You may have noticed that while only one mobile carrier has cell towers in your region, many other networks have very good coverage. There are two explanations behind this situation: roaming or shared towers.
Roaming involves the extension of the connectivity service, of your ability to make and receive calls outside your carrier’s network. It means your mobile services provider has an agreement with a different provider for its users to be able to use the network of the latter in exchange for certain benefits. Depending on your service provider’s policy, you may be asked to pay extra for the roaming service, or it may be provided to you for free, based on an agreement between providers.
However, especially throughout the last decade, carriers have began to share towers and facilities, and this tendency has been legally encouraged through the Telecommunications Act passed by the Congress in 1996 and recognized as a means to favor competition and end the monopoly in the US telecommunications industry.
It specifies that all carriers should:
- Provide interconnection with the LEC networks for any telecommunications company’s facilities and equipment, according to Section 251 (c);
- Allow access to ducts, poles, conduits, etc., at reasonable rates, according to Section 224;
- Establish fair compensation rates for transport and termination of the telecommunication services, according to Section 251(b).
This way, all the new carriers have the possibility to share or lease existing networks, instead of building new ones.
As far as cell towers are concerned, several mobile services providers can use the same structure in order to house their equipment. This equipment could involve radios, receipt and transmission antennas for radio frequency signals, GOS receivers, computerized control equipment, power sources, protective covers, etc.
The most frequently accessed equipment is usually stored in boxes at the base of the tower, the connection to the antennas being ensured through heavily grounded cables.
Advantages of Sharing Cell Towers – Everybody Wins
Sharing cell towers is beneficial for both the carrier owning or leasing the tower from a private party and the carrier renting part of the tower and related facilities. On one hand, it allows the former to recover part of the initial investment and minimize maintenance and operation expenses and, on the other hand, it allows the latter to avoid high initial investments and benefit from high end equipment or adequate facilities.
Sharing cell towers can be beneficial for the carriers’ clients as well, as, in most cases, the lower expenses incurred by the carriers allow them to lower the cost for their services and offer better deals to their clients. Also, users benefit from excellent coverage everywhere.
Another party benefiting from this is the owner of the land and building where the cell tower is set up, and the people in the region. The owner, assuming that this aspect is covered by the lease contract, can increase the lease amount.
There are cases when different carriers place their towers on the same land, sharing only part of the facilities or having separate agreements with the landlord. This situation is facilitated by the technological advancements of the last years, cell towers turning from high, solid constructions to thin metallic structures.
Also, it is well known that people hate the idea or having a cell tower anywhere close to their home or work place due to the health risks exposure to magnetic radiation poses. Studies show an increase in the stress levels, sleep disorders and even birth defects, Alzheimer or cancer rates in people and animals living in the proximity of cell towers.
The more cell towers are shared, the fewer facilities of the kind will be required and the few people will be exposed to such risks.