Lanikai 'stealth antenna' placement sought
They look like trees, cactus, church steeples or flag poles -- anything but cell phone antennas.
They're often referred to as stealth antennas, and Verizon Hawaii wants to build one that looks like a rock on a Lanikai hillside.
It would be Verizon's first natural-looking cell site in Hawaii, although the company has already built hidden antennas atop buildings in Hawaii, a company spokeswoman said.
"It's not new to Hawaii, but this rock is the first we have for us," said Georgia Taylor, Verizon company spokeswoman.
Stealth antennas are becoming more common as communities around the nation encourage cellular firms to make their new cellular antennas blend in to the background.
Verizon Hawaii plans to install a cellular antenna disguised as a rock on a ridge in Lanikai. The photo at top shows the ridge and the photo below it shows a proposal of what it would look like with the disguised antenna. CLICK FOR LARGE
Requirements for stealth antennas are usually found where there are geographic obstacles, such as large hills, requiring more antennas for a stronger signal, officials said.
However, stealth antennas can cost more for cellular companies to build.
"It's a big business," said Pete Jaeger, technical operations manager at Sprint Hawaii. A stealth antenna costs about three times as much as a common monopole antenna, he said.
Sprint has stealth antennas in three flagpoles at Mililani Town Center next to City Mill and a base station for equipment and backup power on the City Mill property.
Verizon estimates the Lanikai antenna will cost $700,000 and will take two to three months to construct. The company is still in the process of obtaining permits for the antenna.
Verizon plans a 5-foot-tall antenna, covered with material to resemble a rock on a Lanikai ridge.
"We're so happy it's stealth," said Linda Ure of the Kailua Neighborhood Board. "We love stealth."
However, Verizon faces concerns from the Kailua Neighborhood Board, which objected to the antenna's radiation hazard earlier this year.
Board members worry the antenna's radiation will endanger hikers who linger on the rock just off a hiking trail.
Last March, the board passed a motion asking the company to mitigate the radiation hazard before they would support it.
"Our concern was placement to the proximity of human beings who may put themselves in harm's way without knowing about it," Ure said.
People often hike there, a popular vantage point for photographers, she said.
Verizon spokeswoman Taylor said the cell site meets all the Federal Communications Commission requirements for radio frequency emissions.
"The studies have shown that it's not dangerous," she said.