Places where cellular towers are secretly hidden

Mobile operators are growing their networks to cope with the increasing demand for data.

This network growth requires more base stations to be built, partly because the government and Icasa have not provided enough spectrum to operators.

To get permission to erect a base station requires many approvals, including an Environmental Impact Assessment, which can prove challenging.

Constructing cellular towers which blend into the environment makes it a little easier to get the nod, and mobile vendors and operators have developed clever ways to hide base stations and antennas.

To make a mobile mast look like a tree was one of the first methods used, but this is now old-school.

Smaller masts and other technological advancement have made it possible to hide towers in street lamps, billboards, and other objects found in towns and cities.

Custom towers that fit into the design of a building or rooftop are also used.

Here are some of the places where you wouldn’t expect to find cellular masts.

[Also see: Secret hiding places for cellular antennas]

Vodacom windpump masts in rural areas

Vodacom has brought 3G coverage to the countryside by disguising base stations as windpumps.

The windpump, although it stands a little higher than the conventional item, is in proportion to its agricultural parent and blends in perfectly to the farmland environment.

The water reservoir below is actually a building with a flat roof slab that houses the latest evolution RAN equipment.

These ‘windmills’ can be found in the Drakensberg at Montusi and Castleburn resorts as well as in the Balgowan area of the KZN midlands.

Windpump base station
Windpump base station

Using billboard for cellular towers

Telkom Mobile uses billboard to host its cellular masts. There are thousands of billboards in South Africa, and Telkom Mobile has signed a long-term agreement with the owners to erect base stations at these sites.

This is quite a strategic move as billboards are mainly located along busy motorways and main roads where coverage is needed.

Base stations at billboard sites reduce the visual impact associated with mobile radio networks, as the total antenna solution fits in the billboard without any invasive measures to secure it.

Billboard base station
Billboard base station

Subterranean base station

Poynting has developed a subterranean base station solution for Africa, the Sub-T, at a tenth of the size and cost of traditional base stations.

With 80% of the Sub-T buried underground next to a streetlight-like mast, the solution gives African operators a viable alternative to expand connectivity and deploy more base stations.

Installation is low-cost and only takes up four square metres, while the station uses relatively little power.

Sub-T base station
Sub-T base station
Sub-T next to lamp pole
Sub-T next to lamp pole
Flag pole mast
Flag pole mast
Base station under a rock
Base station under a rock

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Places where cellular towers are secretly hidden