Verizon to complete new Frisco cell tower by end of 2019

Verizon Wireless is planning on bringing a new cell tower to Frisco to help alleviate concerns over service by the end of the year.

FRISCO — Help is on the way for Frisco residents dealing with poor cellphone service in town. Verizon Wireless is working to construct a cell tower on Main Street, which the company says will improve network coverage and capacity in the area.

While cell service has been spotty in the past, officials said the issue started to get worse early last year, spurring town employees to take matters into their own hands.

“It started around April 2018,” said Vanessa Agee, Frisco’s marketing and communication director. “We noticed some really particular problems. We were unable to access anything involving data — anything from emails to social media, or just looking something up on a website. We had phone call issues, as well. Someone would call, you’d hear them for 20 seconds, and you’d no longer be able to hear them.

“Staff noticed this, and we started asking other people if they were having issues, particularly with Verizon coverage in Frisco. What we heard was yes, there was definitely an issue, and it became worse and worse the further west you went on Main Street.”

Along with a number of other Frisco employees, Agee began making calls to Verizon last year, urging them to address the problem and citing public safety concerns and local businesses relying on better service. After being told there were no plans to build a new tower and that it likely would take three years until a new one came to town, Agee tried different methods to persuade Verizon to move faster.

Frisco employees began filing complaints to the Federal Communications Commission, and Agee also reached out to media outlets in Denver to try and raise awareness of the issue beyond Summit County.

“I really saw it as the only way to deal with an issue that they seemed unwilling to acknowledge and unwilling to do anything about,” Agee said. “That said, I’m incredibly heartened … they applied for a permit to build a cell tower on Frisco’s Main Street.”

While the new tower was announced last year, it’s a relatively long process to get it up and running. The new tower is under construction at 417 Galena Street Alley, on the back of the Frisco Centre building that houses Omni Real Estate and The Flying Crane Boutique. Jeff Reynolds, vice president of project management and operations at EasTex Tower — which was hired to construct the tower for Verizon — said they expect their end of the project to be completed by mid-October. Of note, Reynolds said that after they’re done, Verizon still would have some work to do to make the tower operational, such as feeding fiber optic cables to the antenna.

While Verizon hasn’t set a date for the new site to officially get up and running, the company expects it to be functioning by the end of the year.

“We know how important wireless connectivity is to our customers,” Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato wrote in an email to the Summit Daily. “The new cell site will improve Verizon’s network coverage and capacity in downtown Frisco. The new site should be complete and on air before the end of the year.”

Once completed, the site should offer considerably better service for Frisco residents and visitors — helping to combat rising amounts of data being pushed through the network, which Verizon believes is the predominant issue. In an interview with the Summit Daily in November, Verizon spokesman Steve Van Dinter said the cause of the poor coverage was not only a likely increase in the number of devices connected to the tower but also the amount of data being used on the network by each device.

There are no signs that the trend will reverse anytime soon. According to a new report published in June by Ericsson, one of the world’s leading communication technology providers, both the number of smartphone subscriptions and average data usage per subscription are growing rapidly. The report shows that among global data usage, there was an 82% increase in mobile data traffic from the first quarter in 2018 to the first quarter this year — largely precipitated by more people viewing videos on mobile devices. The same report also anticipates a 30% annual increase through 2024.

“People rely on their cellphones,” Agee said. “We’ve grown accustomed to using them for everything. … When you’re living in a community that has the big town amenities we have, from shopping and grocery stores and a world-class marina, I think it’s pretty reasonable to expect we have good cell service. It’s not a government function to provide good service in town, but I do think we should play an important role in advocating for that. And that’s what we did.”

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