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  • Jon Cotham

5G Cell Towers and Small Cell Antennas in the Ojai Valley

Updated: Apr 18, 2020

5th Generation (5G) wireless technology has been rolling out world wide for some time.

This is a rapidly evolving technology and all the major carriers are adding antennas so there are most likely already others that I did not identify and surely more coming.

A primary distinction of 5G is that it is broadcast on different frequency bandwiths than 3rd and 4th generation wireless. Each of the major companies has purchased the rights to operate on certain frequency bandwiths from the FCC, and each has a different game plan for how they will come to market. One thing they all have in common is the rollout of many new cell towers and small cell antennas.

Most people are familiar with 3G and 4G macro cell antennas in clusters on towers or rooftops. These transmit cell signals at up to 1,000 Watts are always on, sending signals in a cone that is roughly 120 degrees wide and high, stretching for miles.

There has been much public push back to new tower proposals in many communities slowing the process of installation. Now we are seeing a proliferation of small cell antennas mounted on poles and hung from cables that have much less oversight and are more discreet. One industry blog that I read, described an installation time of 2 hours so new small cells can be added literally overnight. These generally are operating at lower power of 10-100 watt but are much closer to homes, businesses and schools. Most of these are operating in the low and mid bandwiths of 600MHz-6GHz, always on, 120 degrees wide and high, and easily penetrating into buildings.

Of much public concern is the high, millimeter Wave (mmWave) band (above 20 GHz). mm Wave 5G does not penetrate walls easily so a technology called Beam forming is used to focus the beam to about 10 degrees wide. mmWave is on demand, meaning that it is only operating at high power when a connection is made to a cellular device.

While 4G transmissions are on constantly and can travel many miles, mmWave 5G is only effective at much shorter distances, generally about 300 feet. This is the industry's reasoning for why they need to place antennas all throughout neighborhoods to get complete coverage.

All the new small cells are being designed so they can transmit both 4G and 5G and can seamlessly switch back and forth.

Recently I went searching for new 5G towers in the Ojai Valley and I did not find any, but what I did find were many line mounted small cell antennas. They are all the identical brand and located near commercial businesses or schools (see photo taken at Mira Monte School drop off area). They are a white box about twice the size of a loaf of bread with 3 vertical tubes on the sides. They are suspended on the phone/cable lines close to a pole but not attached to the pole. So far I have identified one in front of three elementary schools, Sunset, Mira Monte, and Meiners Oaks.

I also found several on El Roblar at the NE corner of Felix, NE corner of Pueblo, and SE corner of Pueblo. Also several on Hwy 33 in Oak View, several in downtown Ojai and a couple in Mira Monte near Starbucks and the car wash.These are just the ones I have identified so far, and I am speculating they are owned by T-Mobile and are probably operating at 600MHz for now.

Again this a rapidly evolving technology and all the major carriers are adding antennas so there are most likely already others that I did not identify and surely more coming. I tested these using a Gigahertz HF59B meter. I got readings of power densities between hundreds to thousands of microwatts per square meter (μW/m2). BUILDING BIOLOGY EVALUATION GUIDELINES FOR SLEEPING AREAS consider power densities greater than 10 μW/m2 to be a severe anomaly. I am particularly concerned that these are located where small children congregate before and after school and also in close proximity to homes.

In the near future I plan to create a map that can be added to as more are identified so we can be an informed community. Please sign up for our "Stay in Touch" updates on the very bottom of the home page -

Jon Cotham is a certified Building Biology Environmental Consultant & Inspector with 20+ years experience and training in creating healthy homes, including advanced courses in Electromagnetic Radiation.

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