Wireless companies put up more ‘stealth’ towers

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In 1992, a BP sign at a gas station in Atlanta earned the distinction of being the first stealth cellphone tower in the country, according to the company. Designs have expanded over the years and now include a quirky pole in Liberty, Michigan, that looks like a pencil.

Cindy Wishart, a STEALTH spokeswoman, said the company is constantly educating people about the industry and its possibilities.

“They always associate concealment as a tree,” she said. “It’s just so much more than that.”

Specific data on the number of stealth towers is limited, but STEALTH said it works on up to 800 projects a year. The Wireless Association, an industry trade group also known at CTIA, said the presence of towers in general around the country has dramatically increased over the years in an effort to expand coverage.

At the end of 1997, the country had just over 50,000 cell towers. By the end of 2012, the most recent year for which information is available, that number had jumped to more than 300,000.

Stubert said he was surprised by the community backlash.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “Churches put up crosses all the time that are simply crosses. This will be a cross that’s also helping us to pay our bills.”

Jensen said the tower should be put in another location because space outside the church is too small. In Des Moines, a minimum 10-acre lot is needed for a communication tower. The church has just over three acres.

Smith, of Verizon, would not go into detail about the tower, although she did say the company chooses locations that fit within a geographic radius and meet engineering specifications.

People constantly need more data “to do all the different multimedia applications that are now part of their lives,” Smith said, creating continual pressure to “add more capacity to our network to stay ahead of that demand.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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