Stacy Frank is offering an alternative cellular reception solution to Longboat Key and Anna Maria.
Frank, an attorney and president of Naples-based Collier Enterprises, attended a Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting Wednesday, July 15, in Anna Maria, to pitch her company’s offer.
“Our business is developing wireless communication facilities, mostly in the form of towers,” Frank said.
“But we understand there are instances, like in Anna Maria and Longboat Key, where some communities don’t want poles or towers.”
So Frank’s company, which is a consultant, brought Boca Raton-based SBA Advanced Wireless Networks LLC to the meeting to explain its modern Distributed Antenna System (DAS).
DAS is a tiny network of antennas that can be placed on power and telephone poles to boost reception.
Adolfo Sanchez, SBA director of business development, said a more modern DAS system could be installed by the company on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key to boost reception by adding 29 nodes.
Each node would include a 5- to 6-foot-tall antenna on top of an existing 35-foot utility pole and a 50-inch-by-12-inch box that would conform to the side of the utility pole.
Chris Fagas, SBA network performance director, called DAS “the glue that holds everything together.”
“The ingredients we need are a high demand for wireless coverage and availability of DAS assets like utility poles,” Fagas said. “We have that here.”
Nodes attached to the poles would be spaced at least five or more city blocks away from each other.
Fiber-optic cable is then run along the wires from the poles to areas that receive better reception, near sites such as the Holmes Beach cellular tower. This helps boost reception to areas up to 10 miles away.
DAS could be installed in town right of ways at the cost of the company, which could then attract cellular carriers that can share the system.
While Sanchez admitted towers are still his company’s main source of revenue, he said DAS is becoming more acceptable.
“If one carrier goes on a DAS system in a town like Anna Maria that’s heavily populated, it’s a field of dreams,” Sanchez said. “If it’s built, they will come.”
Installation of the DAS site, Sanchez said, would take a matter of weeks and only require one truck crew.
Frank said she would be sharing her presentation with other barrier-island communities “to test the waters for a level of interest.”
“There is a need for coverage out here,” Frank said. “We would do this in concert with local governments if they desire it.”
Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford told Frank she would explore the option with other commissioners.
Longboat Key Commissioner Gene Jaleski, a strong proponent of cellular alternatives such as DAS, said he hopes his fellow commissioners will reconsider its decision not to allow Collier Enterprises and SBA to make their presentation at a commission meeting.
Vice Mayor Robert Siekmann, meanwhile, said he is more open to DAS after hearing the presentation.
“I thought for the first time that this DAS presentation was more focused, more positive and more realistic,” Siekmann said.
But Siekmann and Town Manager Bruce St. Denis don’t believe that the company should make its sales pitch at a town meeting.
“The commission does not want to put itself in a position of listening to sales pitches,” Siekmann said.
St. Denis agreed.
“The door is already open to them in the form of a right-of-way permit,” St. Denis said. “They could get the process rolling today and don’t need our permission to do so.”
After hearing the responses made by Longboat officials, Sanchez said his company would work to attract carriers to the DAS system in the next 60 days and apply for town permits when necessary.
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