New signal report stirs local wireless war 

It takes on average eight seconds to download an MP3 onto an Android phone through Verizon’s top network in The City, while it takes 42 seconds with AT&T’s, according to a recent report.

After taking the Android out for a trial run in eight hot spots testing four providers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile — the Verizon 4G network was “head and shoulders” ahead of the rest, startup website OpenSignalMaps reported. The site, which charts real-time carrier coverage, published its report Wednesday.

But the report did not detail how the wireless antenna systems that maintain those networks are proliferating, and there are close to 400 antennas awaiting The City’s approval for installation. And 725 have already been built throughout The City.

Supervisor David Chiu said it’s time to take a step back and create a general plan for wireless systems.

“The proposals that are made are not made in the context of an overall citywide plan,” Chiu said.

The project could take months and will come at a high cost, but Chiu said The City needs to understand how all the providers connect with each other. An overall management plan could help providers dodge unexpected run-ins with neighborhood groups and help streamline a long, bureaucratic process.

Some residents are wondering whether high-speed Androids are worth all the antennas. “We’ve got these things all over the place,” said Ray Holland, president of the Planning Association for the Richmond district. “You look outside your window, see one and think, ‘Gee, I wonder who benefits from that one?’”

The City cannot deny an antenna based on health concerns, but only due to aesthetics and community effects. The Federal Communications Commission established health and safety guidelines in regards to radiation emissions in 1996.

Cellphone carriers say the growing networks are good for consumers and businesses.

“Progress for the massive majority of mobile-device users across the country means progress for businesses, especially timely as America’s economy works to expand opportunity for all,” T-Mobile spokesman Rod De la Rosa wrote in an email.

In response to the OpenSignalMaps study, AT&T officials questioned the merits of the startup’s tests and said several esteemed publications still vouch for them as the top provider.

Company spokesman John Britton said AT&T is investing $200 million in The City in 2011 alone to maintain customer satisfaction.

The report found that Sprint took 58 seconds to download an MP3, and it advised T-Mobile users to “switch networks” because of a “laggy Web-browsing experience.”

De La Rosa also said other such studies had shown better test results for T-Mobile.

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Kamala Kelkar

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Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019


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