The Kirkland City Council recently approved an ordinance that will grant Verizon Wireless a non-exclusive master use permit to implement its small cell technology in the city’s southern half.
The permit gives Verizon the right of way to install its small cells on existing utility poles and street lamps in the southern half of Kirkland.
The small cells work to help fill the gaps left by large cell towers that often can’t be built in residential neighborhoods.
“It’s a very exciting technology,” said Kim Allen, who represented Verizon at the Jan. 2 council meeting. “Kirkland has been a leader in adopting a small cell ordinance that allows this technology to be deployed in a very thoughtful way, which preserves the (city’s) aesthetic.”
This is only Verizon’s first step in the permit process and there is no estimated start date for construction.
According to Allen, the existing 4G cell tower network is adequate, but is becoming more and more stressed as customers use more and more wireless devices at home.
“We’re trying to bring a solution closer to where people are actually using their phones in an aesthetically pleasing way,” she said.
The permit only covers the city’s land south of Northeast 116th Street because Verizon is focusing on areas with the greatest need, according to Allen. The permit can be changed by the city if Verizon requests to expand the permit beyond the city’s southern half.
Verizon will mostly attach the small cells to existing Puget Sound Energy poles, but they are also designing small cells that will integrate with city-owned light poles. These designs conceal the antennas within the street lights to minimize the aesthetic impact.
“We don’t want people to think there are going to be all these new antennas out there,” said Rob Jammerman, development engineering manager for Kirkland. “They say they’re the size of a VCR or something smaller in that size of antenna.”
Verizon is the first cell phone carrier to apply for the master use permit and Jammerman expects many to start applying soon. AT&T has already contacted the city about implementing their own small cell network.
“They’re all lining up,” Jammerman said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
Currently, Verizon still needs to finalize all the building permits before they can start adding the antennas to the utility poles.
“All equipment will be painted to match, all antennas will be painted to match and we will do our utmost, as we have been doing with communities all over the Puget Sound region, to make this integrate as seamlessly into your community as possible,” Allen said.