New Cellular Network Proposed In Ocean City

OCEAN CITY — Town officials heard a pitch this week from a private telecommunications company about a proposal to install nearly 100 mini cell tower sites in Ocean City in the interest of improving bandwidth and capacity.

Crown Castle, a telecommunications company, has approached the town of Ocean City with a proposal to install a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) cellular network in the resort. Crown Castle provides wireless carriers such as Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, for example, with the infrastructure they need to keep their mobile customers connected and up and running.

On Tuesday, Crown Castle’s Rebecca Hunter presented to the council a plan to install a DAS in Ocean City. The plan calls for as many as 93 mini signal antennae installed on existing utility poles and other town-owned elevated structures, such as signs and light posts from one end of the resort to the other.

According to Hunter, the majority of the antennae would be installed on existing utility poles such as those owned and operated by Delmarva Power, for example, which are regulated by the Maryland Public Service Commission. However, more than a few would have to be installed on town-owned structures throughout the resort.

“We would use the existing utility infrastructure where possible,” she said. “This wouldn’t increase any clutter because we would use what is already in the public right-of-way.”

Hunter said the DAS is needed to improve capacity and bandwidth in the resort, particularly at times of high demand during the summer season.

“We’re trying to alleviate some of the capacity problems,” she said. “We see more and more users with capacity needs, especially in Ocean City when its increased population in the summer puts more demand on capacity.”

While town officials embraced the concept, some voiced concern about the implementation of the DAS system on town-owned structures.

“We would like very strong controls on where these things would go on the city side,” said Town Engineer Terry McGean. “We have similar agreements with Delmarva Power and Comcast, for example, and we would certainly expect Crown Castle to be held to the same standard.”

The proposal is merely conceptual at this point and there would be many hurdles to cross. For example, the town would have to negotiate a fee for Crown Castle’s rights to use the public right-of-way and its structures. Before that step, however, the council voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing on the proposal.