SHOW LOW — Motorists may have noticed a new tree in town as they drove along White Mountain Road in Show Low this week.
This tree is what is called a monopine, a type of camouflage tree that has been around since the 1980s.
As modern lives grow increasingly complicated, technology becomes less of a luxury and more of a necessity.
Tech is here to stay and so is the ever-increasing public demand for instantaneous connection, and hometown telecommunications provider Cellular One has stepped up its game.
Years ago parents would shoo their children out of the house with a quarter and a stern warning comforted in the fact that pay phones were plentiful and located practically on every block in town.
Today, pay phones and even most landline phones have been relegated to the annals of history. Ask any kid today and you’re sure to get a blank stare and a shrug.
Cellular carriers are pressed from all sides. They must address intense consumer demand, federal regulations, local codes, and logistical and budget constraints. Not an easy accomplishment.
People just want their tech and they don’t really want to think about it. But the thing about technology is it is extremely complex — that is the nature of the beast.
A brief history
Basically, a cellphone is an incredibly sophisticated radio.
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, and Nikolai Tesla invented the radio in 1898. It was only a matter of time until these two amazing technologies would merge.
In 1946, radio telephones were put into cars as a response to the growing mobility of the American population following World War II. This system had one central antenna and about 25 channels.
One central antenna meant that each car radio phone required a powerful transmitter big enough to transmit great distance. It also meant that not many people could use them.
The genius of a cellular phone system is the division of a city into smaller cells, allowing extensive frequency reuse across a city, so that millions can use cellphones at once.
In a typical cellphone system in the US, the cellular phone carrier purchases radio spectrum from the Federal Communications Commission to use across a licensed area. The carrier then divides the area into cells, with each cell first covering a given area and then resized in time as more users grow in an area.
Cells are thought of as hexagons on a big hexagonal grid. Each cell requires a base station of antennas mounted to a tower and a small building or cabinet containing the radio equipment.
Because cellphones and base stations use low-power transmitters and directional antennas, the same frequencies can be reused in non-adjacent cells. Two cells can reuse the same frequencies.
The technology changes, but the necessity for a means to transmit data and voice does not.
City officials across the US are equally conflicted. Technology is necessary, but it isn’t always attractive, however. Residents don’t like to see towers, so officials enforce codes.
Sec. 15-1-69. of the city of Show Low code requires that wireless telecommunication equipment be concealed by human-made trees, clock towers and the like. Problem solved, right? Not so fast.
Radio waves are easily blocked, so fancy tower dressings create design hurdles for engineers to tackle so that emergency calls and weekly calls to grandmas all over the world get through.
So much to consider as one looks upon a monopine.
“We should be finishing up lines, antennas and power over the next few weeks and complete integration in July. This new Show Low site will greatly improve services not only in the immediate local area but will also free up other towers close by which will help with overall Show Low network strength. We continue to add new LTE sites to enhance cellular performance for our customers,” wrote Sbi (Cellular One) Marketing and Products Manager Drew Logsdon.
Cellular One has also added a much needed tower in Greer, with LTE bandwidth following soon. It was increase from a current 30 feet antenna height to a 185 feet tower.
Cellular One has even more plans in the works to improve cellular service through upgrades.
“I am proud to serve as CEO for SBi, which owns and operates Cellular One of northeastern Arizona, AIRMAX, Naked Mobile, and Sunstate Technology Group. Headquartered in northern Arizona, we serve the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and White Mountain Apache tribal nations as well as many rural communities, providing mobile voice, wireless broadband, fixed broadband, managed IT, point-to-point microwave, and fiber optic connectivity” said Judd Hinkle, CEO of SBi, in a recent interview with Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.
“For more than 25 years it has been our mission to bring wireless communications and modern technology to underserved rural and tribal communities throughout the Southwest. To put that into perspective, according to the 2000 Census less than 40% of households on the tribal lands we serve had access to a phone connection of any kind. As a result of our collaboration with tribal leaders and funding from the FCC’s Connect America Program and Lifeline Program, that number is now close to 90%.
These examples speak to the fact that we have come a long way in the past 20 years, but there are still more places to reach. Also, technology is always evolving so our work is never really done.”