EASTON — Verizon Wireless may offer the Town of Easton significant improvements in data speeds and an increased network capacity in the future, as discussed at the latest town council workshop meeting.
A Verizon representative proposed the addition of two small cell sites in hopes of improving upon Easton’s existing 4G technology with the ability to attach 5G technology in the future.
The two proposed sites are near Panera Bread and U.S. Route 50 and also at Easton’s former Golden Corral at Cecil Drive off U.S. Route 50.
Verizon Wireless has not developed a full plan for the Eastern Shore when it comes to rolling out 5G.
While many Panera Bread patrons may see four bars of signal on their cellular devices, there is no capacity left to pull up the simplest of webpages.
Wireless congestion occurs when too many devices try to use the small cell site at once and therefore quickly overload the cell site’s capacity.
Verizon began developing small cells to allow networks to add more capacity in densely populated areas or high traffic areas, which can mean better service for everyone.
Small cells are short range mobile cell sites used to compliment the larger Verizon Wireless network. They operate at low power, in most cases less than a cordless phone, WiFi, or household items like baby monitors. Also, small cells have a coverage area of about 450 to 500 feet.
Iin 2018, the average smartphone consumed 8.6 GB of data per user per month. By 2024, the company expects each user to consume 50 GB per month.
The proposed small cell site with 4G technology would replace existing fiber-glass poles with a steel pole able to support the 4G antenna, with wires running inside of the pole for a clean look.
There are currently five macro sites, with one just falling outside of the Town of Easton, several small cell sites (near Verizon, Royal Farms, Walmart, Bountiful Exteriors on U.S. Route 50, for example) and Verizon is proposing two additional small cell sites which the State of Maryland will deal with due to their location.
“There’s no doubt that we need better capacity,” said Al Silverstein, Easton Town councilmember. “...the biggest thing has been the aesthetics, as long as you’re taking that into consideration.”
Town of Easton Mayor Bob Willey questioned the associated maintenance. A technician would likely come out once a month, compared to the three monthly visits made to macrosites where the equipment works much harder.
While remaining impartial, Easton Town Councilmember Ron Engle voiced local residents’ sound criticisms of Verizon Wireless’ capability.
Easton Town Councilmember Don Abbatiello also voiced concerns of Ward 2 residents, especially in Matthewstown Run, Golton Drive and Mulberry Station, who “have a hard time with simple calls.”
The Verizon rep said he knew there were service problems and challenges.