Streetlights could soon be used to improve cellphone service and wireless networks in downtown now that Greenville City Council has given final approval to ExteNet Systems, Inc. to deploy up to 23 small cell wireless antennas on streetlights and other exiting structures in the public right-of-way in the city. Sixteen of those will be in the central business district.

ExteNet would replace existing streetlights that are similar in size and appearance with streetlights that are designed to house and conceal antennas and wireless equipment. Verizon Wireless will use the small cells.

According to Eric Lovvorn, ExteNet’s external relations director, once the system is up and running, other wireless companies may be interested in co-locating on those poles.

Without the small cells, the system would be overloaded in downtown within a year or two, he said.

City officials have said most people will not notice the difference once the new streetlights are installed. The alternative to small-cell wireless antennas would be rooftop cell towers.

The antennas are needed because unlimited data plans and the increase in video streaming are straining the networks of wireless companies. It is only expected.

Telecommunications equipment and services company Ericsson has predicted that by 2022, monthly mobile data traffic per active smartphone will be 26 gigabytes; 90 percent will come from smartphones. Monthly mobile traffic is currently 6.9 gigabytes.

The FCC said in a December 2016 public notice that to meet the growing demand, the wireless industry is deploying and planning for additional construction of a large number of small cells. S&P Global Market Intelligence estimated that between 100,000 and 150,000 small cells would be constructed by the end of 2018, and the number is expected to reach 455,000 by 2020 and nearly 800,000 by 2026.

Under the non-exclusive franchise agreement, ExteNet will grant the city – at no charge – excess fiber optic capacity in its network that can be used for the city’s security cameras. ExteNet will pay the city rent for city-owned poles it uses.

Duke Energy owns most of the streetlights slated for replacement.


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