The future of 5G in Falls Church is unclear.
The new service offers cell phone users faster speeds but is not yet available in the City of Falls Church.
Karen Jones is a member of the Falls Church Tree Commission who prepared a city plan for how to implement the new service. Though she began her research out of concerns for tree preservation, she said her research guided her down another concerning path.
She found that in order to bring 5G services to the city, telecommunication companies would likely install transmitters — roughly the size of a child’s backpack — on already existing infrastructure like telephone polls, streets or powerlines.
“They’re boxy, not attractive typically, and they will be put on streetlights and on the side of buildings,” she said.
The transmitters’ high frequency only reaches so far meaning they would need to be installed every 100 feet, Jones added.
She is urging the city to adopt a 5G policy since telecommunication companies could approach the city any day with a proposal.
According to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the city has 90 days to approve or reject a plan once the Federal Communications Commission proposes implementation.
If the City of Falls Church already has a plan, Jones said they will be able to have more control over the way 5G is implemented within city limits.
To ease the aesthetic burdens of 5G, Jones spoke with several companies that specialize in covert transmitters.
Ericsson, for example, makes products that allow contractors to hide 5G antennas in the wallpaper or under carpet, according to Jones. She also discussed solutions like hiding 5G antennas under specialized manhole covers.
“There is also a significant amount of research and prototyping on transparent conductive films,” Jones said.
Jones already presented her proposal to the Tree Commission and is going to educate City Council members on the topic in the coming weeks.
“There are mediation measures that need to be considered. They need to consider this now because the FCC has embarked on this unprecedented focus of building out 5G,” Jones said.
Photo courtesy Karen Jones