As we get ready to start a new year, Isotrope is pleased to announce that we have expanded into new space. The move was a long one, about 30ft as we moved from one building to the other. Though we may miss the charm of the former space in a 300 year old house, we are excited about the new space as it will help us better serve our clients.
Our new address:
503 Main Street
Medfield, MA 02052
RFSigns.com, the RF safety sign division of Isotrope, announces its new mobile website. RFSigns.com is the the authoritative source for high quality RF safety signs, decals and sign mounting hardware. Our new website is designed for engineers and technicians on the go. Now you will be able to order signs and sign mounting hardware from your smartphone or tablet with our easy to use mobile interface. No more waiting until you get back to the office computer, order signs and hardware while still at the site. Please share your feedback on your experience as the website is still evolving.
Read David Maxson’s article for “Above Ground Level Magazine” (www.agl-mag.com) chronicling the Isotrope project that measured wireless broadband speeds for the State of Utah. The project was funded by the State Broadband Initiative (SBI) of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). In the article Mr. Maxson talks about theoretical wireless broadband speeds by wireless technology and how Isotrope went about measuring bandwidth speeds out on the roads of Utah.
Here is an excerpt:
With the officially defined threshold for broadband service (768/200Mbps) and an online broadband map showing data service availability by provider, the state of Utah sought other ways to look at the question. The Utah broadband website has an online speed test that broadband subscribers are invited to run. Such test tools provide a useful snapshot of data speeds that subscribers actually obtain where they use their broadband services (wireless and wireline). Of course, the results are entirely dependent on who runs the speed test, the quality of their connection, and the type and condition of their user equipment.
To obtain another glimpse at the geographic distribution of mobile wireless broadband services, the Utah SBI team commissioned a statewide drive test of broadband mobile wireless services. To guide the drive test, Bert Granberg of the Utah Automated Geographic Reference Center (the state’s geographic information systems department) assembled a set of first-, second- and third-class roads spanning the state’s varied terrain and land use. The plan was to reach into every corner of Utah life, including urban, suburban, rural, mountain, valley, canyon, desert, park, range, resort and reservation. Isotrope won the contract to conduct the survey under the auspices of the state’s broadband consultant, International Research Center. Utah is a beautiful place to tour, even if just passing through.
Read the full article here.
Isotrope now offers comprehensive in-house drive testing services. Our carrier class test gear measures CDMA, 1xRTT, EVDO, GSM, GPRS/EDGE/UMTS, HSPA and LTE technologies. Isotrope provides benchmarking of data as well as voice calls. The test platform, combined with our carrier class signal propagation modeling software, provides comprehensive benchmarking services. In addition to measuring outdoor wireless signals for macro cell and DAS, Isotrope is also equipped to do indoor DAS benchmarking.
Contact Isotrope for more information.
I cannot lie; I’ve aged into the “Greatest Hits” demographic. I find myself regularly listening to one of the 2 “Greatest Hits” stations here in Boston. Now, they used to be called “Oldies” but over the last few years, the music from the 50′s and 60′s has been phased out in favor of 70’s and now 80’s. They’re still oldies but Greatest Hits is more PC. Oldies? Isn’t that what our grandparents listened to? I like the music from the 70’s. It’s what I was listening to in my formative years. Oh sure, you’ll still hear a song from the 60’s but it will likely be Motown or the Beatles. And yes, I still like to keep up with today’s music, and you can get a good idea about what’s going on by listening to the Top-40 station for sixty minutes (or as long as the ear will take). Okay, what’s the point? What I’ve been noticing is that I’m hearing things in old songs I never heard before. Instruments are crisp, percussion distinct, backup vocals, stereo separation, etc. That got me to thinking. We’ve never heard these songs like this before. When we first heard these pop hits on the radio, it was on AM. they were being played off EQ’d 45’s through early solid state audio equipment, pre-historic audio processing and tubed AM transmitters. The total harmonic distortion and inter-modulation distortion was huge. FM was coming along with slightly better fidelity and stereo, but it was where you went for “progressive rock” or “beautiful music”, the hits were on AM. Now the songs have been re-mastered, loaded into linear digital playout systems, run through state of the art audio consoles, processed intelligently, and transmitted by state of the art solid state transmitters. Even if the final transmitter amplifier is a tube, everything that comes before has been built for low distortion. It’s all really quite remarkable.
When I was the Chief Engineer for the local Top-40 station I always was envious of the engineers over at the Greatest Hits stations. They always sounded good. There was nothing I could do to make my station sound like theirs. I didn’t have re-mastered songs with real instrumentation to run through my air chain. No, I was stuck with clipped, distorted, overly processed content. You know that phrase “Garbage in, garbage out”? In this case it became “Garbage in, more garbage out”. This leads me to my next point, the improvement in broadcast audio processors. I recently read a commentary by Frank Foti in Radio World. Along with Bob Orban, Frank is one of the luminaries in the processing world. His commentary discussed how with modern technology, processors can be loud but with much less distortion. The trick is to build loudness in the AGC stage and not in the limiters and clippers. It’s been tough to do that up until now because AGC control wasn’t up to the task. Now with better detectors, it can be done. If I was still in the game at a top-40 station, I’d now have the tools to make the station sound loud without adding more limiting/clipping distortion to the already distorted content. But, I’d still be listening to those Greatest Hits stations!
A reporter called me to ask about distributed antenna systems (DAS). I told him that was not the right first question to ask. Why? Explanation in a moment. His community is hearing its third wireless facility permit application that includes a new tower. This community is part of a national gem, having a majority of its land mass designated a National Park. Naturally, wireless service providers gravitate toward the developed areas where people live, work and play. This is where the privately and municipally owned land is. Rather than try to penetrate the National Park land to site a new tower, it is often most practical to work with the private and municipal land owners where the human activity is concentrated. Residents see a pattern developing and are concerned that the pristine beauty of the area is being steadily eroded with the addition of each new tower.
DAS installation on Nantucket utility pole
As often happens in the public permitting process, concerned residents look for what they consider to be a better way to facilitate the provision of personal wireless services. The idea of DAS is very enticing to people who would prefer not to live with towers. Antennas on utility poles. Low power levels. What’s not to like? This begets the question, why can’t we have a DAS in our community? Usually I get a call from a representative of the permitting Board, or a concerned resident. In this case, the local paper was working on a feature story to examine the issues.
Now we are back to the starting point, “Mr. Maxson, what’s keeping DAS from being put in this community?” I thought, should I give him the radio frequency engineer’s answer (“it depends”), or the facilitator’s answer (is this the right first question to ask?)? Since the caller was a reporter, I certainly did not want to start with the pros and cons of DAS when the context of the problem had to be explored first.
So I explained to the reporter that rather than jumping to a conclusion (“we need DAS”), the problem has to be identified in the public process, and the range of potential solutions considered. Certainly the applicants (a tower company and a wireless carrier) have considered ways to find the most “zonable” solution. A tower company, of course, has an interest in building a new asset – the tower – and may be less interested in potential solutions involving existing structures. Nevertheless, the wireless carrier is the driver, and seeks a balance between time to market, development cost, and ability to satisfy the coverage objectives. If local regulations point the carrier to an obvious solution without a new tower, the carrier would almost certainly embrace it. The word “almost” is key here.
The role of the public permitting process is to look over the applicant’s shoulder and validate the proposal against the duly adopted requirements under local ordinances. What is the coverage objective? How much of it, if any, rises to the level of a significant gap in service under the federal law? Is the proposal in keeping with local goals and regulation? To what degree is it not? Height? Visual impacts? Design? Locations affected by its proposed presence?
Once a baseline on the proposal is established by gathering information to answer these questions, the question of alternatives finally comes up. Local regulators should perform due diligence on alternatives anyway, because in addition to analyzing the nature and extent of the gap, evaluating the prospect of alternatives is an element of the permitting board’s responsibility under the ’96 Telecom Act.
Are there other ways to address the coverage objective or the gap? Would they work well enough? Which ones are more consistent with the purpose and intent of local regulations?
Finally, actual options can be put on the table: Upgrades to existing facilities to reduce the extent of the gap? Other sites for new facilities without a new tower? Other sites for a new tower? Other locations on the proposed site? Reduced height? Improve design with suitable camouflage or “stealth” decoy?
These alternatives can be explored in the context of the coverage objective or gap. A single site alternative is not necessary. Are there two sites that collectively have less impact on the community (or are more ordinance-consistent) that could address the coverage objective?
- Hide antennas in steeples in the center of town, reducing the extent of the gap, and allow a new tower more distant from the center of activity to take up the slack (Proposed tower ¼ mile from historic town center denied in Grafton, MA for this reason). A tower a mile away was later approved and some carriers are using a church steeple.
- Find an alternative site that does essentially the same job for coverage with significantly less impact on the ordinance and the community. (Proposed tower in Duxbury, MA was deemed too out in the open and affecting too many residents; applicant and board worked out an alternative at another more wooded and residentially remote site.)
- Double up on sites to increase overall coverage and eliminate undesirable visual impact. (Proposed tower on prominent ridge at gateway to the town of Ashland, NH was denied; alternative was one tower in the river basin illuminating much of the same territory, and a second tower in the trees on a hillside a mile or so up the interstate to make up the rest of the coverage and add more.)
- Now we are at the DAS question! Would interconnecting a series of utility-pole-mounted antenna nodes provide substantial coverage to the gap? Where would it not reach? Is that unreached area material to the overall gap? Would a combination of DAS and strategically placed smaller macro sites achieve the objective in a manner more in keeping with local zoning objectives? ( 1) Wellesley, MA has substantial coverage from towers and buildings; it also has a half-dozen microcells on its utility pole infrastructure where towers don’t reach. It is getting to the point that future installations will be of the DAS flavor rather than microcells. 2) Lower Merion, PA residents sought to avoid a tall tower proposed on a ¼ acre lot at an intersection in the midst of a main line residential area; eight microcells already dotted the area; DAS was developed. 3) According to public record, the well-protected scenic island of Nantucket could have needed eight towers to cover the areas of human activity; a forward-thinking wireless carrier and a DAS company developed a DAS solution, beginning in 2003.)
In sum, while DAS architecture is one of the tools in the box, it is not a panacea. Residents often want to leave no stone unturned before approving a proposed facility. The public process should include due diligence, to the extent the regulating Board finds it appropriate, on any potential alternative. Just as toothbrushing is one activity in an overall plan of oral hygiene, evaluating DAS as a potential alternative to a proposed wireless facility is but one part of an overall, systematic process of evaluating a wireless facility permit application.
Mr. Reporter, thanks for calling. Maybe you can summarize our conversation in a few pithy quotes. Good luck!
There were several reporters at the public meeting on wireless facilities in North Mianus. Here are links to their stories about David Maxson’s presentation:
The Daily Greenwich
The Greenwich Citizen
Isotrope was hired by the Town of Greenwich, CT to do an assessment of options for the placement of a wireless facility in the vicinity of North Mianus neighborhood. On March 3, Isotrope traveled to Greenwich and presented our findings to the Board of Selectmen at a public meeting. Pictured is David Maxson giving an overview of the growth in wireless communications. The full report can be found here. The presentation went well with many great questions on wireless facilities from the Board of Selectmen and the public.
In the November 15, 2010 edition of Radio Ink’s Tech Ink, David was named one of the best engineers in radio. David has been involved in standards setting with the NRSC for many years and he wrote the book on HD-Radio.
David was interviewed in the Keene Sentinel in connection with wireless tower siting issues in Fitzwilliam, NH. Here’s an excerpt from the article by Sarah Trefethen:
“Local zoning decisions have to walk that tightrope between following the zoning regulations and not effectively prohibiting wireless service,” said David Maxson, who runs the Massachusetts-based consulting company Broadcast Signal Lab.
Maxson’s job is to help local boards deal with the extra time pressure and extra rules that come along with applications for cell towers and other wireless facilities. And even though he works for local governments to review applications from companies like AT&T and US Cellular, under state law, he said, the companies pick up the tab.
Even though towns can’t stop AT&T or US Cellular or any other provider from coming into town, there are things they can do to make sure their residents get the best service possible with the fewest negative effects.
“Sometimes a carrier is really trying to get the maximum performance from one facility, and sometimes it really does pay to split the difference,” Maxson said. “Instead of one big ugly tower on the top of a hill, you can have one down in the woods and one over by the bend in the river … sometimes multiple small towers give more coverage and better coverage.”
Maxson recommends local governments plan ahead to pick a consultant they would like to work with before a wireless facility application lands on their desks.
In addition, he said, not all zoning ordinances are created equal. If a town’s rules for wireless facilities are worded as if all facilities are giant towers, that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Zoning rules and setback limits can rule out other potential options, such as placing antennas in church steeples.
“If there’s a willing church and a willing cell company, it’s perfect,” Maxson said.
He recommends towns take a close look at their ordinances and make sure they’re setting rules for the kind of development they’d most like to see.
“There are corners that towns paint themselves into.”
For the complete article, go here.