabotage. Obtaining a piece of property for a tower site might be difficult, too, in an urban area, where there may not be a willing seller and land is scarce.
In some cases, towers may have already been located on a certain hilltops leftover from the days of terrestrial microwave, prior to the placement of fibre-optic cable. So there is no cost involved in building a new tower, just add some cellphone antennas and cabling, etc., and you’re done.
Tower height is important, but so is the straight-line distance from the tower antenna to the cellphone users. In other words, the signal strength will drop off as you get further and further away from the source of the tower antenna, even if there are no obstructions.
With all those BlackBerrys and other data devices nowadays, taking up much more bandwidth space than the traditional voice-only cellphones of yesteryear, herein lies a problem. Therefore, as I understand it, more and towers may be needed to provide this service on demand and without dropouts, otherwise you will have cranky customers. We wouldn’t want that, would we, cranky townie customers?
Cellphones use the frequency range 850 to 1900 MHz, in which straight-line transmission is
needed; different from AM radio
(540–1610 kHz) or short wave (2.3–26.1 MHz) which takes advantage of ionospheric skip. Short wave frequencies wouldn’t work well anyway for cellphones.
The number of cellphone and BlackBerry users that are fired up at any one point in time would also be a factor. Each engaged cellphone user uses up an amount of limited bandwidth space. This was more critical in the early days of analog, but even now with digital service, I think capacity can become an issue when you load up the system with tens of thousands of cellphone users all at once; hence, the need for more and more towers, especially for peak times.
Also, more people (especially younger folk) are opting to go all cellular and discontinue their landline telephone service. This puts additional pressure on the wireless service and the need for more and more towers in urban centres.
Terry Burry writes from Glovertown.