Well-concealed towers were never really on my radar, so to speak. I was familiar with tower disguises only in the realm of poorly made disguises: pathetic, sparse evergreen trees or water towers that appeared constructed out of cardboard. It seemed a worse idea to try to cover up the true nature of an unsightly wireless antenna with an even more unsightly, attention-grabbing costume. What was the sense in calling these builds "concealments" when they were the towers that seemed the most obvious?
That's likely because a well-concealed tower isn't obvious. It's the distant cactus along a southwest highway, or the inconspicuous building railing on any number of local buildings. Now, as many tower companies shift more traffic to small cells to handle spotty coverage or mass service areas like arenas, concealments can take on not only discreet forms, but useful ones: A small cell disguised as a functioning light pole, for example, or one encased in signage directing spectators to their seats in a sporting arena.
Even less conspicuous is the process that goes into creating these builds and, later, ensuring that they remain not only pristine and believable, but also safe and sturdy for the workers constructing and maintaining them. While regulations exist for uncloaked towers -- covering everything from interaction with endangered species to exactly how to light a tower for aircraft visibility -- the FCC offers no guidelines (or limitations) on the dimensions of faux tree branches, or how to properly deal with elf owls that may try to take up residence in a fake Saguaro cactus.
In FierceInstaller's first feature, I spoke with concealment expert Cindy Wishart and National Association of Tower Erectors Executive Director Todd Schlekeway to clear up some of the mystery around concealed towers. You can read more on the booming practice, as well as the potential dangers and changes it faces, here. --Nicole