Cell phone towers everywhere

Thursday, March 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

They're nearly everywhere and more are on the way. Cell phone towers. Tulsa already has hundreds of cell phone towers and more are planned to meet the growing demand for wireless communication.

KOTV's Emory Bryan has the story. They come in all shapes, some wide and some skinny. Most are gray and steel, but some are red and white. And increasingly, they are hidden, inside or behind billboards, and on top of and built into buildings. There are seven on a local bank, hidden in the architecture. And folks in Sapulpa communicate with each other through a giant church steeple, another disguised cell phone tower. Stan Vavra with the First Church of God says, "It's been pretty nice, people come into the community and they want to know where the church is and we say, you know that big tower, and they say, oh we know where that is."

It's one of the few that anyone would consider a local icon, something that is an asset to the community. But over the years, the cell phone companies have noticed fewer people complain about the presence of towers, now that the service is so popular, and the disguises have become cleverer. Chuck Stover with US Cellular says, "A lot of our customers want better cell phone coverage." US Cellular estimates 1 out every 4 Tulsans now uses a cell phone, an amazing increase since the first cell phone call in 1985. "I think as the product becomes more mainstream, people understand that's necessary to deliver the product to our customers and get good coverage."

There are now hundreds of towers in Tulsa, and another one going up downtown. It is one of the city's tallest, and will serve several uses; it's not just for cell phones. With so many towers needed to meet the demands for wireless, expect them to become as universal as the flag, which in this case is flying from another camouflaged cell phone tower.

Cell phones are driving the demand for wireless communication, but towers are also needed for two-way messaging and wireless Internet use. The federal government regulates height and lighting of towers and the city regulates construction and can require design changes to make them less visually obstructive.