America's wackiest cell phone towers may be key to solve the 'ugly' 5G revolution

America's wackiest cell phone towers may be key to solve the 'ugly' 5G revolution
Whether you are cruising down the Florida Panhandle, or taking the uninterrupted highways of Montana, there is nothing more American than... camouflaged cell phone towers. That's right, full incognito mode for the venerable equipment that delivers your cell phone signal is a thing, and there are even companies that have turned the masking work into a business... and an art form.

History of the hidden cell tower

The so-called "concealed tower" industry seems to have begun in 1992 when a company called Larson camouflaged a cellular tower as а pine tree. The Arizonans started camouflaging things as the natural world long before that, and you may have seen their handiwork as artificial rock formations in a zoo or two. Since then, they have developed numerous other design which you can see below, and other players have entered the market.

The reason for wanting to conceal cell phone towers are various, and stretch from golf course aesthetics, through community backlash, to camouflaging towers in national parks as part of the natural environment.

Aesthetics of the 5G revolution

With the advent of 5G, which requires a much denser and more numerous amount of base stations, concealing those ugly ducklings in an urban environment may become a business opportunity.

Take the case with the community backlash against the 5G rollout plans in Whitefish, Mont. The local City Council learned in horror that an FCC rule for "small wireless facilities" would mandate precisely such 5G installations unless the cities submit considerations on aesthetic grounds in a fairly short timeframe.

From the moment a carrier submits a 5G facility request to a town, the locals have 60 days to process it when it comes to pre-existing structures like lamp posts, and 90 days for new construction such as on buildings. That's too short of a notice, and if the councils fail to raise any objection, the FCC rule stipulates, the installation request has to be automatically granted. 

Given that there will be numerous carriers, each with their own 5G network, one could see that the small town charm of many a place could quickly be ruined. According to the National League of Cities, "this can result in clusters of small cells that are visually unappealing and detract from the aesthetic of the community." The Whitefish City Attorney Angela Jacobs concurs:

Needless to say, the FCC has made approving 5G base stations on existing infrastructure easier for a reason - American competitiveness in the global push who will cover their nation with the next-gen connectivity standard the fastest. Small cell facilities are a big part of that project, as 5G base stations may need to be just 300 feet apart to blanket the locals with acceptable coverage. 

This is why the FCC rule has fast-tracked the small cell facility rollout procedures by mandating a very short window for approval, and capping the amounts that towns can charge for these 5G clusters on utility poles or lamps. According to the FCC, this ruling safeguards against "regulatory barriers that would unlawfully inhibit the deployment of infrastructure necessary to support these new services."

Camouflage to the rescue

While many cities and counties have already filed a lawsuit against the FCC rule to quickly populate the US with small cell facilities regardless of aesthetics or other considerations, Whitefish, Mont. is voting on an ordinance to regulate their designs. If carriers want to place base stations on a lamp post, they will have to match the current decorative streetlights, for instance.

Thus, providers of camouflaged wireless infrastructure may see a boom in the concealment business away from cell phone towers, and into small cell facilities for 5G coverage that has to blend in with the downtown environment. Given what they have achieved with the hidden cell phone towers so far, the task doesn't seem insurmountable, as you can see below.

Their camouflaged cell phone towers even have their own place in the photography blogs as a rare phenomenon that is fitting for a whole thematic album, like the project called "Fauxliage - Disguised Cell Towers of the American West."

Developed by Annette LeMay Burke from Atelier LeMay, it is a pro photographer's tribute to the wacky and wonderful world of America's camouflaged cell phone towers. Check out the designs captured below, and tell us which one is your favorite - cactus, bison, cross or maybe a palm tree?



1. User123456789

Posts: 996; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Good way to keep thieves away.

2. Brewski

Posts: 705; Member since: Jun 05, 2012

My favorite part of that video was the water mark right in the middle THE ENTIRE TIME. Like who is going to steal that video...?

3. torr310

Posts: 1667; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

5G will have a lot more towers than 4G.... there will be all towers around us. Worried.

7. hjl2345

Posts: 90; Member since: Aug 11, 2018

Well, then why do you use wifi or cell phones in general?

4. jefff

Posts: 30; Member since: Dec 29, 2013

#1 What's "wacky" about camouflaged cell phone towers? The cacti look beautiful. #2 Do you know anything about the United States? "Cruising down the Florida Panhandle" -- that doesn't even make sense. It's not a road, plus you'd be cruising ACROSS the Florida Panhandle, and that's a pretty random place to choose since it's not even densely populated. #3 You can barely see the fake palm in the Las Vegas school bus lot photo, was that really the best photo you could rip off from ?

8. hjl2345

Posts: 90; Member since: Aug 11, 2018

I kinda think that the idea is really cool. With the wavelength of 5G, we are going to need a lot of them, even in doors (as they can't penetrate windows...) so I think these kinds of "disguised" cell towers or equipment is really cool and a neat way of solving these issues.

5. LiveFaith

Posts: 482; Member since: Jul 04, 2015

Comparing the beauty of any place that has power lines criss-crossing vs places with none is dramatic in comparison. Cells will be similar. I don't think we realize how much visual pollution our civilized areas contain. Drive through a national park and your mind will go into another state in comparison.

6. charliebigpot

Posts: 8; Member since: Apr 29, 2019

What's wacky about these? The only things that deserve to be called "wacky" are Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubemen.

9. tokuzumi

Posts: 1918; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

The tree ones always make me laugh. There is the normal tree line, and then there is this one super fake looking tree 40 feet above all the other trees. "Which one is the cell tower?"

10. superguy

Posts: 463; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

They've been doing this in Korea for years. Drive around Seoul and you'll hardly notice a cell tower. You really have to look to notice them.

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