An AT&T application to build a 199-foot cell phone tower in Boston holds the promise of better service for wireless customers in Rappahannock County.
In addition to AT&T’s service, which includes its exclusive right to sell Apple’s popular iPhone service, the proposed tower off U.S. 522 is designed to accommodate other cell phone service and wireless broadband providers as well. The only cell provider currently operating towers in Rappahannock County is Sprint, which has built seven.
The application for a permit was submitted to the office of County Administrator John W. McCarthy on Sept. 29.
The new tower will “enhance coverage along 522 north of AT&T’s current site at Griffinsburg” in Culpeper County, according to the application.
The company also wants to ensure that a seamless digital wireless network is in place as technology improves.
“Increased broadband coverage is likely to be the principal benefit of these towers [in addition to the increased cell coverage], because at these heights, I think there’s a very real possibility that a Piedmont Broadband, say, or Virginia Broadband, would want to co-locate on these towers,” McCarthy said.
PBB and VABB, as they’re known, supply wireless DSL coverage to more than a few hundred county residents, and both companies’ signals are distributed by line-of-sight radio transceivers, which are combined receivers and transmitters. Service improves when distribution points are higher.
McCarthy said the Boston tower is the first of three that AT&T plans to build in the county. The county administrator has had preliminary talks with company representatives about its plans for the other towers, which it has said would be located in Sperryville and near Rappahannock County High School.
McCarthy has said that AT&T also plans to extend the height of two existing Sprint towers, one in Ben Venue near the intersection of U.S. 211 and Route 729 and the other in Amissville near the Amissville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department’s fire hall on U.S. 211.
The Boston tower would be located on a 55-acre parcel zoned agricultural and conservation off Sperryville Pike that is owned by Betty Montgomery of Silver Spring, Md., and four other individuals listed on accompanying documents as landlords.
The site includes the remnants of a house and barn and a private cemetery, according to the application. The site is accessible via a private drive off U.S. 522.
The tower, with up to 12 panel antennas and related ground equipment, will be located within a 50-by-50-foot leased area that will be surrounded by an 8-foot tall chain link fence. There will also be an 11.5-by-20-foot shelter erected.
The tower “will not interfere with radio, TV or phone reception” and will not generate noise or have lights on it, according to the application. (Lights and supporting cables are required on towers 200 feet tall and higher, and McCarthy said he told AT&T representatives that plans for such higher towers in the county would most likely “be dead on arrival.”)
The new tower is needed because there are “no other existing communication towers or sufficiently tall structures” in the vicinity to use as an alternative, according to the application.
The chosen site is midway between an existing and a proposed site to the north and south.
The Boston tower is the only one for which AT&T has so far secured a lease and finalized a design, McCarthy said.
McCarthy said that the AT&T application will be considered by the county’s planning commission at its Nov. 17 meeting. The commission will make a recommendation to the county board of supervisors.