In the recent article in the Dispatch on the decision to limit
the height of a cell phone tower, Chris Cot
é makes the ridiculous assertion that cell phone towers should
be located on the mountain tops surrounding the valley, and that
the only reason that the cellular providers don’t locate them there
is to save money on infrastructure.
In the recent article in the Dispatch on the decision to limit the height of a cell phone tower, Chris Coté makes the ridiculous assertion that cell phone towers should be located on the mountain tops surrounding the valley, and that the only reason that the cellular providers don’t locate them there is to save money on infrastructure.
The actual reason that cell towers are not all located on mountain tops is simply that the cellular system wouldn’t work if all the towers are located far away from the users. The cellular system depends on the concept of frequency reuse to achieve a high number of simultaneous calls. Every cell phone base station has a limited number of frequencies available for calls. If the base station transmits over a large geographic area, only a small percentage of people in the area can place a call. To solve this problem, base stations transmit at very low power and cover a small area (hence the term “cell”). Adjacent cells use different frequencies to avoid interference. A few cells away, the frequencies are reused, enabling a system with only a few hundred frequencies to support thousands of users.
The mountain top paradigm suggested by Cote is how things used to work – there were a small number of transmitters located in high places, and all the truck drivers, cab drivers, etc. shared common frequencies.
Another reason that Coté’s mountain top suggestion won’t work is that the maximum transmit power available from a cell phone is very low – typically less than 1/2 a watt, and the cell phone won’t work very well over several miles. This is a good thing if one is concerned about the health risks of cell phones, since the RF energy from the cell phone held next to the brain is much, much stronger than the RF energy from the tower a few meters away.
Over the past year or so, it seems that Coté has become an accepted expert on cellular systems; giving accepted advice on regulations to Gilroy, Hollister and Morgan Hill city councils. This is very puzzling to me since he is so obviously ignorant of basic cellular concepts. I hope that all of the agencies listening to his comments will make the effort to get sound professional advice before deciding on their regulations.
Dan Moyles, Gilroy
Editor’s Note: Moyles is a senior engineer at a local electronics firm who designs test equipment for the cellular system.
The Golden Quill is awarded occasionally for a well-written letter.