A major telecommunications company is looking to significantly expand its service in Nome — and plans on building a 150-foot tower on Front Street to do so.
Telecom giant AT&T has applied for a conditional use permit to build the multi-story wireless antenna at 105 Front Street, the same location where the company currently has a facility and large satellite dish under the wholly-owned subsidiary AT&T Alascom.
A spokesperson for the nationwide company said the new tower will offer fourth-generation “long-term evolution” technology—commonly called 4G LTE—which is among the fastest mobile wireless technologies available. The company said the tower, designed to be a free-standing lattice structure that will not require guy-wires for stability, would expand the capacity for the wireless network in Nome, but a company spokesperson would not comment on what, if any, impact it would have for cellular users elsewhere in the region outside the immediate vicinity of the Nome.
The company did not offer details as to whether or not the tower would share capacity with other wireless carriers, nor would they say if the tower would continue to use satellite technology—which can suffer noticeable lag due to signals having to beam to and from satellites—or if it would use faster terrestrial networks.
The tower is still going through the permitting process, and AT&T said it’s unclear as to when construction would actually begin.
Do Nome residents want an industrial tower along the commercial area of Front Street? The city’s planning commission is holding a public meeting to ask that very question, the results of which could approve initial work to build the tower on Front Street, or direct the company to build the structure in a more industrial part of town. The meeting is set for Tuesday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. in Nome City Hall.
While AT&T’s plans for 4G service to Nome are just beginning to take shape, rival Alaska telecom company GCI said Tuesday the company is on track with recently-revised plans to officially roll out its 3G cellular network in Nome and Unalakleet by Dec. 15. Similar 3G service came online in Kotzebue within the last month.
A GCI spokesperson said the company has “no immediate plans” to build out 4G service in rural Alaska.