Yet Growth in Wireless Infrastructure Is Not Keeping Up With Demand in the County
According to Christopher Fisher, president of the New York Wireless Association, Westchester is going to have to rev up its wireless capacity to support the needs of businesses and consumers within five years if it hopes to remain competitive.
“In terms of data, the greater New York area is seeing 100 percent growth per year,” he said in his opening remarks at the “Rethinking Westchester” conference organized by the WCA’s BLUEPRINT for Westchester. “By then, broadband network demand will match the present system’s capacity. If nothing is done to expand that capacity, the screens will go blank.”
Fisher, who moderated the “Infrastructure for the 21st Century” panel, and four panelists emphasized that the more technological advances move forward at warp speed, the faster municipalities will have to keep up.
“People need to be able to communicate anywhere and everywhere,” said panelist Carl Busseno, Director, RF Engineering NY Metro, AT & T Mobility. “They move about and need real-time access to the Internet and phone service. More important, companies will not move to locations where people cannot use mobile devices.”
For much of Westchester, this poses a problem. Some areas of the county have decent service; elsewhere it is spotty. Until a few years ago, cellular coverage to the edge of a building was acceptable. Today, however, nearly 70 percent of all wireless traffic is indoors. Users demand their mobile devices work effectively everywhere. Connectivity is a must. While this puts pressure on building owners to upgrade and modernize, it also puts pressure on the municipalities.
“Codes governing the county’s wireless infrastructure were written more than 20 years ago,” observed panelist Manuel Vicente, President, Homeland Towers. “And most of those codes are written to keep this infrastructure out. At the time, municipalities didn’t understand how important it was. This is a complex industry; it’s not just about a cell tower. Networks need capacity.”
And that means capacity for EMS personnel to communicate with hospitals in real time; and firefighters to communicate with each other in real time; and consumers who want wi-fi in their cars and homes to access their devices and run their appliances; and college professors who want to conduct wireless lectures and teleconferences; and biotech companies that demand hi-tech security in “future-proof” buildings.
Nor will satellites solve the problem. “Satellite communication cannot replace wireless when two-way communication is needed,” said Fisher.
Today, 35% of all households in the U.S. rely on wireless technology. “Elsewhere in the country, wireless infrastructure is part of economic development; wireless is considered a utility,” said Fisher. In other words, it is a necessity, not a luxury. “But here there is so much distrust and lack of understanding among municipal officials, it impedes progress. Education is a must.”
For those fearful that unsightly towers will clutter the landscape, there is good news. According to George Vinyard, Vice President and General Counsel, ExteNet Systems, new technology is available that make wireless infrastructure much less obtrusive than the cell towers of the past. He said ExteNet’s networks use discrete, minimally sized equipment and antennas installed on existing poles and streetlights, with fiber optic cable attached to each pole aerially or underground. These distributed networks support multiple carriers, frequency bands and technologies including GSM, CDMA, UMTS, 3G, 4G/LTE and Wi-Fi.
For Westchester to be able support the growth in wireless demand, businesses need to be more vocal and make their needs known local officials. And those officials need to work with technology and service providers to find solutions that make sense for their communities. Fact is, until we have the infrastructure in place, we won’t be competing on a level playing field.
As one Silicon Valley wag proclaimed: Where it’s not, you can’t.