Can You See Me Now?

By Brandon HENSLEY

The next time someone pulls out their iPhone and makes a call in the Glendale area, they probably won’t think to thank a flag pole for their good reception, but maybe they should.

On Tuesday, AT&T showed off improvements the company has made regarding phone reception and data capacity. On the south end of the parking next to In-N-Out Burger on Harvey Drive, several officials spoke about the increased usage of “stealth” cell sites around the city as to not make the company’s sites aesthetically unpleasing.

As far as the one at the In-N-Out site goes, Georgia Taylor, director of news relations, said there are cables that run up one of the flag poles and attach to an antenna at the top. Those cables are connected below to the radio room in the cell site, a small room next to the flag poles.

What this does is help AT&T from building would-be eyesores around Glendale, and also keep network traffic moving. Taylor said over the past four years there has been an 8,000% increase in data traffic over the network, because of the increased consumption of Smartphones. That number is expected to significantly rise, perhaps by 10 times, by 2015.

“That really has really become our call to action to not only keep pace with demand but to stay ahead of consumer demand,” she said.

About half of all AT&T customers have Smartphones (i.e. iPhones) and 70% of all new users have Smartphones, said Taylor.

Over the past for years, according to Taylor, AT&T has invested $450 million in the greater L.A. area in its networks. In the state, it has spent $7.1 billion within the past three years.

Radio Frequency Design Manager Bryan Ito compared the situation to a freeway, when traffic is to be eased, more lanes must be built. The point is for them “to try and stay ahead of the game, and that’s important,” Ito said.

The cell site on Harvey Drive was built eight years ago.  Glendale has 24 sites total, and 21 have been recently upgraded, said Kathleen Lee, a network sales support manager. It was noted 90% of all cell sites are located on private property, most disguised on things like buildings or as trees.

Taylor also showed some other devices. There were iPhones and iPads, as well as a Garmin GPS Locater, which can be mainly used to track pets. It is available through the company’s online store. Taylor joked that it could be used to keep track of teenagers as well when they go off driving.

“Throw that in your glove box, unbeknownst to them,” she said.

The last piece of technology shown was a Vitality GlowCap, which is a pill box cap with cellular connectivity to better track medication usage. If, for instance, a user misses taking a pill one day, the GlowCap can light up or even send a ringtone to the user’s phone to remind them.