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CTIA and SF: Round 3 - Antenna Aesthetics

The City of San Francisco and the CTIA crowd have opened a 3rd round in their struggle. SF is now considering the ordinance shown at left. CNET reports that “under the Personal Wireless Service Facility Site Permits Ordinance (PDF), introduced Tuesday by SF Supervisor John Avalos, antenna applicants would have to consider the visual impact of any new installations. The city could also reject applications based on that factor alone.”

Readers may recall that cellular antenna design and the resulting local opposition has been a topic here for a long time. We also described how cellular mainstream member Ericsson tried to make a bold approach in antenna design that got interest in other countries, but none here. Cellular establishment members apparently prefer to hire lawyers and press for “shot clocks” and attempts at zoning preemption than to address their fundamental design problem: Their preferred antenna designs are incompatible with most suburban locations and the only alternative they have are very expensive custom designs they only want to use when in desperation. Your blogger’s approach to PCIA, the trade association representing most tower owners, was met with polite disinterest.

Universities seeking funding for novel design projects pairing EEs with architects to “think out of the box” on such design have come up with no funding from this multibillion dollar industry with perpetual antenna siting issues.

Since CTIA has already announced it will boycott SF over the cell phone labeling issue, they don’t have that threat in their quiver anymore. I suppose they can put their 4 law firms to work and sue over this issue also.

Maybe CTIA and its major members just prefer dealing with lawyers than with fundamental design problems. Cellular communications is not just part of our day to day lives, its infrastructure is part of the urban and suburban landscape. Should the industry try to come up with more pragmatic designs? Recall that at an FCC broadband hearing last year Jake MacLeod, a Bechtel VP, also stated that “we have reached the end of the line for current design concepts.” If this is what major contractors of the cellular establishment are saying then maybe the SF government is not so off the mark.

An antenna that “looks like it was designed by an engineer”

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