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More cell phone towers for Tahoe

It’s a staticky situation with hope for change.

Most people who live and visit South Lake Tahoe are seemingly accustomed to spotty cell phone reception. After all, it is a mountain town.

But leaving the house for the driveway or walking to a different room may be distant memories with the arrival of at least five cellular phone towers at South Lake Tahoe.



Richard Wickersham, who handles site acquisition and planning for Lyle Company, a telecommunication site development company, said about a dozen new towers are planned for the basin.

“The intention is to cover the entire area,” Wickersham said. “We’re going to have between the North Shore and the South Shore a good number of new sites on air by the first of the year.



“It’s part of the national build out and Tahoe is a meaningful community,” he continued. “You have a lot going on out there. You have a lot of people driving (to) Tahoe.”

France Carreau said the few existing towers at South Shore have not been changed in 10 years. Carreau, of Yellow Pager Communication Systems, expects the additions of cellular towers will boost reception and users’ happiness.

“People are going to have cell phones that work,” she said.

The five towers will be placed throughout the city, Carreau said. Three are AT&T, one is Nextel and the other Sprint.

The AT&T towers will be placed at South Tahoe Middle School, Tahoe Keys Marina and the corner of Pioneer Trail and Washoan Boulevard, Carreau said. The Nextel tower is at the airport while the Sprint will be placed in Meyers.

Carreau said the new towers have a different technology, called GSM, that may force some users to change their phone “if they haven’t bought a phone in the past three or four months.”

Some areas had a bad reputation with cell phone users such as the stretch of Pioneer Trail past Sierra House Elementary and into the county, Meyers and near Lake Tahoe Airport.

The towers will help boost coverage in those areas. Additionally, it may relieve friendly debates on which service reigns in the basin.

Aja Niemann, a self-professed “phone girl,” said she is satisfied with her Cingular service. She jokes with her father about his phone reception.

But Niemann has to deal with her phone’s quirks. In one room of her house she has no reception, so she walks into her kitchen.

“If they can make them not very noticeable and intrusive on the natural setting of Tahoe, it would be better,” she said of the tours.

Matt DeLima, a casual user of his AT&T phone, couldn’t get service at Lake Tahoe Community College, an area likely to be covered by the tower scheduled for the middle school.

DeLima had his own opinion on the lack of clarity at the college.

“I was thinking maybe if (students) wanted to call and cheat,” he guessed.

Armed with two cell phones, one for work and the other for social use, Bay Area resident Todd Azevedo couldn’t get service on either phone while visiting South Lake Tahoe last weekend.

“I support more cell phone towers if someone’s making a (Tahoe) trip during the week and has to keep in contact with their home base,” Azevedo, who works at a Napa winery, said.

The towers around the basin are either in the building stages, in the final stages of the permit process or waiting to be turned on.

They will be placed on roofs, in light posts or disguised as Jeffrey Pines.

“(People) won’t be able to notice them,” Wickersham said.

— E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com


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