Wireless communication has become one of the most important sectors of the national economy.1 Many U.S. households have given up their landline telephone entirely in favor of reliance on wireless services.2
Businesses have also greatly increased their demand for wireless services as retailers use mobile devices to scan purchases and documents to complete sales transactions. The connected car of the future is anticipated to allow drivers to manage e-mail, access the Internet, and program television recordings by voice command. Healthcare is going wireless as well, as doctors and hospitals are increasingly able to monitor patients remotely. This augmented demand has resulted in a need for the wireless industry to expand, modify and replace its wireless network infrastructure. Consequently, service providers are constantly required to obtain local governmental approvals for new wireless facility construction as well as modifications to existing wireless infrastructure.
Each wireless facility (commonly referred to as a cell site) can only provide service within a given area (the facility’s coverage) and to a certain number of users (capacity). Therefore, wireless carriers are continually monitoring their capacity to identify areas where new facilities may be needed. Customer complaints of dropped calls and failed calls are part of this process. The geographic area in which a new facility will be considered, known as a search ring, is literally represented by a circle, or ring, on a map. The carriers then select potential locations (candidates) within the search ring for consideration. For each candidate, computer modeling tests forecasting the coverage for the proposed site are prepared in order to help the carrier assess how the proposed candidate will benefit the overall network. This is often followed by a radio frequency (RF) testing in the field that helps confirm the actual signal strength predicted by the computer modeling. These tests are submitted to the municipality.