Next project for Kit Carson? Small cells, better cell coverage


Frustrated with uneven cell service in Northern New Mexico? Kit Carson Electric Cooperative officials are working to find a solution: small cells.

In a presentation at the Jan. 9 Angel Fire council meeting, co-op officials Erin Sanborn, business and organization development manager, and Richard Martinez, chief operations officer, described their latest target for regional economic development through improved infrastructure, specifically a collaboration with the village and cell providers to improve cell coverage.

Martinez explained cells can expand cell coverage by placing boosters “about 3 feet high and a foot in diameter on water towers, electric poles, etc. This will help clean up all these dead spots. We’re looking to do a pilot [in Angel Fire] sometime in the late spring or summer.”

Luis Reyes, co-op CEO told The Chronicle, “This is a complement to our broadband/fiber project to convince the cell carriers to put better service into Angel Fire, Red River, Taos Ski Valley, Taos — all over.

“We’ve been working with the Angel Fire Village Council, specifically Chuck Howe, on getting better cell connectivity. We’ve been working with all the municipalities on economic development, but I give a lot of credit to Chuck for being the tip of the spear in getting this accomplished.

“Small cells are basically a booster or repeater of the cell signal. Instead of having to set up big towers everywhere, if we can put them on buildings, power poles or light poles, to give us better coverage. It’s companies like AT&T and Verizon that have to bring this. We’re trying to get our area to 4G or 5G service. [The co-op’s] role is to find the locations for them, and we own a lot of poles and light poles.”

Small cells are like miniature cell towers but without the tower. Reyes noted there is increased demand for cell service that allows video streaming.

The trade publication, FierceTelecom, reported in September that “Verizon said in an FCC (Federal Communications Commission) filing that in order to support the network facilities it needs to support future 5G services, ‘the need for densification and for more ubiquitous fiber to support it will only increase.’ …. We need the ability to access poles quickly and efficiently, both to hang small cells and to string fiber that will provide the necessary backhaul.’”

Verizon told the FCC that gaining access to a more efficient pole-attachment process will enable the service provider to more effectively expand small cells to enhance wireless coverage and the supporting fiber facilities for wireless backhaul.

Verizon cited frustrations with “large delays from utilities to get access to install new fiber and small cells,” including “some cases where local electric companies have taken nine months to complete the pole attachment as well as 12 months or longer to attach fiber on the pole.”